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Pompeii: The Villa of the Mysteries

By Sophi123456 Dec 02, 2008 1374 Words


Evidence for the worship of Dionysus in [pic]Pompeii is found in the Villa of the Mysteries, where a triclinium (dining room) had all its walls painted with flamboyant scenes from the Dionysiac secret rites. The mistress of the house was probably initiated into the sect herself, satisfying her need for spirituality. This particular religion was adapted from the Greek's.


Pompeii's main temple, when the city fell under the Roman Republic's rule is the Temple of Jupiter. A capitalism in structure and in pure Italic style, the temple was constructed on a high base, measuring 10 feet in height, 121 feet in length, and 56 feet in width, with a double flight of stairs at its front. Inside the temple lay the "cellar", accessible only to the priests, and which contained three niches at its far end. Statues of Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva occupied thesis niches. In 62 CE, the temple was seriously damaged in an earthquake, and was in the process of being repaired when Vesuvius erupted on August 24, 79 CE.


The temple was constructed and dedicated to Isis, a goddess from the Egyptian triad, a cult that was quickly spreading throughout the Roman Empire. The cult of Isis was one of the most popular in [pic]Pompeii, which carried over in the construction of the temple itself. When completed, the temple was beautifully painted, on a raised platform and facing east so as to illuminate its interior from the rising sun. Inside, the open cellars held the instruments and symbols sacred to the cult and were used during the ceremonial rituals.


The Samnites constructed the Temple of Apollo on a site where the Greeks are thought to have consecrated to Apollo's worship as early as the 5th century BCE the sacred area and temple was surrounded by a portico which can still be seen today. Like the Temple of Jupiter, the Temple of Apollo was constructed in an Italic style, with a flight of steps leading up a high base. Originally surrounded by 28 Corinthian columns, only two remain standing at its entrance.


The italic house is what the Pompeian's built and lived in. The basic italic house consisted of a courtyard surrounded by rooms with a small garden at the back. A passageway entered the house with a bedroom on either side. The passageway led directly to the courtyard. This was enclosed over except for a central whole through which rain fell into a basin set in the courtyard floor. This rainwater was collected in a well beneath the courtyard.

Along each side of the courtyard were the bedrooms. The rear of the courtyard was extended on either side to form two wings. In the centre of the rear wall was a large room. This is usually the reception room or sometimes it's the master bedroom or office. The picture below may give you a good idea of a typical Pompeian house.

One particular villa in [pic]Pompeii "Lucius Ceius Secundus" is a very good example of modified italic house. There was no room for bedrooms on either side of the courtyard. Therefore the bedroom had to be put round the garden at the back of the house. There was also no room for the large room in the centre. It had to be moved to the left. Bedrooms were built on either side of the entrance however later on the one onto the left of the entrance was turned into the kitchen. The ceiling was lowered and servants' quarters were built above it. Just before the eruption of Vesuvius, it was decided that the house was still too small. A stair way was put in leading up to the balcony along the rear wall of the courtyard. From here a corridor constructed above the passageway top the garden. These alterations were not complete at the time of the eruption; the boxed stairway had not yet been plastered.


[pic]Pompeii had many places for socializing and entertainment. There were two main centres of entertainment at [pic]Pompeii, the theatres near the Stabian gate and the amphitheatres was much more appealing to people most primitive emotions.

During the games the spectators became very violent. There is a particular painting now in the Naples museum shows a riot in amphitheatre where several people were killed. The amphitheatre was filled with the people from [pic]Pompeii and many neighbouring towns. In the crowd was a group from the town numeral. During the games fighting started between the Pompeians and nuceria. Many died and the arena was closed. Another very social building would be the three large public baths at [pic]Pompeii, the forum baths, the Stabian baths and the central baths, which were still being built at the time of the eruption.

In the Stabian baths the men had many facilities. After undressing and getting fully naked the men could either exercise or take a swim. Several games were played in the 'palestra'. The most popular game was a form of bowling.

The woman's baths were separate to the men's. Normally bathers would be rubbed with ointments in the warm room before entering the hot room. Here they would sweat in the intense heat.

Dinner parties in [pic]Pompeii were very common. Most Pompeian dining rooms were very small and had only just enough room for three couches and a table.

Wine flowed freely and often parties got very bawdy. One particular Pompeian actually had rules of behaviour printed on the wall of his dining room. Rules like a slave must wash the feet of the guests and make sure that he/she spreads a linen cloth on the couches and don't cast lustful glances or make eyes at another mans wife. Don't be course in your conversations.


[pic]Pompeii probably had a population of about eight to ten thousand people. Sixty percent of those people were free and forty percent were slaves. Free men and woman considered manual work to be below their dignity and self-respect. The slaves would do all the cooking and housework in the home. The life of a slave could be horrendous for example they could be working in the mines or fighting as gladiators in the amphitheater. Usually the domestic slave was often tolerable. A small household of slaves often consisted of two or more slaves. A large house had many more including specialists such as doctors and teachers.


Pompeii was the import and export centre of Southern Campania for six hundred years. The main commercial area of Pompeii was the forum. This was the centre of government, business and law. In a town like Pompeii where commerce was its life the three was almost indistinguishable.

Shops were not restricted to the forum. There is hardly a street without its share of shops. Wherever the public congregated daily for example the baths, the whole outer façade of the building was turned over by shops. Food shops had masonry counters with larger earthenware pots set into them. Grain, dried fruit and liquids were kept in these pots. Meat and poultry were suspended in from a bar hung in the entrance.

Bars, which sold hot drinks, were often no more than tiny rooms openings onto the street. Inside were a masonry counter and an oven. Large earthenware jars were embedded into the counter. These jars contained food.


Graffiti in Pompeii is found well throughout the city on walls through many places such as brothels, public baths etc. The graffiti is one of the best sources of information there is on Pompeii and provides historians with an enormous amount of information. There are many erotic pictures in places such as brothels and many pictures about politics and the government on walls in places like shops and baths.

An example of graffiti helping historian in Pompeii is the graffiti in the amphitheatre. Graffiti at the Pompeii amphitheatre reveal that members of the profession were loved with the passionate infatuation, which teenage females have for pop stars in our much more modern age.

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