Villa Arianna at Stabiae

Villa Arianna Terrace, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Terrazza_B_di_Villa_Arianna#/media/File:Arianna_terrazza_B.JPG

During the Archaic period (8th century BC) Stabiae already played an important strategic and commercial role. The city reached its highest population density between its destruction by Sulla (89 B.C.) and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (79 A.D.). During this period, on the northernmost edge of the Varano hill, many villae were built taking advantage of the panoramic views. They were mainly residential villas, with beautifully decorated large apartments, thermal baths, porticoes and nymphaea. At present, only some of these villas, not entirely excavated yet, can be visited: …Villa Arianna at Stabiae, the most ancient, named after a large mythological fresco on the far wall of the triclinium is one of them…  writes Archaeologist Silvia Martina Bertesago. All I can say is… let’s explore it! http://pompeiisites.org/en/stabiae/

Excavations in Villa Arianna started in 1757 and were conducted by the Swiss engineer Karl Weber, until 1762. At the time, the archaeological site of the Villa was seen more like a treasure hunt exploration site. The Weber team dug underground tunnels, explored the excavated areas, and whatever was discovered and considered of value, like furnishings and frescoes, were detached and taken to the Bourbon Museum at the Royal Palace of Portici. A lot, deemed unworthy or ruined, were left behind and much was ruined by the methods employed by the “archaeologists” of the time. Today, parts of the Villa nearest the sea have collapsed down the cliff and perished forever, extended areas of the site are still buried awaiting excavations, but thanks to a Bourbon-period map showing where tunnels dug and thereafter re-buried, archaeologists resumed excavations in 1950, and proceed with proper scientific research.

Villa Arianna Plan, Stabiae (after Kockel 1985 with corrections by Allroggen-Bedel A. and De Vos M.) https://www.pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/VF/Villa_102%20Stabiae%20Villa%20Arianna%20plan.htm
 

On the western hills of Varano, and overlooking the Bay of Naples, Villa Arianna, is impressive, to say the least. It is estimated that it covered an area of over 11,000 sq.m., whereas its excavated parts cover only 2,500 sq.m. The villa has an unconventional layout, due in part to its continuous development but also to the sloping nature of the site. As much of the building is still buried, the original floor-plan is quite difficult to interpret. Certainly, the main range of rooms was at the front of the highest of a series of terraces; some of these rooms featured views both of the sea on one side and of the mountains on the other. There was also a long tunnel (B) leading from the stables and farm court under the residential quarters to the shore. https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/stabiae/villa-arianna

Villa Arianna – Entrance to the Archaeological Site – View of Mt Vesuvius, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vista_dall%27ingresso_2.jpg

The oldest section of the Villa dates back to the late Republican period (2nd century BC), and develops around its Atrium (24) and the surrounding rooms. The Thermal Baths (6),  the grand Triclinium (3), the summer Triclinium (A), and the surrounding rooms date from the middle of the 1st century AD. The large Palestra, located at the west end of the Villa was added to the complex shortly before the eruption, probably between 60 and 70 AD.

Villa Arianna Atrium (No. 24 on the Villa Plan), 3rd Pompeian Style Frescoes, 1st century AD, Stabiae, Italy
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Atrio_24_di_Villa_Arianna#/media/File:Impluvium.jpg

Villa Arianna was lavishly decorated with frescoes and portable furnishings, an undisputed testimony of the expensive lifestyle the owners enjoyed, and evidence of their refined taste and style. One such high-quality fresco, drawing inspiration from the myth of Dionysus and Ariadne, gave the Villa its modern name.

A presentation of the amazing Frescoes discovered in Villa Arianna will be part of another BLOG POST… Villa Arianna, Part 2

For a Student Activity on Villa Arianna at Stabiae, please… Check HERE!

The Samnite House in Herculanium

The decorated Atrium of the Samnite House in Herculaneum has a Gallery with Ionic Columns and Latticework Screens, 1st century AD, made of painted stucco https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Irelli-Aoyagi-De_Caro-Pappalardo_417#/media/File:Parte_alta.JPG

Herculaneum was a peaceful seaside town which was struck by a succession of pyroclastic flows during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. It was then covered with 25 metres of volcanic mud. Approximately one third of the town has been excavated. It is notable for the high standard of preservation of the houses and the public baths as well as perishable material such as wood, textiles and papyri. A significant number of high quality painted walls may be seen. The Roman seashore has been exposed during the excavations and a Roman boat has been preserved in a special museum. What a remarkable place to visit… and don’t forget, The Samnite House in Herculanium is a must! https://www.herculaneum.ox.ac.uk/links/visit

If you wonder why… Herculaneum has been preserved like no other site in the world, not even nearby Pompeii. Volcanic ash and mud saved two-story domus homes with the internal architecture and décor intact, including features in wood and marble, decorations, jewelry, and even organic remains like food, providing a unique view into the daily lives of the ancient population of Herculaneum. Among the finest and oldest houses that survived is the Samnite House we will attempt to explore. https://www.visitpompeiivesuvius.com/en/herculaneum

The Samnite House is one of the oldest private residences that has been discovered in Herculaneum, so far, and dates back to the 2nd century BC. It was originally much larger in size, with a three-sided Peristyle Court to the east, followed perhaps by a Hortus area. In the course of the 1st century AD, and for financial reasons, one could suspect, the property changed the plan. A second entrance door leading directly to the second floor was added and the entire upper floor space was rented out. The eastern section of the property, that is the Peristyle and possible Hortus was sold off, allowing a separate residential property, the House of the Great Portal, to be built. What survived of the original property, was a ground-floor house with a huge atrium and six small rooms arranged around it. The owners of the Samnite House… downsized, but part of the original decoration survived… it is unique and worth exploring! https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/herculaneum-1/insula-v/samnite-house

