We are still walking the streets of the ancient city of Pompeii, shortly after “the door” of Sarno gate. It’s crazy how much history we have already trod in just few meters! But we continue our journey.
While we follow the trail of passers-by, we estrange from all this hubbub that surrounds us and slowly the eye flies intrigued towards the alleys that branch off to the sides of Via dell’Abbondanza. Who knows what is hidden behind this “Boulevard” …
Our attention is drawn by a row of slaves that carry shouldering what look like terracotta amphora that looks really heavy. They are those jars that here in Pompeii are used to store or carry the cereals, beans, fruits and vegetables. It is probably part of the harvest that some rich man is sending to the market and from which he will make a substantial profit. We get caught up in curiosity and we move towards the den from which we have
spotted leaving the caravan of slaves leaving for a moment behind the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the lower decumanus.
We are facing a very large House, apparently must belong to a trader, a businessman. At the entrance, on the floor, a bit like a welcome carpet, we find refined decorations in opus vermiculatum style mosaic, while on the walls a refined Pompeian red is intertwined with a bright ocher.
The house immediately opens onto the peristyle from which we immediately access a large, lush garden. There are vines and exotic trees: cherries, peaches, lemons. It shows that the owner must be a man of the world “, surely a merchant that exports its goods outside the city walls and also imports from the East. The lemon tree, in fact, came here thanks to the Jews who widely used it, oddly enough, not in the culinary field but as a medicinal plant: to rinse the mouth, for example, or, something singular, to protect clothes from insects. In this period then is widespread transplantation of Oriental plants like peaches, apples, apricots.
The Ship “Europa” and the myth of Jupiter
As we enter, we look around and immediately notice, on the north wall of the peristyle, a curious fresco …The name of the House derives from this drawing, discovered in 1957, depicting a large ship. More than a fresco it almost looks like a graffiti, see it now, as those engraved on the wall with a stick or a nail. This stems from the fact that all the original color must have come off because of lava which burned everything. It is almost certainly the work of a sailor or an expert in navigation for the precision with which is drawn the craft. This is represented in the Act of picking up a smaller boat; the ship’s name? Well, we find it written in a table on the line of tagliamare. Certainly alludes to the myth of the Princess Europa being abducted by Zeus in the disguise of a white Bull. The reference to mythology makes clear that the homeowner had a certain taste.
The structure of the houseThe building consists of two connecting houses, one with Doric peristyle and the other with an atrium, connected by the rear garden. Studies on excavations have shown that the garden was used as a vegetable garden and probably gave a wide variety of harvest: onions and cabbage,
above all, they were of prestigious culture in Pompeii. At the time of the excavation was found a large quantity of amphorae used for the harvest, and a grain mill. This data, coupled with the fact that the design portray just a merchant ship, could corroborate our hypothesis on the profession by domus owner shopkeeper. Funny thing is, then, the discovery of bones of domestic animals: perhaps one might assume even a herd, which would complete the picture. This “dominus” farmed, produced, raised and sold assets: this will automatically rank high on the social pompeiian scale. It would not surprise us to discover that the same may have even been the owner of the entire insula!
Pompeii: forward with engineering
Interesting, from the engineering point of view, the garden irrigation mode, which was not limited anymore to collect water at the compluvium, but happened through two cisterns that collect rainwater from rooftops and through a number of channels sprinkled on the field. A real avant-garde gem!
Currently the vineyard home of ship Europe is maintained and is one of the areas of the site where comes alive every year the harvest in Pompeii, experiment started in 1994 thanks to an agreement between the Superintendent and the winery of Mastroberardino, that besides taking care of the vineyards, produces the fine wine Villa dei Misteri. About this great wine we have already told you in one of our articles.