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Casa dei Vettii

Form of house

This house had two entrances, one on the west side of the street between Insulae VI 15 and VI 16 and the other on the north side of the street between Insulae VI 15 and VI 12. It had a ground-floor area of c. 1100 m2, thus belonging to Wallace-Hadrill's Quartile 4 (1994:81). The house conformed to a front-hall/garden plan, with the garden lying crossways to the front-hall area and immediately accessible from the latter.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc A,VI,3 (Jan 1888﹣Oct. 1899):164﹣79.

Published: Anon 1895:31﹣34, 47, 84, 108﹣9, 207, 233﹣34, 251, 352﹣53, 396; Sogliano 1895:326, 1897:198, 1898a:234﹣387; Mau 1896:3﹣97.

Excavation recording

This house was excavated between September 1894 and January 1896 (Trevelyan 1976: Fig. 69). The excavation and recording is comparable to that of the others in this insula, although in some respects, perhaps because of the good state of preservation of the decoration and the wealth of statuary (two of the main concerns of the early excavators), it may have been more careful. Evidence of upper-story activity was apparently distinguished from that of the lower level, and more precise information on the location of objects was often given. Sogliano's (1898a) and Mau's reports are remarkably similar, which suggests that one was directly influenced by the other or that they both had the same source. This means either that on this occasion, Mau did not write of an excavation he witnessed himself or that Sogliano used Mau's earlier publication to write up his own fuller report.

Interpretation of whole house

Mau observed (1896:27) that the area around the front hall had been subjected to the searches of ancient excavators. Evident breaches in the rooms around courtyard v and some of the rooms off garden m suggest that the house was heavily disturbed after the eruption. The paucity of finds cannot therefore be used to assess the state of its occupancy.

According to Mau (1896:5), the majority of the house had been reconstructed before the AD 62 earthquake. He dated the decoration, with the exception of that of the front hall and rooms h, i and q, to after the earthquake of AD 62 (1896:6). With still earlier Fourth-Style decoration behind one of the chests in the front hall, he identified two phases of Fourth-Style decoration before AD 62. Maiuri did not agree with this chronology. He argued (1942:107﹣8) that like many Pompeian houses, this house had suffered considerable damage in the AD 62 earthquake and that the decoration in the front hall and room q would not be in such a good state of preservation if it had been executed before AD 62. He argued from the masonry evidence that the façade on the east side had been constructed after AD 62. He noted the same type of masonry work not only in the parts attributed by Mau to post-AD 62 but also in the front hall and room q behind their supposed early Fourth-Style decoration. Therefore, the only Fourth-Style decoration he dated before AD 62 was a piece of painted socle behind the southern chest in the front hall and that of room h and i. The state of preservation of the decoration in these two rooms is comparable to that in the rest of the house, however. Schefold argued (1957b:149﹣53), largely on stylistic grounds, that all the extant Fourth-Style decoration in this house had been executed after the earthquake of AD 62 and that a later earthquake during the Vespasianic period but not mentioned in literature had brought about the alterations to room h. Schefold's postulation of a second earthquake is important, but his stylistic dating should be treated with caution, as it can be shown to be unreliable (Allison 1986:153; 1989:113﹣15, 118). Little demonstrates that the alterations to room h were necessitated by earthquake damage.

On the basis of two seals found in the front hall, this house has been identified as belonging to members of the Vettii family, who are noted in election graffiti (for example, Della Corte 1965: Nos. 41, 93; Sogliano 1898a:388) and believed to be freedmen (Mouritsen 1988:14). A seal with the legend "P. CRUSTI FAUSTI" found in the upper levels to the north of the garden m has been used to suggest that this had been one of the tenants in one of the quarters in the upper story (Sogliano 1898a:388). The evidence in the kitchen implies that this house had been occupied at the time of the eruption, if in a somewhat makeshift manner. Mau, Maiuri, Schefold, and Peters are all in agreement that most of the Fourth-Style decoration post dated AD 62. This apparently fresh Fourth-Style decoration and the elaborate sculptural display in the garden suggest that presumably after the AD 62 earthquake, the house had managed to return to a considerably luxurious living standard. The only possible evidence of downgrading appears to be the adaptations in rooms h and r. After these rooms had been adapted, twice in the case of room h, they apparently were not used at all or used differently from what was intended by these alterations. Whether or not one accepts Schefold's thesis that a second earthquake was responsible for the alterations to room h, the distribution of the finds suggests that further disruption to the life of this house occurred after it had been lavishly decorated in the Fourth Style.