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Casa della Venere in Bikini

Form of house

This house lies on the north side of the Via dell'Abbondanza and is one of the smaller houses in the sample, with a ground floor area of less than 200 m2, which puts it in Wallace-Hadrill's Quartile 3 (1994:81). It has a standard front-hall/garden plan with rooms on only one side of this axis. The existence of a stairway implies it had an upper story.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc: A, VII, 25 (2nd Jan 1954 ﹣ 16 Sept 1961); Relazione dei lavori di scavo eseguiti durante l'anno 1954 (April): 23, 115﹣27, 136﹣46. *

Published: Della Corte 1913:415.

Excavation recording

The façade of this house was exposed in 1913 (Della Corte 1913:413﹣15), but the principal excavations were carried out between January and May 1954. During this later period, the Giornali degli Scavi consisted of a list of finds, similar to that in the inventory, and notes typed up separately on loose paper reporting on the daily excavations and summarizing them monthly. Hence, the separate documentation of the finds from the actual excavation renders assessment of the precise provenances of the finds difficult. Inventories of further finds made in this house in March 1955 and September 1961 exist, but the accompanying excavation reports are missing.

During this period, excavation in Pompeii generally was rapid and the recording poor. An entry on 8 January 1954 indicates that the excavators reached room 07 within a few days and that the excavation was being accelerated to remove the impure lapillo. By January 16, the rooms on the east side of the front hall had been excavated (GdSc 1954:117). Little stratigraphical information is given, and it is often difficult to ascertain where material was found or even which house is being referred to.

Interpretation of whole house

Della Corte (1965: No. 737) identified the owner of this house as Maximus on the basis of two inscriptions to either side of the entrance:"MAXIMUS ROG[AT]" and "MAXIMUS R[OGAT]."** Armitt argued (1993:237, 240), however, that the occupants in AD 79 can be identified by the two bronze seals inscribed "CISSUS PITHIUS COMMUNIS" and "C. POPPEAUS IDRUS" found in a cupboard in the front hall and that the latter had been a freedman of the Poppaea family. The association of this house with three seemingly unrelated individuals should rather have highlighted the potential complexity of the relationships of inscribed names to the people who lived in the so-inscribed house and to others who lived in or owned other houses in Pompeii (Allison 2001b).

While the volcanic deposit in this house seems to have been disturbed after the eruption, parts of it appear to have remained untouched (GdSc 1954:136, Feb. 12). If the skeletons found 4 m above the front of the house were originally from this house and if the bronze vessels and other finds were indeed from the kitchen, the house had probably been occupied until the eruption. If so, the occupants had made little attempt to take their valuables with them, as suggested by Armitt.

Armitt has also implied (1993:238) that, after the earthquake of AD 62, this house had been repaired and altered, including closing off access from the house next door (I 11,5). She considered that these modifications were unfinished at the time of the eruption, particularly alterations to the pavements and the wall painting. However, the graffito in the entranceway defacing the unfinished Fourth-Style decoration, the contrasting character of the decoration in front hall 02, and storage of broken statuary and the contents of room 10 together imply that the last occupants had not been using the house in the manner that its partial Fourth-Style decoration implies. The abandoned decorative program, witnessed particularly in the entranceway, suggests that a further alteration occurred after the inception of the Fourth-Style decoration. The presence in such a small house of at least two substantial marble statuettes (the broken one of considerable artistic quality) raises the possibility that these could have been salvaged from elsewhere.

*See also Armitt (1991; 1993). I am very grateful to Melinda Armitt for giving me the lists compiled for her own thesis and for offering solutions to the many problems faced in trying to interpret the imprecise locations given in the Giornali degli Scavi and the inventory.

**Della Corte previously recorded only one inscription on the façade of this house: "Maxim L Popid . . . vs.r.AED" (1913:415).