Compare and contrast two Pompeian houses. What do they each tell us about the status of their owners?
Within Pompeii, the size and decorative aspects of someone’s home explained a lot about their monetary wealth and what sort of social status they upheld. People who had money and good social status would decorate their homes with High Greek culture for example myths and mosaics of Greek heroes. Whereas people from a lower class, tended to use less grandeur within the decorative style of their homes. The houses that I shall be comparing are House of the Fawn and House of the Vettii. I shall be looking at the décor found within the houses and they way that it was displayed to determine the social, political and economical status of their owners. Some say that the décor within House of the Vettii is fairly fresh and new whereas the décor within House of the Fawn can date back as much as two centuries.
During the 1st and 2nd Century, Pompeii started to construct an interesting amount of houses that were exceptionally lavish. These houses represented high status homes. These houses were The House of Etruscan Column, The House of Clay Moulds and The House of the Fawn. These houses are characterised by “atrium” courtyards and quite simply replaced the homes that had been constructed in the 3rd and 4th Century as they had been poorly built. The House of the Fawn gained its name from the bronze statue of the dancing fawn. This was found on the lip of the Impluvium, which was a basin for collecting rainwater. Fawns were spirits of the woodland which the Romans associated with Pan and Stayrs and the followers of the Greek God Dionysos. This explains that the family were educated to know about Greek myth showing “High Greek Culture” and “Roman Cultural Capital.” The House of the Fawn represented the elitist in Pompeii. The owners, which are unknown, would have been the political and monetary elite in Pompeii, and it is suggested that Publius Cornelius Sulla, leader of the Roman Colony in 80 BC owned it but it has also been noticed that when in excavation an inscription bearing the name cognomen Saturninus was found. Cognomen was a nickname in Rome, which eventually turned into a family name. This suggested that the house was owned by the gens Satria. Whereas the owners of the house of the Vettii, Aulus Vettius Restitutus and Aulus Vettius Conviva, were freedmen.
The house of the Fawn was excavated between 1830-1832. The house itself s in excellent condition and the structure dates to the Samnite period. It is an insight on how the richer families in Pompeii showed off their extravagant living with intricate architecture to lavish furnishings. The house was divided into five parts these were the Tuscan Atrium, The Tetra Style Atrium, Service Rooms and Corridors, an Ionic Peristyle and Doric Peristyle and finally rooms that led off from the main room. This house in particular shows the financial position that the family had achieved by the end of the 1st Century AD. The house takes up an entire insula and is thirty one thousand square foot in size and is the largest house in Pompeii. Luckily the main structure of the house has remained in good condition. The floor plan of the building shows that only one third of the house was used for living space, whereas the other two thirds were taken up by two peristyle courtyards which were so elaborate that they show off the families wealth and “desire for luxury and conspicuous space.” 1 This house is rare because it is one of the few in Pompeii that has separate servant quarters to the main living quarters in the home. The servant quarters are situated around a small Atrium, which is to the east of the main Atrium. This was decorated in the third style and had been renovated a few years before the eruption of Vesuvius occurred in 79 AD.
The main part of the house is decorated in first style stucco, much of it copying marble revetment. The first style has also been known as...
Bibliography: The Complete Pompeii- J Berry- 2007- London
Pompeii – Zanker – 1995 – Germany
Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum – Wallace Hadril – 1994- London
Roman Pompeii – Lawrence – 1994 – London
Urban Society in Roman Italy – Cornell and Lomas – 1995 – London
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