Entrance Corridor and Atrium photo of the Samnite House, late 2nd century BC, Herculaneum, Italy
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e8/Samnite_House_%287254091242%29.jpg

What I like best is the decoration of the original House Fauces, that is the entrance passageway leading to the Atrium. This small area is a “treasure trove” of distinctive examples of late 2nd century BC architectural features. For example, the House Entrance Portal and the Interior Portal leading to the Atrium, are flanked by impressive tufa columns with Corinthian capitals, intricately sculpted… The walls of the Fauces are decorated with rare frescoes in the 1st Pompeian Style, imitating, in vivid earth colours,  polychrome marble… Finally, the Fauces floor, covered with a fine dark red and white mosaic in the Opus Signinum style, is simple, consisting of a scale-type pattern in white. https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/herculaneum-1/insula-v/samnite-house

The Samnite House Atrium is impressive, to say the least! The largest area in the House, includes a central marble impluvium and a well-constructed floor in the Opus Signinum style, as well. The Atrium walls decoration, imitating a fancy two-storey structure, is the main attraction of the whole house! The lower part is decorated in frescoes of the 4th Pompeian Style, while the upper part, really fancy, features a false loggia with Ionic columns closed off with a stucco-lined latticework screen on three of its sides. I particularly like this false loggia decoration as it gives me the opportunity to compare it to another fresco, dated in the early 2nd century BC, coming from Pella, in Greece. https://herculaneum.uk/Ins%205/Herculaneum%205%2001%20p2.htm

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

1st Pompeian Style Wall of the Entrance Corridor of the Samnite House (North Wall – detail photo), late 2nd century BC, Herculaneum, Italy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompeian_Styles#/media/File:Herculaneum_Wall_1.Style.jpg

House of Julia Felix

Fourth Pompeian style Wall from the Tablinum (Room j in the provided plan) of the House of Julia Felix, 62-79 AD, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
https://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it/en/room-and-sections-of-the-exhibition/frescoes/

Julia Felix, daughter of Spurius was very lucky indeed! After the earthquake of 62 AD her sumptuous Villa in Pompeii, today known as the House of Julia Felix, unscathed and extending over an area corresponding to two insulae, could easily be divided into parts and rented out to ease the difficulties caused by the shortage of accommodation in the city. Her first step was to open her private bath to the public. She then, offered private apartments and shops… she even advertised on the façade of her house… “elegant bathing facilities, shops with annexed apartments upstairs and independent apartments on the first floor are offered for rent to respectable people”. She was apparently, a smart businesswoman offering, as she further advertised, a long-term lease, of a period of five years “from August 1st next to August 1st of the sixth year.”

House of Julia Felix, 62-79 AD, Pompeii, (Reg II, Ins 4, 3-12) http://pompeiisites.org/en/archaeological-site/praedia-of-giulia-felice/

The house was easily divided into three parts. The baths, with access from Via dell’Abbondanza, were provided with all the required facilities and an open swimming pool. Julia Felix kept her own accommodations looking out onto a magnificent garden with a water channel surrounded on all sides by original marble-embellished quadrangular columns. Lastly, there were the shops, some of which opened onto Via dell’Abbondanza and some onto the side-street leading to the Large Palestra where the ground-floor rented lodgings were situated as well. http://www.pompeii.org.uk/m.php/museum-house-of-julia-felix-pompeii-en-92-m.htm

House of Julia Felix Plan, 62-79 AD, Pompeii, (Reg II, Ins 4, 3-12)
https://www.sutori.com/story/house-of-julia-felix–8TY7jnp2vyUnkDcmdrirvjk2

The Julia Felix’s Villa was one of the first Pompeiian buildings to be excavated or rather “hunted” for treasure, back in 1755 under the direction of R.J de Alcubierre, a military engineer in the Spanish Army, and his assistant Karl Jakob Weber (1712 – 1764) a Swiss architect and engineer who was in charge of the first organized excavations at Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiae, under the patronage of Charles III of Naples. Weber joined the excavations in 1749, was against the R.J de Alcubierre method of “treasure hunting” and fervently argued against it. The detailed drawings of his excavations assisted the European intelligentsia became aware of the importance of what was recovered in Campagna at the time. It is essential to stress that Weber drew plans of the excavated buildings and labeled where objects or paintings had been originally discovered and later removed from. His architectural plans and notes prove priceless for reconstructing today the details of buildings, like the House of Julia Felix, where a taberna, luxurious baths, and richly decorated formal garden dining rooms were revealed since the very first excavations of 1754/55. https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/dramatis-personae/since-the-re-discovery

Still life with Eggs and Game, 50-79 AD, a wall painting from the House of Julia Felix, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Still_life_with_eggs,_birds_and_bronze_dishes,_Pompeii.jpg

My favourite House of Julia Felix Frescoes are the small Still Life Scenes of the 4th Pompeian style, which date to 62-79 AD, and were discovered in the House Tablinum (Room j in the provided plan) on July 13th, 1755. This beautiful fresco composition was removed from the original wall and inserted in a wooden frame, is now exhibited in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. https://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it/en/room-and-sections-of-the-exhibition/frescoes/

The four small paintings at the top of the composition form a frieze depicting… starting on the left… a display of Bread exhibited on built shelves and a presentation of various kinds of fresh fish. The next two scenes show a set of silver vessels with a spoon and a platter containing some eggs in addition to hanging quail, and a napkin and exhibited on the final scene, two shelves with a bag of coins and the instrumentum scriptorium (an inkwell, a stylus, and a papyrus).

