Pompeii’s restored house offers a rare look into the lives of the volcano-ravaged city’s former elites

Pompeii’s restored house offers a rare look into the lives of the volcano-ravaged city’s former elites

Pompeii’s restored house offers a rare look into the lives of the volcano-ravaged city’s former elites

Italy Pompeii restored house
Columns frame the ‘peristyle’, or courtyard, at the center of the ancient Roman Domus Vettiorum, House of Vettii, in the archaeological park of Pompeii, near Naples, southern Italy, December 14, 2022.

Andrew Medichini/AP


Pompeii β€” The recently restored remains of a sumptuous house in Pompeii that probably 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.

Italy Pompeii restored house
A detail of the frescoes that adorn the walls of the ‘Hall of the Cupids’, part of the ancient Roman Domus Vettiorum, House of the Vettii, in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, near Naples, southern Italy, on December 14, 2022.

Andrew Medichini/AP


“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 on last month.

“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’s also a story about the social life of Pompeian society and actually about the Roman world in that phase of history,” Zuchtriegel added.

Italy Pompeii restored house
A cat crosses the ‘lararium’, a place of the ancient Roman Domus where the sanctuary for the worship of the Lares, the household gods, was located, in the ancient Roman Domus Vettiorum, House of Vettii, in the archaeological park of Pompeii, near Naples, southern Italy, December 14, 2022.

Andrew Medichini/AP


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, 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 dared that the new “readings” of the revived fresco “reflect the dreams, imaginations and anxieties of the owners because they lived between these images”, which include Greek mythological figures.


An ancient “fast food” counter unearthed in Pompeii

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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 formerly freed slaves.

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.

Italy Pompeii restored house
A view of the ‘triclinium’, or dining room, called Hall of Pentheus, which is part of the ancient Roman Domus Vettiorum, House of Vettii, in the Pompeii Archaeological Park, near Naples, southern Italy , on December 14, 2022.

Andrew Medichini/AP


In the dining room, known as the Pentheus Room, a fresco depicts 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 “then had incredible careers afterwards and rose to the highest ranks of local society, at least economically,” judging by their upscale domus and garden, a said Zuchtriegel. “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.

Italy Pompeii restored house
A view of the impluvium, the rainwater catchment basin in the atrium of the ancient Roman Domus Vettiorum, House of Vettii, in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, near Naples, southern Italy , on December 14, 2022.

Andrew Medichini/AP


The Pompeian architect director of the 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 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.

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