Pictures from Pompeii

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Vettii house floor planHere is a floor plan, adapted from that of the house of the Vettii, to give a general notion of the layout of a typical Roman house.

 1. fauces (entrance corridor)
 2. impluvium (rain basin)
 3. atrium (main entry room)
 4. tablinum (study)
 5. ala (side room)
 6. lararium (household shrine)
 7. culina (kitchen)
 8. triclinium (dining room)
 9. oecus (reception room)
10. peristylium (peristyle colonnade)
11. viridarium (pleasure-garden)
12. cubiculum (bedroom)

(A reconstruction of the house of the Vettii can be found at this site.)


This view shows a typical street in the plan of the city.

• East-west streets (decumani) cross north-south streets (cardines) to form a regular grid.
• The streets are paved with blocks of basalt that often show the ruts of cart wheels.
• Stone walkways (crepidines) protect pedestrians from litter and dirt in the street.
• Stepping-stones, not visible here, allow pedestrians to cross the street without going into it.


This view shows the atrium in the house of the Vettii.

• The entrance from the street is a narrow passage (fauces) that opens into the atrium.
• The roof of the atrium has an opening (compluvium) to provide light and air.
• Below the compluvium, there is a basin (impluvium) to collect rainwater.
• The atrium is a reception hall and living room, leading off which is a variety of other rooms.


This view shows a lararium, or shrine to the household gods, in the house of the Vettii.

• The lares were the family's ancestral spirits; the penates, guardians of the family larder.
• The figures shown here are in stucco: the family genius, two lares, and a serpent.
• Often the lararium was just a niche in the wall with a painting or statuettes.
• Sometimes it was an elaborate shrine in the form of a minature temple.


This view shows the peristylium and garden in the house of the Vettii.

• The covered colonnade surrounds the pleasure-garden (viridarium) on all four sides.
• The garden has numerous fountains, tables, and basins in marble.
• Opening onto the peristyle are reception rooms, dining rooms, and women's apartments.
• The back walls of the peristylium are decorated with scenes in fresco.


This view shows the calidarium in the men's section of the Forum baths (thermae).

• It was heated by hot air which circulated through air spaces in the walls and beneath the pavement.
• The vaulted ceiling is decorated with a strigil design in stucco.
• The marble basin (labrum) for cold water is located in the apse.
• The tub (alveus) for hot baths, which is raised on two steps, is located opposite.


This view shows the palaestra, or exercise field.

• It is a porticoed enclosure, often associated with a bathhouse complex, but not in this case.
• Technically a school for wrestlers and boxers, it also served athletes for training and practice.
• Teachers and philosophers met there on the principle of training for mind and body.
• A swimming pool (natatio) could sometimes be found there as well.


This view shows a pistrina, or bakery.

• The two-part millstones were made of resistant, porous lava to avoid grit in the flour.
• The upper stone (catillus) rotated over the lower stone(meta), which acted as a pivot.
• A donkey, which was harnassed to a beam projecting from the upper millstone, turned it.
• Grain was fed into the mill from a hopper suspended from the ceiling.


This view shows a thermopolium, or shop for warm food and drinks.

• The U-shaped counter is less common than the L-shaped type.
• The masonry counter has large ceramic jars built into it for serving wine and foodstuffs.
• The large jar set in the ground (dolium defossum) also stored food items.
• A more general term for a tavern or an inn is caupona.


This view shows the Forum with Vesuvius in the background.

• The Temple of Jupiter is flanked by honorary arches to Drusus (left) and Germanicus (right).
• The building on the left side of the Forum is a horrea, or warehouse.
• The building on the right side of the Forum is the macellum, or food market.
• Mount Vesuvius erupted on August 24, 79 A.D. and covered Pompeii in rocks and ash.


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