Still Life with Glass Bowl of Fruit and Vases, 50-79 AD, a wall painting from the House of Julia Felix, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pompejanischer_Maler_um_70_001.jpg

For More Information on the Pompeian Villa, please… Check https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-ii/reg-ii-ins-4/house-of-julia-felix and https://www.pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2004%2010.htm

For a short but nice Video on the Pompeian Villa, please… Check http://pompeiisites.org/en/archaeological-site/praedia-of-giulia-felice/

For a Student Activity on how to bake Roman Bread, please… Check HERE!

Still Life with Money pouch between gold heaps and writing utensils, 50-79 AD, a wall painting from the House of Julia Felix, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pompei_-_House_of_Julia_Felix_-_MAN.jpg

Villa Poppaea Viridarium Frescoes

Second Pompeian Style painting on the walls surrounding the Viridarium (small garden) of the Villa Poppaea at Oplontis (Italy), 1st century AD
Photo credit: Carole Raddato published on 06 May 2020
https://www.ancient.eu/article/1552/a-visitors-guide-to-oplontis-stabiae–boscoreale/

I wish I were standing in the middle of Villa Poppaea’s central sitting room (Room 18 on the plan), gazing at “the portico in front of the swimming pool and its surrounding garden… the large window (behind me, that opens) onto the principal garden of the villa… (more) windows, (on my sides) opening into rooms richly-painted with garden scenes, and (further beyond those) into tiny ‘garden’ courtyards, again decorated with garden frescos. Trees, greenery, flowers, birds and water (are) visible in every direction, both painted and real, with nature being brought into the interiors. …It’s hard not to imagine the building filled with …peace, …accompanied by the twittering of birds and the wind in the grass and leaves.” Villa Poppaea Viridarium Frescoes have a strange effect on me!     https://www.italyheaven.co.uk/campania/villa-oplontis.html

Villa Poppaea Plan: Room 16 marks the Viridarium area

Villa Poppaea, built on a plateau fourteen meters above sea level, took advantage of all the scenic pleasures of the Bay of Naples, the latest trends in architecture and the art of fresco painting. Rooms, one hundred of them, were in such a way organized so that its residents and their guests would be able to enjoy the open air and the dramatic view of the sea in an environment of the utmost luxury. Walls decorated with sumptuous frescos further enhanced the effect this Villa probably had on its residents and visitors. Please allow me to explain why exploring the fresco decoration in just one Room in Villa Poppaea, makes your trip to Oplontis, worth your time…

Digital model of the current state of the Villa’s Viridarium (Room 16 in plan)
Photo Credit: © King’s College London, 2011
https://www.kvl.cch.kcl.ac.uk/oplontis03.html

Back in the late 19th century, the German archaeologist August Mau (1840–1909), delineated and described a system of dividing Pompeian Frescoes into four distinct Styles. It is amazing how in Villa Poppaea visitors can see fine examples of the latter three of these four Fresco Styles by just walking from room to room. The amazing frescoes in the small Viridarium area (Room 16 in our Villa Plan) of Villa Poppaea are incredible!

The Viridarium is described as an indoor garden sitting room, decorated with frescoes depicting plants and birds. Room 16 in our Villa Plan is one such Viridarium beautifully embellished with what scholars describe as “Garden Painting,” a very precise genre that is distinct from landscape painting. Garden Paintings give viewers an interesting glimpse of the relationship that existed between architecture and landscape in the ancient world. Exploring the frescoes of Villa Poppaea I read OPLONTIS: VILLA A (“OF POPPAEA”) AT TORRE ANNUNZIATA, ITALY by John R. Clarke and Nayla K. Muntasser, and particularly Chapter 6: Wilhelmina Jashemski and Garden Archaeology at Oplontis, by Kathryn Gleason. The information provided in this presentation is the result of an enjoyable weekend of seeking more and more data…     https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=acls;c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;node=heb90048.0001.001:21.7.2;rgn=div1;view=text

Second Pompeian Style painting on the walls surrounding the Viridarium (small garden) of the Villa Poppaea at Oplontis (Italy), 1st century AD
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viridaria_Villa_Poppaea_30.JPG

The delightful frescoes in Room 16, the Villa’s Viridarium, display arrangements of evergreen foliage of arbutus, laurels and branches of roses, artfully shaped alone or around a decorative fountain. Hues of red and yellow, powerful primary colours, serve as a striking background. Birds twittering and drinking water from the fountains give an extra sense of joyful life. Kathryn Gleason describes them as Topiarii and continues presenting Ars Topiaria, as the art of creating displays of foliage and shrubs by clipping plants, the pruning and dwarfing of large trees… to the training of ivy into ornate patterns in small peristyle gardens.  https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=acls;c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;node=heb90048.0001.001:21.7.2;rgn=div1;view=text

I found of particular interest the site of The Oplontis Project, a collaboration of John R. Clarke and Michael L. Thomas of the University of Texas at Austin and the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompe, along with the Visual Restorations of King’s Visualisation Lab, in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London, by Martin Blazeby.     http://www.oplontisproject.org/     and     http://www.oplontisproject.org/index.php/visualization/

For a PowerPoint on Villa Poppaea Viridarium Frescoes, please… Click HERE!

