Thanks to the Great Pompeii Project, a visit to ancient Pompeii introduces newly restored dwellings, such as the House of the Bear, the House of Siricus and the Bakery of Popidius.
The House of the Bear is named after the mosaics in the hallway, representing a bear injured by a spear and an inscription of the Latin greeting “Have”. It was built around 50 AD in the space formed between two old houses. Despite its small size, the domus stands out for its richness in decorations, especially the pavements, such as the mosaics, decorating the basin of the impluvium. Behind the house, there is a little garden, a fountain and an aedicule, with a decoration representing a seabed, a shoal of fish, Neptune and Venus in a shell, emerging from the sea.
The House of Sirucus is a large dwelling, whose owner, Publius Vedius Siricus, is well-known thanks to the finding of a bronze signet ring. It occupies from east to west the central part of the insula 1 of Regio VII, it’s an aggregation of two dwellings. Publius Vedius Siricus was a politician and business personality in Pompeii and he daily welcomed his “clientes” in his domus with the auspicious inscription of “cocciopesto” (fragments of earthenware or brick mixed with lime and sand) of these words: “Salve Lucru(m)”, i.e. “Welcome earnings”. At the entrance of the house which stands out for its elegance the large portico where the guests feasted on beds called “triclini”, located around a precious opus sectile pavement, surrounded by frescoes depicting Heracles at the court of Queen Omphale, Thetis in Hephaestus’ house and the construction of the walls of Troy. In the Triclinium, there are the casts of three fugitives, which were trying to leave, while the city was already half-buried by lapillus, and suddenly they were killed by a thermal shock, because of the first pyroclastic flow. The most recent interpretation identifies the four as a family consisting of a man, who paved the way in the vain escape from death, a woman that, clutching a few precious belongings she collected before fleeing, closes the line and encourages the race of two girls: a full-grown and one that still had to be a girl.
The Bakery of Popidius Priscus was nearest the Forum and was the biggest bakery in Pompeii; actually, it produced more than eighty loaves of bread every batch, it had five volcanic stone mills and received a great number of customers at peak times. On the door, there is the inscription: Hic Habitat Felicitas (i.e. Here happiness lives). Popidius was an ambitious businessperson; actually, in addition to the bread trade in the city, he stamped the loaves, as they were a real work of art and exported his products in the neighboring Nocera. Even today, with a little imagination, the aroma of freshly baked bread seems to envelop all the streets around this bakery.
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In Pompeii there has been a great return to celebrate the International Women's Day. The statue of the "Venus in a bikini", now in the Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mann), was back for the Woman’s day at her place of discovery, the eponymous domus. An initiative strongly supported by the Superintendence of Pompeii in accordance with MANN, who in addition to confirming the strong link that binds the two institutions today, will also remember the direct and historical connection since Bourbon. The project to accommodate the objects found in Pompeii’s excavations and then transferred to the MANN could also have future developments.
Since the 8th of March, the house in which was exhibited the statue was closed again, because of the works on the safety of Regiones I and II, provided by the Great Pompeii Project. The fame of the domus (house) is linked to the discovery of the marble statuette depicting Venus that melts a sandal. The goddess also presents a drawing of a golden embroidery fabric on the breast and on the pubic region (bikini). The statue is one of the most unique and interesting pieces of the archaeological adventure that took place at the foot of Vesuvius.
The statue was found in a wardrobe located in one of the rooms of the house (the tablinum), where it had been placed during the work of the domus following the earthquake of 62 AD, along with other household effects and valuables including gold bracelets and coins. Almost certainly the statue was used as an ornament, placed on a pedestal located behind the impluvium (the ornamental pool at the center of the atrium). The sexual innuendo glimpsed in the gesture of Venus have then determined the future place in the erotic Cabinet of the Archaeological Museum, keeper of finds with erotic themes, where it was transferred after the discovery.
This iconography of the Venus, which occurs twice in Pompeii, seems to have originated in greek-oriental influence of the late third century BC and its success is documented by a large number of figurines found in many centers of the Hellenistic East and Egypt. The image of Venus, goddess of beauty par excellence, was a real tribute to the female figure on the occasion of the Women's Day.
Within the domus, the female figure is also expressed in the different mythological squares of different environments, depicting women and especially goddesses Diana and Actaeon, Omphale and Hercules, Pyramus and Thisbe, a nymph coming out of a body of water in a flower garden. The house is modest in size, is the result of the division of an earlier property, which probably took place in the first century BC and brought to light at the beginning of the twentieth century, which includes an atrium with a garden in the back. All the paintings in the house belong to the decorative phase of the IV Style.
