Just like a modern cosmopolitan city, Pompeii had its neighborhoods, the insulae, the seedy ones and the chic ones. Therefore, if while on Via dell’Abbondanza, the touristic and social crossroad, there were the botteghe, the tabernae, and the hotels, to sides of the civis, in more reserved places far from the city chaos, we could find those that today would be the “chic neighborhoods”, a kind of Upper City side.
Not so far from the House of the Faun, that we visited during our last walk, there is another luxury domus: the House of the Vettii. The diggings of this building began in 1894 and were made with great cure and dedication: it is one of the better preserved Pompeiians houses.
The Vettii were probably among the wealthiest families of Pompeii. Two brothers, Aulus Vettius Restitutus and Aulus Vettius Conviva, belonging to the class of Freedmen, had reversed their lives making fortune with trading and productive business. Of course, like any good rich Pompeiian worthy of respect, everything had to be well flaunted in form. The result is an exceptional domus, among the most beautiful and luxurious of Pompeii (perhaps second only to the Villa of the mysteries and the House of the Faun) and that owns the greatest number of frescoes in good conditions of all the archaeological site.
The structure appears soon majestic: two entrance halls, a large impluvio made of tufo in the atriolo, the capitelli cubical to the door of income. Nearly sure the house was restructured, probably right by the Vettii when they bought it, for then being restored after the earthquake of the 62 a.D.
House of the Vettii: a “mythological” houseWalking in this house is like moving between a myth and another: all the walls, in fact, represent a particular mythological event.
Arriving in the cubicle we can have an example of unique sophistication: on the sidewall the myth of Leandro and Ero is represented, on another one we can see Arianna who is abandoned by Teseo to Nasso. Cary on and we find a picture that represents Cypress (after which myth, then, will take its name the cypress tree). At the bottom we find again Arianna, that this time assists to the fight between Amore and Pan.
And still, in the peristyle, on a yellow background, we find the representation of some Theban myths:
- The vengeance of Anfione and Zeto for the death of their mother Antiope;
- The killing of Panteo, King of Thebes, for having prevented the cult of Dionysus in the city;
- Ercole child who chokes the snakes sent by Era;
In the opposite corner of the peristyle, instead, there’s Greek mythology:
- The meeting of Dedalo and Parsifae, the wife of Minosse, and the beginning of the history of the Minotauro;
- The sentence of Issione, by Zeus, who’s tied to the wheel constructed by Efesto;
- The escape of Teseo to the sight of Dioniso who discovers Arianna asleep in a tiger skin;
The more recurrent image, at last, is the one of the amorini that are attempted in several activities with Psyche.
The cult of the household
There are a few “windows” from which you can see children offering pawns to the gods of the household.
But these windows are a bluff: Pompeiians used to fresco inner atmospheres so that they represented scenes from the exteriors: gardens, bucolic scenes, views on the sea. Nearly no one Pompeiian domus, in fact, has windows that point out outside.
The cult of the divinity of the household had a remarkable importance for the Pompeiian people. The Geniuses – linked to the cult of the person, the Lare – linked to the earth and the Penatis – protectors of the house that assured the fecundity and the wealth, they were adored in every house. It was not at all rare, in fact, to find in a Pompeiian domus an angle with a small altar dedicated to these divinities. However, if other citizens could admire the largeness and the wealth of the owner of the household, it was thanks above all to these protectors.