Second Pompeian Style painting on the walls surrounding the Viridarium (small garden) of the Villa Poppaea at Oplontis (Italy), 1st century AD
https://historyandarchaeologyonline.com/ancient-roman-gardens/

Villa Poppaea

Villa Poppaea (garden view), 1st century AD, ancient Roman town of Oplontis (Torre Annunziata between Naples and Sorrento, in Southern Italy)     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Poppaea

A traveller cruising by boat in the Bay of Naples during the 1st century AD would have marvelled at the continuous chain of private villas lining the coast. Although evidence of these villas survives to the present day, our knowledge is mostly fragmentary due to the fact that many are buried beneath Vesuvius’s ashes, modern estates or have been swallowed by the sea. Travellers would have been amazed by the opulence of the architectural features exhibited in these structures: porticoes, panoramic exedras, artificial or natural grottos, galleries, nymphaea, and piscinae. Travellers would have been equally amazed by the diverse interior designs and luxurious materials used by the artists. Villa Poppaea, in the ancient Roman town of Oplontis (Torre Annunziata between Naples and Sorrento, in Southern Italy) was one such extraordinary Villa…

Villa Poppaea by Jean-Claude Golvin
https://jeanclaudegolvin.com/oplontis/

“Villa A of Oplontis, attributed by some to Poppaea the second wife of emperor Nero, was, strictly speaking, a maritime villa. It commanded a panoramic view from the top of a sheer cliff more than 14 m high that overlooked the ancient shoreline. To the south the view ranged from the limestone cliffs of the faraglioni (tall formations that resemble lighthouses) of Rovigliano, the islet near the port of Pompeii at the mouth of the Sarno River, to the length of the coast of the Sirens as far as Capri. To the west the superimposition of various layers of lava that created the Capo Oncino promontory during the Middle Ages had not completely concealed the Neapolitan and Phlegraean coast.”     https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;rgn=div1;view=text;cc=acls;node=heb90048.0001.001:18

Villa Poppaea, built on a plateau, fourteen meters above sea level, took advantage of all the scenic pleasures of the Bay of Naples. Rooms were in such a way organized so that its residents and their guests would be able to enjoy the open air and the dramatic view of the sea in an environment of the utmost luxury. Please allow me to explain why Villa Poppaea was, for me, worth exploring…

Tabula Peutingeriana, a 12th-century copy of a 4th century Roman illustrated Itinerarium (ancient Roman road map), parchment, Austrian National Library https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;rgn=div1;view=text;cc=acls;node=heb90048.0001.001:20

Tabula Peutingeriana, a unique twelfth-century copy of a fourth-century Roman map, marks Oplontis, the area where Villa Poppaea was discovered, as a large square building fronting the sea with twin, gabled, entrances. Interestingly, this is the only Roman reference to a site named Oplontis available to scholars. The name Oplontis is an intriguing mystery!     https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=acls;idno=heb90048.0001.001;rgn=div1;view=text;cc=acls;node=heb90048.0001.001:20

Poppaea Sabina, 1st century AD, Parian Marble, Archaeological Museum of Olympia, Greece
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Poppaea_Olimpia.jpg

The luxurious Villa Maritime in Oplontis is believed to have been one of the residences of Poppaea Sabina, the second wife of Emperor Nero. Poppaea Sabina, born in nearby Pompeii, was the grand-daughter of Gaius Poppaeus Sabinus, Imperial Proconsul of Greece and the daughter of Poppaea Sabina the Elder, a celebrated Roman matron praised by Tacitus for her wealth and loveliness.

Villa Poppaea Architectural Plan https://www.storiesbysoumya.com/villa-oplontis-pompeii-itinerary/

Villa Poppaea, uninhabited and under reconstruction at the time of Vesuvius’s eruption, was a massive residence of more than one hundred rooms and thirteen gardens. Construction started in the 50s BC, while renovations and extensions occurred regularly until the 79 AD volcanic eruption. This sumptuous villa was probably the model house for many of the smaller and less opulent houses built in the area at the same time. The oldest part of the house developed around the atrium, with a number of private or public rooms to serve its purpose for leisure and formalities. By 54 AD, the house extended to the east, with the addition of peristyles with collonaded porticoes extending out from the building’s core, an immense swimming pool and formal gardens.     http://pompeiisites.org/en/oplontis-en-2/villa-poppaea/

Villa Poppaea, fresco in the W. Triclinium, the ancient Roman town of Oplontis (Torre Annunziata between Naples and Sorrento, in Southern Italy)     

The 4th reason why Villa Poppaea was, for me, worth exploring, is its interior decoration… please bear with me as I will discuss the Villa’s frescoes in Villa Poppaea, Part II.

For a PowerPoint on Villa Poppaea, please… Check HERE!

The model of a Cubiculum (Room 11 in Villa Poppaea), one of the richly decorated bedroom-sitting rooms. Room 11 is located between the Villa’s atrium and the grand reception room and offers splendid examples of Second Style Pompeian wall painting.    https://exhibitions.kelsey.lsa.umich.edu/oplontis-leisure-and-luxury/cubiculum.php

Areskon is my Name and I am an Actor

Funerary Altar-Shaped Stele of Actor Marcus Varinius Areskon, 170-200 AD, Marble with traces of the original paint, 1670×70-72×52-66 cm, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou https://www.amth.gr/en/exhibitions/highlights

O man, with your wonderful dower, / O woman, with genius and grace, / You can teach the whole world with your power, / If you are but worthy the place. / The stage is a force and a factor / In moulding the thought of the day, / If only the heart of the actor / Is high as the theme of the play.     …     No matter what role you are giving, / No matter what skill you betray, / The everyday life you are living, / Is certain to colour the play./ The thoughts we call secret and hidden / Are creatures of malice, in fact;/ They steal forth unseen and unbidden, / And permeate motive and act. Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) was an American author and poet who wrote THE ACTOR…an appropriate, in my humble opinion, introduction to our new POST… Areskon is my Name and I am an Actor.  http://www.ellawheelerwilcox.org/poems/pactor.htm     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Wheeler_Wilcox

