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Casa di M. Lucretius Fronto

Form of house

This house had two entrances: one on the east side of the street between Insulae V 5 and V 4 and one on the west side of the street between Insulae V 3 and V 4. It had a ground-floor area of c. 570 m2, thus belonging to Wallace-Hadrill's Quartile 4 (1994:81). The house conformed to a front-hall/garden plan, except that these areas were not precisely aligned and the front hall had side rooms on only one side.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc A,VI,4 (Nov. 1899﹣Oct 1904):23﹣55.

Published: Sogliano 1900:146﹣47, 199﹣203, 409﹣10, 640, 1901:145﹣70; Mau 1901:312﹣65; Bastet 1975:193﹣97; Brunsting 1975:198﹣99; Wynia 1982:329﹣40; Peters et al. 1993:3﹣37.

Excavation recording

The main excavations of this house were carried out between April and December 1900. The standard of recording was comparable to that of the houses in Region VI, Insula 16. The recorders appear to have noted when the deposit had been disturbed. The locations of finds were generally given as the room only, but usually there was some indication if they had been from the upper levels of the deposit. Therefore, all finds with no such indication were probably from the ground-floor rooms. Mau, who was often present during the excavations and wrote his own reports, can be considered fairly accurate.

More recent excavations were carried out between 1971 and 1974 by a Dutch team under the direction of W. J. Th. Peters. These excavations concentrated on investigations of the levels and structures below the AD 79 level, particularly in the garden area.*

Interpretation of whole house

This house takes its name from the frequent occurrence of electoral programmata for M. Lucretius Fronto on its façade and in the vicinity (Peters et al 1993:411﹣12). Peters and Moormann believe M. Lucretius Fronto, who had been aedilis and duovir, had a direct association with the house, along with his freedman, M. Lucretius Lirus. Mouritsen, however, has demonstrated that these programmata alone are insufficient evidence to establish ownership and occupancy of a house (1988: 18﹣19, 61, 1990:138﹣39).

Only the north wall of garden was recorded as having been penetrated by intruders, although Mau (1901:357) believed that the rooms around the front hall had been disturbed by excavators in antiquity. The good state of preservation of the walls and decoration in and around the front hall suggests that this area had been largely undisturbed. The exception is the south wall of the house, which consists largely of a modern reconstruction. Rooms 04 and 05 may have been disturbed, but the excavators made no mention of this.

The front of the house was largely decorated in the Third Style, reportedly dating to the Claudian-Neronian period (Peters et al 1993:276﹣77). Heres argued that this part was only slightly damaged by the AD 62 earthquake and subsequently subjected to only minor restoration (Peters et al. 1993:139). Conversely, she argued (Peters et al. 1993:140) that the rear portions of the house had been extensively damaged in AD 62 and then remodeled. She further argued that a number of rooms in this area were damaged again at a later date. The decoration in this part of the house is predominantly in the Fourth Style, although there is possible evidence of a pre-existing Third-Style decoration (Brunsting 1975:199). Mau (1901:352) dated the Fourth-Style decoration before AD 62, but this would not accord with Heres' structural study. Peters and Moormann concluded that the Fourth Style in this area decoration belonged to a single painter's workshop working after AD 62 and interrupted by the AD 79 eruption or a short time before.

On the basis of the unfinished wall paintings, of the comparatively few pieces of ordinary household ceramics found in the house, and of the lack of material dated firmly to the last three to four decades before AD 79, Wynia concluded (1982:333﹣34) that the house had been in the process of being redecorated and possibly rebuilt at the time of the eruption and that it had therefore not been inhabited in AD 79. Likewise, Bastet concluded (1975:195) that it was uninhabited at the time of the eruption and that a pot of lime found under a staircase showed that the decorators had still been at work when disaster struck.**

Despite evidence for unfinished decoration in room 13 and possibly in area 11, corridor 8, and room 14, there is no apparent evidence that rebuilding and redecoration were still being carried out in AD 79. On the contrary, even these unfinished rooms were apparently reoccupied before the eruption. Similarly, contrary to Wynia's statement, the contents of the house seem fairly representative of the houses in this sample. The assemblage in the front hall is commensurate with that found in many of the other houses. The presence of a paint pot suggests painting had been carried out at some stage but not necessarily during the last days of Pompeii. The paucity of finds in rooms off the front hall was also a common occurrence in Pompeian houses that showed other evidence of occupancy. The finds in the kitchen suggest that it had been functioning, and those in nearby room 20 imply a somewhat disrupted occupancy after its Fourth-Style decoration. Similar downgraded activity was possibly witnessed in rooms 13 and 14 off garden 10.

Again, contrary to Wynia's observation, Moormann (Peters et al. 1993:397) dated at least one of the finds, the oinochoe from room 13, to the third quarter of the first century AD. The presence of eight skeletons of adults and children in room 14 also presents a strong case for the argument that the house had been inhabited until and during the final eruption. Thus, even if it could be argued that the house had been under repair, it would seem that the occupants had not moved out. Relatively normal conditions may have been experienced in the front of the house, but the garden-and possible entertainment areas off it-seem to have been in a disrupted state, although not abandoned (see the Casa del Fabbro, House I 10,8, Casa dell'Efebo). This disruption seems to belong to a phase after that which involved remodeling of the garden area and the commencement of its redecoration in the Fourth Style.

* I am very grateful to Eric Moormann for sending me his manuscript on the finds from this house before the publication of Peters et al. 1993. There is not, however, always a direct concordance between his list and mine. This may be a result of his having worked from the notes of F.L. Bastet, who had first carried out this research for the Dutch project. Any inconsistencies that could not be resolved still stand.

**Unfortunately, Bastet provided no reference, and I was unable to verify this find from my own study of the excavation records.