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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

House of the Vettii


1st c. AD

If the House of the Faun oozed elegance and sophistication, the House of the Vettii was a house of "nouveaux riches".

It's believed to have been the home of two freedmen, whose names were found on a gold ring and bronze stamps.

It's one of the richest and best-preserved villas of Pompeii.

The villa is famous for its frescoes.

In the hallway, you can't miss the painting of Priapus - he's weighing his (giant) penis on a set of scales...

This wasn't unusual. Priapus was the god of fertility and abundance, and phallic symbols were placed everywhere for good luck.

It's thought the little marks near the fresco were to hold a shutter, which could be opened or closed for visitors in exchange of payment.

Sadly, the graffiti on the left reads : "Eutychis, Greek, nice mannered, for two asses".

Asses were the cheapest Roman coins.

It's thought that this was an advert for one of the house slaves.

Like all Roman houses, the atrium was the most important room in the house, where the family would relax and welcome guests.

The open roof would bring light in and help ventilate the house, as well as collect drinkable rain water.

The room is lined with friezes of children carrying vases and Cupids riding tiny tortoises and lobsters.

Off the atrium is the living room.

It has a fresco of Cyparissus, loved by Apollo. Apollo gave Cyparissus a stag as a token of love but Cyparissus killed it by mistake when hunting. His sadness was such that he turned into a cypress tree.

The room also has a fresco of Dionysus and his wife Ariadne watching a fight between Pan and Eros (gods of the wild and of love).

The living room by contrast, has gruesome frescos.

The first represents Pentheus, king of Thebes, being shred to pieces by his mother and sister. Indeed the story goes that he had refused to worship Dionysos, so Dionysos tricked Pentheus' mother and sister into mistaking him for a lion.

The second fresco represents Dirce being crushed by a bull on orders from her nephews. Indeed she had punished their mother for abandoning them (!).

The third fresco represents Hercules, an illegitimate son of Zeus, strangling snakes in his crib. These had been sent by Hera, Zeus' legitimate wife.

To the right the conversation room looks into the garden.

Archeologists have planted vegetation in exactly the same spots.

The room has frescoes of Dionysos lustfully watching over his wife Ariadne ; Ixion, the king of a Greek tribe, being attached to a wheel of burning fire and Pasiphae lusting after a golden cow.

The room on your right is the dining room, with small Cupids pressing wine, making perfume, training at archery, racing in chariots...