Funerary Altar-Shaped Stele of Actor Marcus Varinius Areskon, 170-200 AD, Marble with traces of the original paint, 1670×70-72×52-66 cm, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou https://www.amth.gr/en/exhibitions/highlights

Marcus Varinius Areskon… I seek him out every time I visit the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. I introduce him to my students every time I guide them around this wonderful “shrine” of the Muses… and yet I know so little about him. An inscription introduces himself.  Carved above his portrait and under it, the epitaph inscription reads… Λ(ούκιος) Σηνάτιος Οἴκιος καὶ Οὐαρε | νία Ἀρέσκουσα Μάρκῳ Οὐαρ[ε] | νίῳ Ἀρέσκοντι τῷ τέ | κνῳ μνήμης χάριν Lucius Senatius (probably an unknown member of the family) and Var(e)inia Areskousa to her son Marcus Var(e)inius Areskon in memory… I am intrigued… can the portrait of a young man and an inscription help us unravel the knot?     https://www.amth.gr/en/exhibitions/highlights

Areskon was the son of Var(e)inia Areskousa, he was related? to Lucius Senatius, he was Roman, he lived in Thessaloniki, and he died painfully young. This beautiful funerary memorial, in marble and vividly painted, the colours remain remarkably well-preserved, testifying to the economic ability of the family to honour their young demised member with a worthy memorial.     https://m.flickr.com/photos/69716881@N02/50914350016/in/faves-36551225@N05/

Areskousa and Areskon, mother and son, members of a popular family of actors, were probably entertainment “stars” of the time. This is what their names connotate (Areskon/Areskousa= one who pleases, who is popular). The mother was probably an actress of the popular mime theatre, while the son managed to elevate himself and become a young, versatile tragic actor of fame and fortune. His funerary monument is a proper testament to his popularity and wealth.

The portrait on his rectangular funerary altar shows him en face, upright, attired in military gear. His right hand is raised in salutation, the left seems to hold a sword?  In the upper left corner of the composition, still beautifully coloured, a mask, worn by male actors for a female theatrical role, identifies the male portrait as an actor of versatile abilities.

1917, Trip to the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki… my respects to Areskon… Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou

The Portrait of Areskon is shown in the middle of a simple yet elegantly proportioned structure described by the Museum archaeologists as a funerary altar. It is simply framed, sits on a pedestal and is crowned by an inscribed pediment with a central rosette, leaves and stylized acroteria. It was discovered near the eastern fortification walls of Thessaloniki, almost embedded in an apartment building of modern times. Today, exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, it is considered one of the Museum’s highlights!

For a PowerPoint presenting a School Trip to the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and the Funerary Altar of Areskon, please… Check HERE!

For a StudentActivity, please… Check HERE!

2017, Grade 4 STARS in front of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki! Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou

House of Venus in the Shell

Venus in the Shell (detail), 1st century AD, fresco, House of Venus in the Shell, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy, 2017 Photo courtesy of Klaus Heese http://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%2011.htm

…Ah, goddess, when the spring  /  Makes clear its daytime, and a warmer wind  /  Stirs from the west, a procreative air,  /  High in the sky the happy-hearted birds,  /  Responsive to your coming, call and cry,  /  The cattle, tame no longer, swim across  /  The rush of river-torrents, or skip and bound  /  In joyous meadows; where your brightness leads,  /  They follow, gladly taken in the drive,  /   The urge, of love to come. So, on you move /  Over the seas and mountains, over streams  /  Whose ways are fierce, over the greening leas,  /  Over the leafy tenements of birds,  /  So moving that in all the ardor burns  /  For generation and their kind’s increase… The amazing fresco of Venus in the House of Venus in the Shell inspired me to search for Roman Poems dedicated to the Goddess of beauty… and I “stumbled” upon Lucretius’s Hymn to Venus, the goddess of pleasure.     https://newepicurean.com/lucretius-hymn-to-venus-and-the-defense-of-pleasure/     and     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuqPhR8QTZQ

Entrance doorway, looking south, House of Venus in the Shell or House of the Marine Venus or House of D. Lucretii Satrii Valentes, Pompeii, 2012 Photo, courtesy of Michael Binns http://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%201.htm
Ground Plan of the House of Venus in the Shell or House of the Marine Venus or House of D. Lucretii Satrii Valentes, Pompeii http://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20plan.htm

The Via dell’Abbondanza, one of Pompeii’s two Decumani Maximus, formed the main east-west axis which traversed the entire urban area of the city. Facing Via dell’Abbondanza, in Regio II of the city, near the Porta Sarno, the Amphitheatre and the Large Palaestra, lies a private property of particular interest, the House of Venus in the Shell (Insula 3), also known as House of the Marine Venus or House of D. Lucretii Satrii Valentes.  Excavated between 1933-35, it was damaged by bombings during World War II in 1943, but was re-excavated and restored in 1952.     https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-ii/reg-ii-ins-3/house-of-venus-in-the-shell

House of Venus in the Shell, Frescoes in Room 4, 1st century AD, fresco, looking towards south-east corner and south wall, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy,  Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee. https://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%202.htm

