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Casa del Sacello Iliaco

Form of house

This house had one entrance from the south side of the Via dell'Abbondanza. It had a ground-floor area of c. 500 m2, thus belonging to Wallace-Hadrill's Quartile 4 (1994:81). The house conformed to a relatively standard front-hall/garden plan, except that it only had rooms off one side of the front hall.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc A,VI,6 (May 1912﹣March 1929):10﹣11, 63﹣93, 122﹣25.

Published: Della Corte 1912:182﹣83, 222, 354, 402﹣8, 446, 448﹣49, 1913:28-35, 58﹣59, 83, 356﹣60, 412.

Excavation recording

This house was excavated between May 1912 and September 1913. The excavators were relatively precise in recording the position of the finds and the state of the house at the time of its recovery. They differentiated between lapilli and ash and indicated whether the volcanic deposit had been disturbed. They also gave information on the height above the floor at which the finds were recovered.

Interpretation of whole house

The number of breaches in the walls of this house is comparable to that in the Casa dei Ceii. This house contained a lot more material, however. Maiuri argued (1942:147) that only the earthquake of AD 62 could have caused the owners of the Casa del Criptoportico to sell part of the house. Hence, he dated all the refurbishing activity in the Casa del Sacello Iliaco after AD 62, interrupted by the final eruption. Della Corte also concluded (1913:356) that the whole house had been in the course of radical transformation at the time of the eruption. He noted that a state of almost uniform rusticity in the rear of house confirmed this observation. However, Strocka concluded (1984b:126, 131) that the redecoration work in this house had ceased because of the AD 62 earthquake and that it had not been taken up again but had been replaced with a coarser and again incomplete plastering. Because of the incomplete decoration, Ling argued (1991:72) that renovations must have been in progress either at the time of the AD 62 earthquake or at the time of the final eruption. Like Maiuri, Pesando (1997: esp. 37-38) again dated the division and transformations of these houses to the AD 62 earthquake and made no reference to Strocka's study. To clarify the sequence of observed activity after the disruption or change of plan that caused the first transformation of parts of the house to Fourth-Style decoration, the following phases are proposed; they trace backwards from the final volcanic event to the first Fourth-Style transformation:

Phase III: The eruption of AD 79

a) The burial of the city. This relatively well-documented house was likely to have been abandoned before the city was completely buried, as no human skeletal remains were recorded.

b) The course of the eruption. It is impossible to speculate how long before the burial the occupants left but the jewelry in room f and cooking evidence in room n suggest they had left relatively hastily, possibly during the eruption.

Phase II: The final occupation

a) Rooms showing habitual use. The evidence in room n indicates that it had been used as a kitchen until its abandonment. Rooms d and l, as traditionally identified (Mau:1899, 259, 261﹣62), seem to have been used as sleeping rooms until their abandonment. The orderly storage of domestic material in the front hall can also be seen as normal front-hall activity in Pompeian houses. Hence, the final activities in these rooms conform to expectations of normal conditions, but the state of their decoration implies disrupted conditions.

b) Rooms showing disrupted use. The mixed assemblages (consisting of valuables, salvaged material, and decorating materials) in rooms c, e, and f indicate that these rooms had not been used in accordance with their supposed functions or, in the case of rooms c and e, with their intended decoration. The coarse repair in rooms p and q and the presence of building material in other parts of the house (courtyard m, room o, and area s) must also have caused a disruption to-or even termination of-any normal domestic activity in these areas before the final occupancy. One might therefore conclude that during the final phase of occupation the only rooms that showed evidence of habitual use were the front hall; rooms d, l, and n; and perhaps room h. It seems that only these, very reduced parts of the house, might have been functioning as usual during its final occupation.

Phase I: Final Restoration

a) Coarse replastering. The front hall, rooms d, f, p, and q, corridor g, and the cupboard under stairway ST had coarsely plastered walls. Strocka noted that the plaster in the front hall, room f, corridor g, and under stairway ST was similar, implying that it was all contemporary and possibly incomplete. The plastering on the east wall of room d had been executed after the incomplete Fourth-Style decoration of the other walls and before the placement of the bed in this room. The coarse plaster on the south and west walls of the front hall might well have postdated the simple decoration on its east wall. The coarse plastering in the front hall and room f and the incomplete decoration of room e would have predated the placement of furniture against these walls. The evidence of plastering activity in courtyard m, area s, and room o may have been associated with this replastering phase. If so, and Strocka's associations are correct, then the replastering of the south walls of rooms p and q could also have belonged to this phase.

b) Utilitarian refurbishing. The east wall of the front hall shows a type of rudimentary decoration reportedly used in informal or service areas (see Strocka 1975). If this decoration had once been complete, then it would have predated the coarse plaster on the south and west walls.

c) Redecoration. The Fourth-Style decoration in rooms c, d, e, h, i, and l had been left incomplete. Its execution and subsequent abandonment must have predated phase II activity in rooms c, d, e, and l. Considering the possibility that this type of decoration had been planned for the front hall, at the same time as the surrounding rooms were being lavishly decorated, this Fourth-Style decoration might also have preceded the utilitarian furbishing in the former. It most probably preceded its coarse plastering and certainly preceded that on the east wall in room d. Strocka concluded (1984b:131) that these unfinished fine paintings in the front of house were unrelated to the repair work and material at the rear of house.

Solutions. The only rooms showing activity that postdated phase I are the front hall, rooms c, d, e, f, l, n, and possibly the area under stairway ST. It is therefore feasible that the other rooms in the house had remained in the same state during phases I to III. Corridor g must have been in use to allow access to room n, but courtyard m and area s may well have been unused or underused during phases II and III. The scant possible remains from the upper floor hint at activity there, but the lack of good contextual information (for example, state of the walls and their decoration) makes it impossible to place this in any of these phases. If prior damage had been left unrepaired in the lower regions of the house, inhabiting the upper level might have been unwise.

a) Strocka dated phase Ic activity before the earthquake of AD 62. If he is correct and the plastering of the east wall of room d had been contemporary with the rest of phase Ia, then phase Ia must have postdated AD 62 but predated the final occupation of the house. Apparent downgrading of the front hall (phase Ib) does not seem to fit with the redecoration program of phase Ic and might therefore have occurred later. It was conceivably earlier than Phase Ia and certainly earlier than Phase II. This means that there were at least two (Ia and II) and possibly three (Ia, Ib, and II) activity phases after AD 62 and before AD 79, possibly separated by disruption or change of plan.

b) If phase Ia, b, and c were contemporary, as Maiuri and Della Corte suggested, and repair and redecoration had been necessitated by the AD 62 earthquake, then a later disruption must have caused the abandonment of the redecorating and a haphazard reoccupation of rooms d, l, and n. This would also point to further disruption and change of plans in the intervening years between AD 62 and AD 79.

c) If Strocka's dating of the Fourth-Style redecoration of this house is incorrect, then phase Ic must have commenced after the AD 62 earthquake. This would also have the same results as (a) and (b)-that is, there had been more than one repair and occupation phase between the earthquake of AD 62 and the commencement of the eruption of AD 79.

More recently, Foss (1994:213) reiterated Strocka's argument. While I agree with him that change is part of the natural life cycle of a house, I do not agree that the presence of large piles of gypsum in garden m, room o, and area s; the storage of domestic material with building material in a room with incomplete decoration (room c); or the placement of an ornamental bed against a wall where the Fourth-Style decoration had been coarsely plastered over (room d) would not constitute evidence for disruption in the day-to-day running of this house.