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The word myth comes from the Greek “mythos”, meaning narration, but also sacredness and rite. It is through this reminder of the word that the Archaeological Museum of Naples (MANN), in collaboration with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, inaugurated, on the 8th of June, a new exhibition entitled “Amori Divini”( “Divine Loves”).
Taking inspiration from the many mythological repertoires that the city of Pompeii reveals 2,000 years later, the curators of the exhibition, Anna Anguissola and Carmela Capaldi, with Luigi Gallo and Valeria Sampaolo want to tell the visitors, through a path in Greek culture, the history and the luck of some tales that are joined by two common narrative ingredients: seduction and transformation.
There are 80 works, a path to the discovery of the Greek-Roman myth and the reinterpretation that the European society gave to it, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Frescoes from Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae, as well as exceptional Greek jars from the Mann collection that, as in the programs of the director Paolo Giulierini, will be exhibited next year in the reorganized Magna Grecia section of the museum.
Greek literature and art often tell of love between men and women with sometimes peaceful interactions and others hostile and with at least one of the protagonists who changes shape transforming into a plant, an animal, an object or an atmospheric phenomenon. The envious and vindictive Gods seduce through metamorphosis and fall in love with common mortals, often beautiful and seductive little girls, with their body in constant change. The myth collects many of these stories with many local variations until the writer Ovidio, through his immortal work "Metamorphoseon", leaves an imperishable echo in Roman literature.
The Romans and especially the Pompeians, translate the myth as a seductive element for their guests, and the mythological scenes in parietal paintings are particularly appealing to the rich lords. Which were their favorite stories? The stories of Europe, but also of other characters of the classic myth such as Danae, Leda, Ganimede or Narciso, which reflect the relationship between man and deity, but also the two common themes such as seduction and transformation. There are four sections of an exhibition that occupy the spaces on the first floor of the MANN, next to the Meridiana salon. The four sections are: The substance of the myth, God changes form, God transforms, Body and Spirit. They are an integration of the exhibition "Pompeii and Greeks" which is going on in the Palaestra in Pompeii (next to the Amphitheater).
The exhibition will close on the 16th of October. According to the programs of Paolo Giulierini, from mid-September the MANN will host a series of events with writers, actors, philosophers and artists inspired by the themes of love and eros and the meaning of the myth in the contemporary dimension.
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Although in Roman society marriage and motherhood were considered the main purpose of a woman, Roman women led – incredibly for that time - a life which allowed them to participate in many of the cities social moments and to carry out activities that we now call "entrepreneurial". Dispelling the myth of female ignorance many women, not just those of the upper classes, received instructions which were not limited only to basic things.
Looking at the frescoes that come from Pompeii and other Vesuvian centers, many women are often depicted while reading or practicing music. That certainly was part of their own cultural learnings coming from their education. They could also freely attend public places and many of them held and managed economic activities, sometimes even taking an interest in politics.
As a rule in the Roman world, women had no right to participate in person in public life. This policy was called by definition "virile officium", but at the time of the election of the judges women participated actively in the electoral campaign. How? On many of the campaign posters found in Pompeii there is the signature of women who were invited to vote for one or another candidate, urging the fellow citizens to take part for one faction or the other.
In Pompeii there existed also women with large heritages used for non-private purposes. Mamia was a public priestess from a wealthy family of Samnite origin, famous for having given to the city a temple dedicated to the "emperor's genius". Eumachia, belonging to a rich Pompeian family who owed their fortune to viticulture, had built in the Forum and at her own expense, one of the most impressive buildings in the square, probably intended to be a market for wool. She devoted her building to her son M. Numistrius Fronto, to the Concordia Augusta and to Pietas, in order to facilitate her son's political career.
These women have had a very high public visibility and their merits were recognized by the whole community. The citizens of Pompeii dedicated to Mamia a tomb built on land donated from the cities, in the pomerium, the buffer zone located outside; the corporation of fulloners (the makers and cleanings of fabrics) dedicated to Eumachia a statue in the building she had built as their mistress and benefactor.
Another important woman in Pompeii was Julia Felix who had near the Amphitheatre some estate properties (praedia) that she rented to visitors. Everything always depended on the possibilities and the social conditions that some women could afford over others, on their attitude and their character. Mamia, Eumachia and Julia Felix surely could considered themselves modern "entrepreneurs", which gave additional luster to their city.
Take a tour of Pompeii with us and time travel to the past! Start by viewing our tours here.
Or call our Pompeii office at +39 081 1877 7006.
Staff at Flashback Journey to Pompeii. Our goal is to bring you up-to-date information on events, continuing archeological excavations and more on Pompeii.