The House of Venus in the Shell has all the characteristics of a typical Pompeiian House. A narrow corridor (1) (fauces) beautifully decorated in the 3rd Pompeiian Style opens directly onto a square atrium (2) with a central impluvium. Both areas were intricately decorated with red or yellow painted panels with small medallions in the center to enhance the visual effect. Three cubicula face the atrium, the one in the south east corner (4) is decorated in the 3rd Pompeiian Style “with framed white panels separated by fantastic architectural views above a lower dark red frieze. The central panel of the south wall contains a badly faded mythological scene of Hermes and Dionysus. The side panels on the north wall contain floating figures while on the east are two portrait medallions.” https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-ii/reg-ii-ins-3/house-of-venus-in-the-shell

House of Venus in the Shell, Frescoes in Room 6, 1st century AD, fresco, south wall of Triclinium, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy, https://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%203.htm   

Two more interesting rooms open to the Atrium (2), a Triclinium (6) and a large Tablinium  (5). The Triclinium (6) has vaulted ceilings and walls, painted in the 3rd Pompeian Style, with architectural themes framing floating figures within black panels, and on the uppermost part of the room’s decoration, small scenes and still lives. The Tablinum (5), “has lost most of its decoration but still impresses with its size. The tablinum has a second doorway on its south wall which opens onto the north side of the peristyle.”     https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-ii/reg-ii-ins-3/house-of-venus-in-the-shell

House of Venus in the Shell, 1st century AD, looking towards the south-west corner of the Atrium, with doorway into room 11, on the left, and rooms 5 and 6, on the right, Pompeii Archaeological Site, 2017 Photo courtesy of Klaus Heese
House of Venus in the Shell, 1st century AD, fresco in the Peristyle area, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy     http://janzen3journeys.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-ruins-of-pompeii.html    

The nicest part of the House, the Peristyle area, develops around a lovely garden with 9 fluted columns of stuccoed brickwork (11). Rooms and Porticos, sumptuously decorated, once more, with frescoes in the 3rd Pompeiian Style, display interesting scenes that reveal almost impressionistic qualities. “On the rear wall (17) of the peristyle are three large framed frescoes each set on a blue background. The lefthand painting, is of the god Mars shown standing naked on a plinth while holding a lance and a shield. Around him the foliaged garden is teaming with birdlife. The central painting on the rear wall is of Venus lying in a conch shell with a cherub either side of her. The nymph on the left side of the painting is shown riding a dolphin while the one on the right supports the conch shell. The righthand painting is of flowers and birds drinking at a fountain. The fresco incorporates a niche painted with plants.”     https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-ii/reg-ii-ins-3/house-of-venus-in-the-shell

Venus in the Shell, 1st century AD, fresco in the central panel of the Peristyle area South Wall, House of Venus in the Shell, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy, 2016 Photo courtesy of Buzz Ferebee https://pompeiiinpictures.com/pompeiiinpictures/R2/2%2003%2003%20part%2011.htm
Venus in the Shell (detail depicting one of the Cherubs), 1st century AD, Fresco, House of Venus in the Shell, Pompeii Archaeological Site, Pompeii, Italy https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Venus_Anadyomenes_in_the_House_of_Venus_(Pompeii)#/media/File:Casa_de_Venus_Pompeya_07.jpg

The star fresco in the House, after which the house, let’s not forget, was named, depicts Venus in the Shell. It portrays a large and striking depiction of the goddess Venus, naked but relaxed “giving no signs of modesty, yet no signs of overt sexuality,” reclining in a shell, swelling “sails” behind her, accompanied by a cortege of two Cherubs. This fresco may not be one of the finest discovered in Pompeii, but it is definitely eye-catching. Venus’s  head of curly hair and pale skinned body, resplendent with gold jewels, “looking off into the distance seemingly without a worry in the world” create a stunning vision. The Cherubs’ look of curiosity and astonishment is a strike of ingenuity. The combination of aquamarine blue and plum-hued violet, cool and refreshing, is precious! Simply put… I love it!!!     https://womeninantiquity.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/the-portrayal-of-venus-in-pompeian-frescoes/

For a student RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project), please… Check HERE!

Blue Glass Amphoriskos from Pompeii

Blue Glass Amphoriskos with cupids gathering grapes from the Villa of the Mosaic Columns in Pompeii, between circa 1 and circa 79 AD, Cameo Glass, Naples Archaeological Museum

“Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed  /   Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;  /  And, happy melodist, unwearied,  /  For ever piping songs for ever new;  /  More happy love! more happy, happy love!  /  For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,  /  For ever panting, and for ever young;  /  All breathing human passion far above,  /  That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,  /  A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.” Wrote John Keats in his famous Ode to a Grecian Urn… What about the Blue Glass Amphoriskos from Pompeii we will discuss todaywho is going to do justice to it?     https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44477/ode-on-a-grecian-urn

Portland Vase, between circa 1 and circa 25 AD, Cameo Glass, H. 24 cm, Diam. 17.7 cm, British Museum
Glass Amphoriskos with cupids gathering grapes from the Villa of the Mosaic Columns in Pompeii, between circa 1 and circa 79 AD, Cameo Glass, Naples Archaeological Museum

The Portland Cameo Vase might be famous for its chic et simple design, but the Pompeiian Cameo Amphorisko is chic but definitely not simple!  It is luxuriously rich, elaborately designed, lavishly ornate, ostentatious, sumptuous… yet elegant in a “Baroque” way! The Classicist I admires the Portland Vase… my Hellenistic psyche, however, is all for the Pompeian Amphorisko!

