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Casa delle Nozze d'Argento

Form of house

This house had two, possibly three, entrances: one on the south side of the street between Insulae V 2 and unexcavated V 7, another on the east side of the street between Insulae V 2 and V 1, and a third that seems to have led from the east side of garden r to the west side of the street between Insulae V 2 and V 3. The house had a ground-floor area of about 2000 m2, thus belonging to Wallace-Hadrill's Quartile 4 (1994:81). The house conformed to a front-hall/garden plan, but with a further large garden to the east and a former small house added to the west.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc A,VI,3 (Jan 1888﹣Oct 1889):123﹣47passim; A,VI,5 (Nov 1904﹣April 1912):69﹣107passim, 159

Published: Anon 1891:133﹣34, 168﹣69, 341, 1892:29﹣30, 100, 121, 202﹣4, 238﹣39, 274﹣75, 282, 318, 350, 429, 482﹣83; Sogliano 1896:418, 424﹣36; Mau 1892:17, 1893:28﹣55; Spano 1910:315﹣32.*

Excavation recording

This house was excavated intermittently between March 1891 and August 1908. The standard of recording was similar to that of other houses excavated before 1910. Excavations carried out on 4 and 12 May 1892 were in this house but those of 9 May appear to have been of another house. Mau did not mention these latter excavations, which suggests that they were not in this house.

Interpretation of whole house

On 1 May 1892, the excavators noted (GdSc A,VI,3:128) that identifying the rooms in this vast house was difficult because they were well covered with volcanic debris. This implies that it had suffered minimal post-eruption disturbance. Today, identifying any breaches of intruders is difficult because much modern repointing has been done and the decoration is poorly preserved. The main evidence consists of a series of breaches along the rooms to the west of front hall d, some in room 04, and others in room w and the small rooms to the south of garden r. The wealth of finds in rooms m and 07 and garden r suggest that these areas had not been disturbed.

The finds in the front hall d, garden r, the dependent house, and possibly room s suggest that this house had been inhabited to some extent until the final eruption, although no skeletons were reported. The combination of domestic storage and display sculpture in garden r is seemingly characteristic of normal Pompeian living conditions. While the cooking arrangements might seem a little disrupted, our lack of knowledge of all the possibilities for such activities under normal circumstances (for examples: Salza Prina Ricotti 1978/80:239﹣41) makes conclusions difficult.

Mau argued (1893:31) that this house had suffered little damage in the AD 62 earthquake. This would mean, as has been argued on the basis of the inscription in garden r, that much of the Fourth-Style decoration dated before AD 60. On stylistic grounds Archer (1994) dated all the Fourth-Style decoration in this house, with the exception of room q, before AD 60 (see also Strocka 1984a:37﹣38).

At the same time, Maiuri argued that the bath suite had been damaged by the earthquake of AD 62 and had been in the process of being restored at the time of the eruption. It seems that it had been inoperative, and that garden 02, evidently once part of the same complex, had been downgraded. Such downgrading seems to have taken place after the partial decoration of the bath complex in the Fourth Style. It is also noteworthy that other areas which were decorated in the Fourth Style, such as room w and room l, showed no signs of occupation and may have been abandoned before the eruption. Curiously, the latrine (room s1) had been painted in the Fourth Style, but room o, undoubtedly a more formal room, is reported to still have been in the process of being refurbished after damage caused by the AD 62 disaster. Many of the rooms around the front hall appear to have been converted into storerooms, both those furbished as storerooms and also areas decorated in Fourth Style, as room 07. The storage seems largely domestic with little evidence of commercial/industrial activity in this area. If Mau is correct in his dating of the construction of room 07, then this downgrading represents a second change of plan after the earthquake of AD 62. The apparently unfinished decoration in room h might be further evidence of a similar disruption. Problems seem to arise because the graffito in garden r has been used to date most of the Fourth Style decoration before AD 60. As mentioned above, however, this dating is not necessarily reliable. Even if one accepts Archer's stylistic analysis, as Ehrhardt does (correspondence with author), its chronology can only be substantiated by more careful structural analysis and consideration for the purpose of the graffito in the ambulatory.

In summary, this house appears to demonstrate altered but still fairly affluent living conditions before the eruption but after it had been largely decorated in the Fourth Style. Whether that situation had existed since the AD 62 earthquake or had been the result of intermediate or ongoing disruption or change of plan is unclear. The evidence of two phases of alteration in garden 05 suggests continued changes.

* Since this study was completed Wolfgang Ehrhardt is publishing this house as volume 12 in the series Häuser in Pompeji (2004). I am grateful to him for reading my draft for this house and for his comments. Bernard Sigges has also studied the finds from this house (2002).