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Casa degli Amorini Dorati

Form of house

This house had two entrances: one on the west side of the street between Insula VI 16 and the unexcavated Insula V 6 and one on the east side of the street between Insulae VI 16 and VI 15. It had a ground-floor area of c. 800 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 of the standard alignment, the front hall being off one corner of the garden and essentially having no side rooms.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc A,VI,4 (Nov. 1899﹣Oct 1904): 121, 146﹣241 passim; A,VI,5 (Nov. 1904﹣April 1912):41.

Published: Sogliano 1906:374﹣83, 1907:549﹣93, 1908:26﹣43; Seiler 1992.

Excavation recording

This house was mainly excavated between March 1903 and September 1904. The excavation and recording seem less proficient than that of other houses excavated at a similar time. It is unclear whether or not the excavators' apparent sloppiness was because they considered the house heavily disturbed. Similarly, it is not possible to ascertain whether the lack of recorded pottery is really an indication of a lack of original contents or of a lack of interest on the part of the excavators.*

Interpretation of whole house

The two separate groups of different-sized breaches across the western end of the house indicated to Florien Seiler (pers. comm. conversation) that post-eruption disturbance to this house had taken place in two phases. He suggested that at least one group of them started in room O, entered rooms R and Q, and moved across the west ambulatory of the garden to leave via the steps in room N. It is conceivable that some of the breaches and steps had been made by fugitives trying to get out as the area filled up with volcanic material (see Casa del Menandro room 19). Seiler, however, cited the missing reliefs from the wall of the west ambulatory as evidence that these breaches were made by post-eruption intruders looking for valuables. There is no such evident disturbance in other areas of the house, particularly the garden proper.

Maiuri observed (1942:113﹣14) that the area to the west of the garden had been restored and decorated in the Fourth Style, which he dated to after the AD 62 earthquake. Seiler noted that some of the late Third-Style decoration in front hall B and rooms E and G had been repaired more than once and that there had been two phases of the Fourth-Style decoration after AD 62 (see also Pappalardo 1990:209). The fragmentary character and apparently haphazard arrangement of the statuary in the garden might possibly be owing to post-eruption disturbance. The discovery of pieces of statuary above the rooms to the north of the garden seems to support this conclusion. However, the finds of a piece of marble statuary in room Y and another fragmentary piece in room D and the condition of specific pieces in the garden (for example, the feline feet found on the north side) suggest, that at least some sculpture and marble furniture had already been broken and relocated before the final eruption (see Casa dei Vettii). If Maiuri's dating is correct, further disruption seems to have occurred after the AD 62 earthquake, necessitating further repair to the decoration in front hall B and rooms E and G and damaging the sculpture in the garden. Seiler observed that the restoration of the house had occurred in two phases with a break in the decorative program (1992:82﹣84). The final phase of repair could conceivably have been related to the restoration equipment found in the garden.

On the basis of the development of the structure and decoration of this house, Seiler concluded (1992:138) that the owners had a setback through damage caused at the time of the AD 62 earthquake, which they had started to repair but never completed. He also concluded that while a possible earthquake some ten years later might not have caused substantial structural damage, it may have provided the opportunity to change emphasis and to transform the utilitarian areas of the house, possibly because of an increased number of occupants. Completing the refurbishment of the more formal areas had neither been necessary nor expedient.

The discovery of two skeletons suggests that the house had been occupied at the time of the eruption. Seiler, however, believed that they were not associated with this house.** The dearth of utilitarian finds might be attributed to the sloppiness of recording, as evidenced by further finds being made during the clearing carried out by the German excavation team in the 1980s (Seiler 1992:69-70). Nevertheless, given the state of the garden contents (see House VI 15,5), the incomplete repair or abandonment of room O and possibly garden P, the complete lack of material in area 03, and the dearth of finds in room L and other rooms in this part of the house, this lack also suggests that the house had been in a disrupted state, perhaps with parts of it not in use, at the time of the eruption. The furbishings of the lararium aedicula in garden F, however, suggest some ongoing and habitual domestic activity in this area.

* I am very grateful to Florian Seiler for reading a draft of this section and for his useful comments.

**Seiler has informed to me (in conversation) that these skeletons were found in the upper levels of the deposit in the street at a level 9 m from the water tower.