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House of the Bear

Description of the House (Reg VII, Ins 2, 45)

The House of the Bear is situated on the Via degli Augustali. The house was first excavated in 1865 and again in 1868.  The property takes its name from the graphic mosaic of a wounded bear in the fauces.
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The fauces (a) opens off the north side of the Via degli Augustali. The walls of the fauces (pictured right) retain much of their original fourth style decoration which consisted of red and yellow panels separated by architectural motifs above a lower red decorative frieze.
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The fauces leads directly to the atrium (b) (pictured below) which has a central impluvium. The walls of the atrium retain some plaster remnants (pictured right), but they are too faded to allow a proper description of the fresco decoration.
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A short passage off the south west corner of the atrium leads to a
reasonably sized room (d) which faces onto the street. The room is lit by two square windows in its south wall.
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Three more irregularly shaped rooms (e, f and g) open off the west side of the atrium. At the rear of the house, beyond what is presumed to be a small tablinum (h), is a richly decorated fountain (i) completely faced with brightly coloured tesserae and seashells (pictured right and below). The fountain consists of a pediment set over an arched niche.  Water flowed from a small rectangular opening in the centre of the niche to pour into a semi circular basin below.
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Against a mosaic of delicate blue can be seen a floating Venus, a group of small winged figures, a shoal of fish and, on either side of the central niche, a cupid's head set in a diamond frame (pictured below).
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On the right side of the atrium are three reasonably sized rectangular rooms. The middle room (j) is lit by a small window which overlooks the atrium (pictured upper right).

Of all the rooms which open off the atrium, room (k) on the east side is the best preserved. The room retains a large part of its fourth style decoration (pictured right). The decoration consists of white panels separated by architectural motifs above a lower red frieze. The central panel on each wall contains a mythological scene.
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The fauces has a fine mosaic floor more or less divided into two parts. The part nearest the roadway has a colourful mosaic of a wounded bear lanced by a spear (pictured left) while the part adjacent to the atrium is composed of a black and white geometric pattern.
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The atrium has a fine mosaic floor which consists of a black and white geometric pattern complimented by a broad border framing the central impluvium.

Rooms open off all four sides of the atrium. On the south side of the atrium, immediately west of the fauces, a door opens onto the rear of the adjoining property, the Taberna Hedones (c), coloured pink in the plan above. The taberna (pictured lower left) has some plaster remnants which, on first being excavated, bore some interesting graffiti, in particular CIL IV 1679 which translates as:

'You can get a drink here for only one coin. You can drink better wine for two coins. You can drink Falernian for four coins.'

In the north west corner of the taberna are the remains of a staircase which once led to an upper floor.
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Images ©Jackie and Bob Dunn are reproduced by permission from their website at www.pompeiiinpictures.com
(Su concessione del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali: Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei)




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