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House of the Geometric Mosaics

Description of the House (Reg VIII, Ins 2, 14-16)

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Combining as it does the floor layout of two houses, It has a double atrium/garden plan with the separate gardens lying at right angles to the central axis and with only one row of rooms between the two atria (b) and (n).
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The house was badly damaged during the earthquake of AD62 requiring the walls facing the street to be rebuilt. At this time the whole house appears to have undergone a transformation. Prior to the earthquake, the house must have been quite richly decorated, as displayed by the many black and white mosaics that adorn the property. However, virtually all evidence of wall decoration is now missing, as the walls were subsequently coursely plastered and left unfinished. It may be that the intended redecoration of the house had been interrupted by the final eruption.
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On the north side of atrium (b) (pictured above) are cubicula (d and e) separated by a passageway which links atrium (b) with atrium (n). Cubiculum (d), on the left of the photograph above, has plain walls dressed with white plaster (pictured below).
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Cubiculum (e) has plain walls dressed with white plaster. The room has a fine black and white mosaic floor with a carpet pattern of rosettes, rhomboids and triangles (pictured right).
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On the south side of atrium (b) is a small room (f) (pictured below). The walls of the room had been coated with a layer of white plaster that had been worked but not decorated. In the centre of the south wall is an aedicula facing the doorway.

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In the north east corner of the peristyle a wide flight of stairs (j) (pictured opposite) led to the upper floor. The largest of the rooms opening off the north side of the peristyle (pictured below viewed from the tablinum) is the broad corridor (k) which has columns running down its centre. This corridor connected the peristyle with the colonnaded garden (l) to the north.
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This part of the house has fared less well over time, however, and is in a poorer state of repair with little or no surviving paving. The corridor (o) leads from atrium (n) (pictured right) past the kitchen area (p) to the peristyled garden (l). The walls of peristyle (l) are coated with a layer of coarse plaster. In the south east corner is a large fish tank (p).
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The House of the Geometric Mosaics, which lies on the Via delle Scuole to the south of the forum, was first excavated in 1826. The house has two entrances (a) and (m) on the west side of the Via delle Scuole. It also has an entrance (r) which lies at the end of a long passageway which leaves the forum at door No.7 and runs south between the Office of the Aediles and the Curia.
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Th
e wide entrance at No.16 (pictured above) opens onto the fauces (a) (pictured left). The walls of the fauces were dressed with a layer of coarse plaster, but this has been lost since the house was first excavated. The fauces has a fine black and white mosaic floor in a rhomboid pattern with a black and white border. There is a decorative threshold between the fauces and the atrium consisting of rows of black triangles on a white ground.

The walls of the atrium (b) (pictured left) were, like the fauces, dressed with a layer of coarse plaster while the floor consisted of white mosaic with a triple black border. In the centre of the atrium are the remains of the impluvium which was originally decorated with a colourful mosaic of fish on a black ground (pictured below). The mosaic can now be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
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On either side of atrium (b) is an ala (c and c'). Both alae are undecorated, although there are some traces of white and red paint in ala (c'). The floors of the alae are decorated with similar motifs consisting of a central labyrinth pattern picked out in black on a white background (pictured below).
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In addition to the room's main entrance off atrium (b) there is a small, arched doorway in the north east corner opening onto the adjoining atrium (n). The cubiculum has a white mosaic floor decorated with a meander pattern in black tesserae. The east and west sides of the room are delineated with three black bands which could possibly imply that the room contained two beds.
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The aedicula appears to have been intended as a household shrine. According to Mau it was plastered at the same time as the rest of the room, but remained undecorated.

At the far side of the atrium is the tablinum (g) which is open to the atrium over its full width. On the west side of the tablinum is a large opening which leads to the peristyle (h) and enclosed garden (i) beyond. The walls of the tablinum were coated with a layer of coarse plaster. The floor was of white mosaic, but it appears to have been left unfinished at the time of the eruption.

The ambulatory of peristyle (h) was entered directly from the tablinum and gave access to a series of rooms ranged round the peristyle garden (i). The walls of the ambulatory are devoid of any remnants of plasterwork that would permit a description of their decoration. The ambulatory (pictured left looking south from the tablinum) is paved with black mosaic incorporating rows of white tesserae and a white double border.
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The second part of the house opening off fauces (m) at No.14 was in much the same state at the time of the eruption as the rooms in the southern part of the house. In the main that meant walls coated with undecorated coarse plasterwork.
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The rooms on the west and north sides of the peristyle are in a ruinous condition with little in the way of decoration. The posticum (r) opens onto the passageway mentioned above which links to the forum area (pictured left).
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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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