Over Pompeii

A drone flight over the ancient city and and the new excavations leads us to discover the newly uncovered domus, including: the House with the Garden with its splendid triclinium frescoes and painted portico; the House of Orion with its First Style paintings and the mosaic of Orion, which is the only one of its kind; and in addition the settings of everyday life. It is an extraordinary cross-section of the daily life of the city.

"Good morning everyone, today we present a virtual tour of the Regio V excavations, the new excavations which have been ongoing for the last two years and which have unearthed an extraordinary part of Pompeii, including a street, Vicolo dei Balconi, with houses on both sides. Of particular note is the House with the Garden, which we are flying over at this moment, and the House of Orion, which we will take a closer a look shortly. These excavations have yielded an extraordinary cross-section of the daily life of this city. Thanks to all of the archaeologists, architects, engineers and technicians who have worked tirelessly here with us, we have been able to document this extraordinary heritage in a highly technologically advanced way, commencing with drones, the images from which have been used to create this exclusive video which we offer you.

The House with the Garden is a house that we named as such precisely because the first, very large, room which came to light turned out to be a garden, in which we have been able to excavate all the flowerbed boundaries, and make casts of the roots of the plants which had been planted there, and therefore our palaeobotanists have gathered all of the evidence in order to study the garden and understand what had been planted in it, as well as how it was laid out, and therefore it will be possible to restore it in a philologically correct manner. Facing onto the garden we have a portico with images in the Fourth Pompeian Style, and in particular a black plinth which imitated a garden, the illusion here standing alongside the true perception of nature. Facing onto the portico we have a series of state rooms, including a large triclinium decorated with beautiful Fourth Style paintings, with alternating red and yellow panels, and paintings depicting myths linked to love. On one side we have Venus and Adonis, and on the other a fishing Venus, whilst on another wall we have Hercules and Omphale.

But the house has also yielded more ordinary, everyday rooms, such as kitchens and latrines. It is indeed because it was very much a lived-in house at the time of the eruption, that eleven victims have been found here, who had all taken refuge in one of the rooms of the house. Predominantly they were women and children who probably stayed behind while the men of the family had probably gone out in search of any escape route for all of them, but they sought refuge in this room and waited here during the final hours of the eruption. They probably then died due to the pyroclastic flows which struck following an eighteen hour rain of lapilli. The house features an atrium which was not ‘canonical’ - it is not a Tuscan atrium - because it was most likely covered. The atrium became, like in other houses, the primary ‘hallway’ onto which a series of rooms faced, including service rooms and rooms for both night-time and daytime rest. All in all it was a small house, and therefore it probably belonged not to the elite of Pompeii, but to what could be very generically called the ‘middle-class’. Yet, as is often the case at Pompeii, even these smaller houses feature high quality paintings, and above all yield treasures not only in terms of furnishings but also the most modest of objects relating to everyday life.

Regio V faces onto Via di Nola, and here you can see a nice view of it from above. Via di Nola was one of the great arteries of Pompeii, which ran parallel to Via dell’Abbondanza, and was one of the most significant streets for commercial traffic at Pompeii. Indeed a series of shops relating to all kinds of business activity faced onto the street - next to the House with the Garden there was a fullonica, as well as all kinds of rooms relating to the activities of everyday life.

Here we now enter a house in front of the House with the Garden, on the other side of Vicolo dei Balconi, the house which we have called the ‘House of Orion’, on account of two beautiful mosaics which are preserved in two of the rooms of the house. It is a house which is extraordinary from many points of view, because here the most ancient furnishings have been preserved, including the First Style decoration, as we can see in these images of the atrium, showing stucco panels of various colours imitating coloured marble, thereby recalling the luxury of the Egyptian Ptolemaic court. For example, some of these stucco panels imitate marble which is indeed typical of the Alexandria area of Egypt, helping us to understand from which models inspiration was drawn at the time. At the end of the day this house is also small, and while it does not consist of particularly large spaces, it has yielded true masterpieces, such as this mosaic of Orion for example, which gives the house its name. It depicts one of the more iconographically obscure myths of the ancient world, not just at Pompeii, but which must have had great meaning. Here too, both the iconography and the mosaic itself probably came from the Eastern Mediterranean, from Egypt. There is a cobra in the foreground, which symbolises the Earth, from which emerges the scorpion that kills Orion, imagery which clearly reminds one of Egypt. But the myth is an example of what the Greeks would call Katasterismos, that is it narrates the metamorphosis, the transformation into a constellation, in this case of the hero Orion, a Greek hero who was indeed transformed into the constellation which we can still see today. The owner of the house must have been greatly attracted to this myth, considering it features in two different rooms in which two different scenes of the myth are depicted. It is a small house which has proved to be an extraordinary treasure chest of art."

Source: Archaeological Park of Pompeii

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