It was the 29th of December 1837 and the archaeological site of Pompeii was visited by King Ferdinand II of Naples and Sicily. What a lucky day for the excavators and the visiting King… a rare Blue Glass Cameo Vase, regarded today as one of the most important treasures of the Naples National Archaeological Museum, was discovered in the area of the enclosed, small, funerary garden of the Villa of the Mosaic Columns. I do not know how true this story is… but the Romantic me likes it! https://www.interno16holidayhome.com/2019/02/22/discovering-the-blue-vase-of-pompeii/  The correct date for the discovery of the Blue Glass Amphorisko is probably 1834 as sited on the Naples Archaeological Museum site. However hard I searched Internet sources, I found little more…   https://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it/en/room-and-sections-of-the-exhibition/metal-ivory-and-glass-objects/

The area where the Blue Glass Amphoriskos was discovered.

The Pompeian Blue Glass Amphoriskos is a very rare example of ancient cameo glass. This is a type of luxurious vessel inspired by intricate Hellenistic relief-cut gems, extremely popular during the period of the Augustan and Julio-Claudian periods, from 27 B.C. to 68 AD. Based on lengthy research by David Whitehouse of the Corning Museum of Glass, there are only 15 extant vessels and about 200 fragments of Cameo Glass in Museums and private collections today. The Romans created Cameo vessels, large wall plaques, and small jewellery items, using craftsmen of the finest technical skills, as highly expensive items of luxury for the Roman aristocracy.      https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20130916-mystery-of-a-missing-masterpiece     and     https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/rcam/hd_rcam.htm

The Corning Museum of Glass describes a Roman Cameo piece of Glass as “an object with two or more layers of different colours; the top layer is partly cut away to fashion decoration in low relief against a background of contrasting colour. Most Roman examples are made with two layers, usually white over blue. However, fragments of vessels exist with more than two layers, and sometimes as many as five.”     https://www.cmog.org/set/reflecting-antiquity-cameo?id=1376

The Pompeian Blue Glass Amphoriskos is luxuriously decorated with Dionysiac scenes, particularly scenes of grape harvest. “On one side, a cupid is pouring rich grapes into a vat, where another cupid is intent on wine-pressing. The scene is framed by two low wide columns, on which two cupids are sitting while they accompany the grape harvest playing the syringe and the double flute. On the opposite side stands a klinos (bed), where are lying two cupids, one of which is playing the lyre, while on the other two columns a cupid picks grapes, and the other is holding a bunch in the hand and a basket already full on the head.” Between these two scenes, depicted is a Dionysiac “mask” with grapes, tendrils and birds! At the very bottom of the Vase, the artist who created this amazing Blue Glass Amphorisko masterfully presents a series of animals feeding on grass and shrubs, in between white, thin, horizontal, lines. What an accomplishment on a small scale!   https://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it/en/room-and-sections-of-the-exhibition/metal-ivory-and-glass-objects/

For a PowerPoint on the Villa of the Mosaic Columns, please… click HERE!

Villa of the Mosaic Columns

Mosaic Columns from The Villa of the Mosaic Columns in Pompeii, 1st century AD, Naples National Archaeological Museum

“If you have a garden in your library, we will want for nothing” wrote Marcus Tullius Cicero to his illustrious new friend Marcus Terentius Varro… and he is so right! Gardening can be so gratifying and the Romans understood it and thus “In the middle of Roman buildings…a roofless square, often with Greek sculptures and temples, was where the Hortus, the garden, was planted and enjoyed. Common Romans might only have had a small courtyard or paved square with pots. Many grew basic foods as a thin bulwark against starvation. The rich enjoyed much larger, more fertile and refined gardens, often closer to parks than yards…Cicero’s correspondent, Varro, was not only well-off but also a scholar of gardening and farming. In light of this, it’s likely that Varro did offer Cicero a well-stocked library, and in it a luxurious garden.” Villa of the Mosaic Columns is about one such lovely Garden, very specially decorated…     https://www.commonsenseethics.com/blog/5-things-that-you-need-to-be-happy-according-to-cicero

The Villa of the Mosaic Columns’ Pompeiian address is on the northern side of Via delle Tombe, behind the bars and shops facing the busy street leading to Herculaneum. Either way, you choose to enter this interesting Villa… you enter a Garden. I like to choose Entrance A (see POST Villa Plan) because Garden C is bigger, it has a mosaic-decorated Nymphaeum and a pergola supported on four magnificent Mosaic Columns. It is thanks to these unique mosaic columns that the Villa, justifiably,  took its name.    https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/villas-outside-the-walls/villa-of-the-figured-capitals

The Villa’s Columns are magnificent! They are covered in colourful mosaic decorations with successive bands of geometric, floral and/or figurative designs. The Villa is unfortunately in a poor state of preservation and thus soon after their discovery, the columns were removed and taken to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples where can today be seen.

The second Garden G is accessed by a wide-open area on the north side of Garden C as well as a corridor leading to Via delle Tombe. Very little survives of its original decoration apart from a Lalarium on its south-west corner. The colonnade to the north marks the entrance to the main living quarters which are unfortunately in an almost ruinous condition. The Villa was probably the most ostentatious in the area. “The decoration in fine painting and mosaics, the grandeur of the architecture and the size of the servant quarters put the Villa delle Colonne a Mosaico on a par with or greater than its immediate neighbours, above which it literally towered. Finally, the row of shops that lie beneath the Villa, which was certainly built during a combined sequence of construction, implies that one source of the villa owner’s wealth was the trades practised by those who worked and lived in this complex. Therefore, the shops supported the Villa economically as well as physically, extending the metaphor into a clearly visible statement of the social hierarchy of the city – a statement that complemented the public display that the Villa itself represented.”     http://online.sfsu.edu/pompeii/research2006.html

An interesting discovery lays at the Villa’s south/east side where, within a gated enclosure, a Tomb and a unique Blue and White Glass Vase were discovered. According to Jashemski… “Since this was the only tomb that had a door leading from the tomb chamber into the garden, and since the only entrance to the garden was from the villa of the Mosaic Columns, it was obvious that the tomb and its garden belonged to this villa.” Jashemski, W. F., 1993. The Gardens of Pompeii, Volume II: Appendices. New York: Caratzas, (p.256).

