POMPEI, Italy (AP) — The recently restored remains of an opulent house in Pompeii that likely belonged to two former slaves who became wealthy through the wine trade offer visitors an exceptional insight into the details of domestic life in the doomed Roman city.
Tuesday, the House of Vettii, Domus Vettiorum in Latin, was officially inaugurated after 20 years of restoration. The latest fashion in frescoes in the wall decoration of Pompeii was revitalized before the flourishing city was buried under the furiously spouting volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
The unveiling of the restored house is another sign of Pompeii’s renaissance, which followed decades of modern bureaucratic neglect, flooding and looting by thieves looking for artifacts to sell.
It delights tourists and rewards experts with tantalizing new insights into daily life at what is one of the most famous remains of the ancient world.
“The House of the Vetti is like the history of Pompeii and actually Roman society in one house,” said Pompeii director Gabriel Zuchtriegel, pointing to an area of the domus known as the Cupid Rooms the month last.
“Here we see the last phase of Pompeian wall painting in incredible detail, so you can stand in front of these images for hours and still discover new details,” the energetic director of the archaeological park told The Associated Press before the release. public inauguration.
“So you have this mix: nature, architecture, art. But it is also a story about the social life of Pompeian society and indeed about the Roman world in this phase of history,” Zuchtriegel added.
Previous restoration work, which involved the repeated application of paraffin to the frescoed walls in the hope of preserving them, “has made them very hazy over time, as very thick and opaque layers have formed, which makes it difficult to “read” the fresco,” said Stefania Giudice, director of fresco restoration.
But the wax was used to preserve them remarkably.
Zuchtriegel ventured that the new “readings” of revived fresco painting “reflect the owners’ dreams, imaginations and anxieties because they lived between these images”, which include Greek mythological figures.
And who were these owners? The Vetti were two men – Aulus Vettius Conviva and Aulus Vettius Restitutus. As well as having parts of their names in common, they shared a common past – not as descendants of noble Roman families accustomed to opulence, but rather, according to Pompeii experts, almost certainly, as former slaves who were later freed.
It is believed that they grew rich through the wine trade. While some have speculated that the two were brothers, there is no certainty about this.
In the living room, known as the Hall of Pentheus, a fresco represents Hercules as a child, crushing two serpents, in an illustration of an episode in the life of the Greek hero. According to mythology, Hera, the goddess consort of Zeus, sent serpents to kill Hercules because she was furious that he was born from the union of Zeus with a mortal woman, Alcmene.
Would Aulus Vettius Conviva and Aulus Vettius Restitutus have somehow recognized their own life story in the figure of Hercules who overcame challenge after challenge in his life?
This is a question that intrigues Zuchtriegel.
After years of slavery, the men “went on to have incredible careers and rise to the highest ranks of local society, at least economically,” judging by their upscale domus and garden, Zuchtriegel said. “They obviously tried to show their new status also through culture and through Greek mythological paintings, and it’s about saying, ‘We succeeded and therefore we are part of this elite'” of the Roman world.
The architect director of the Pompeii restoration works, Arianna Spinosa, called the restored house “one of the emblematic houses of Pompeii. The residence “represents the Pompeian domus par excellence, not only because of the frescoes of exceptional importance, but also because of its layout and its architecture”.
Ornamental marble baths and tables surround the garden.
Uncovered during archaeological excavations at the end of the 19th century, the domus was closed in 2002 for urgent restoration work, in particular the shoring of the roof. After a partial reopening in 2016, it was closed again in 2020 for the last phase of the works, which included the restoration of the frescoes, the floor and the colonnades.