Today, the Blue Glass Vase, found in the Villa of the Mosaic Columns’ Tomb, is one of the most precious treasures of the Naples Archaeological Museum. We will discuss this amazing Vase in Villa of the Mosaic Columns, Part 2.

Glass Amphoriskos with cupids gather grapes from the Villa of the Mosaic Columns in Pompeii, between circa 1 and circa 79 AD, Cameo Glass, Naples Archaeological Museum

I would like to finish this POST once again with Cicero, who, as he was growing older, he enjoyed more and more the calm and serenity of his gardens, either in his Tusculum Villa where he withdrew to his library and gardens to think and write, or his family Villa in Arpinum, where during his later years, he collected his scrolls and codices, away from Rome, for better protection. “By means of our hands, we struggle to create a second world within the world of nature,” Cicero wrote, thinking as a Stoic philosopher, for whom “the garden was a microcosm of the larger order of the cosmos.”     https://www.commonsenseethics.com/blog/5-things-that-you-need-to-be-happy-according-to-cicero

For a PowerPoint on the Villa of the Mosaic Columns, please… click HERE!

Ariadne on Naxos

Dionysos and Ariadne, 1st century AD, Pompeii, from the House of Capitelli Colorati, now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples

Ariadne on Naxos… what an inspiration… “Eros  /  The archipelago  /  And the prow of his seafoam  /  And the seagulls of his dreams  /  In his highest mast, the sailor flutters  /  A song” the Archipelago Song by Odysseas Elytis, 1979, Nobel Prize in Literature.     https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1979/elytis/biographical/     and     https://www.greeklyrics.gr/stixoi/to-tragoudi-tou-arxipelagous/

The Islet of Palatia in Naxos, where today, since the 6th century BC, stands “Portatra,” the entrance to the Temple of Apollo, Naxos’s most recognized monument.

Naxos is one of the most interesting destinations in Greece! In the center of the Aegean Sea, the biggest and greenest Cycladic island, with a glorious ancient Greek past and the strong influences of the Venetians and the Franks, Naxos is not simply beautiful… it breathes history …and Mythology I would like to add! Naxos was the playground of the Olympian gods, the place where virtuous or naughty, entangled with beautiful women and brave men, gods created a scenery of love and adventure, reality and imagination. The story I like most involves the god Dionysus, the Minoan princess Ariadne and the Islet of Palatia, where today, since the 6th century BC, stands “Portara,” the entrance to the Temple of Apollo, Naxos’s most recognized monument. https://www.greeka.com/cyclades/naxos/

Imagine the scene… Theseus and Ariadne flee Crete in a hurry. With the help of Ariadne, Theseus had just killed the horrible Minotaur in the depths of Knossos’s palace maze. Their first stop to rest on their way to Athens is the island of Naxos… where the story unfolds dramatically and excitingly. God Dionysus, in love with Ariadne, appears to Theseus in his sleep and convinces him to abandon Ariadne at Naxos and continue his trip alone. Ariadne, unaware of divine intervention, disembarks at Naxos, enchanted by the beauty of the island, happily explores it, and tired falls asleep on the beautiful islet of Palatia. When she wakes up… god Dionysus, the son of Zeus and Dione, looks at her adoringly and a new love-affair is in the making. A glorious wedding follows and an eternal gift is still with us to admire… the constellation known as Corona Borealis is said to be Dionysus’s wedding gift to Ariadne, a special ornament to adorn her beautiful head.

In Pompeii, the House of the Coloured Capitals is one of the oldest excavated, back in 1822, again in 1832/33 and 1846. It is one of the largest houses in Pompeii as well, with more than 40 rooms on the ground floor alone, beautifully decorated with frescoes and floor mosaics, combining architecturally, Samnite and Roman features.  The name of the house comes from the brightly coloured capitals of the columns of the central peristyle.

You enter the House through a rectangular Atrium (area marked b) with a central Impluvium and proceed to a porticoed Peristyle (area marked f). One of the bigger rooms opening to the peristyle (area marked h), the oecus, is beautifully decorated with frescoes in the 4th Pompeiian Style on a yellow ground. Dilapidated today and neglected since it was initially excavated in 1822, the house’ oecus featured central panels on each wall with a mythological scene. The single panel, faded yet still holding its original charm, character portrays Dionysus and the sleeping Ariadne on the island of Naxos. Dionysus, holding a thyrsus, standing tall in the center of the composition, gazes in wonderment at Ariadne, still sleeping at the knees of god Hypnos. A naughty cupid reveals Ariadne’s covered beauty to Dionysus while an old Silenus, in need of support, and an entourage of satyrs and maenads seem to follow the young god of revelry. https://sites.google.com/site/ad79eruption/pompeii/regio-vii/reg-vii-ins-4/house-of-the-coloured-capitals

The fresco depicting Dionysus discovering the sleeping Ariadne was luckily removed and can now be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The scenes left in situ, however, have all but faded away…

For a student RWAP (RWAP stands for Research-Writing-Art-Project), please… check HERE!

Oecus is the Latinized form of Greek Oikos (House), used by Vitruvius for the principal hall or salon in a Roman house, which was used occasionally as a triclinium for banquets.     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oecus