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House VIII 2,14-16

Form of house

This extensive house had two entrances on the west side of the street between Insulae VIII 2 and VIII 3. It also had an entranceway in the northwest corner that led from the forum to garden p via a long corridor. It may also have been accessible from House VIII 2,5. The house had a ground-floor area of over 2200 m2, thus belonging to Wallace-Hadrill's Quartile 4 (1994:81). It had a double front-hall/garden plan with the gardens lying crosswise and with only one row of rooms between the two front hall. Because of the lack of precise provenances for many of the finds and the absence of a clear architectural distinction in the rear of the house, this double front-hall house is treated as a single unit. House VIII 2,5 has not been included, as its connection with this house is unclear (compare Noack and Lehmann-Hartleben 1936:158 with PPP III). *The lower floor, which consists mainly of cisterns and had no recorded finds, has also been omitted from this study.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc(Nap) No.17 (March﹣May 1826); GdSc A,VI,3 (Jan 1988﹣Oct 1899):114﹣225 passim.

Published: Anon 1890: 221-22, 291, 327﹣34, 1891:36, 59; Sogliano 1893:35, 47﹣51, 1894:147﹣48, 1898a:503﹣4, 1899:23﹣24, 62﹣63, 141﹣43; PAH II:150﹣60; Mau 1892:3﹣16.

Excavation recording

This house was excavated in various stages between June 1890 and February 1899, but earlier excavations, between March and May 1826, have also been documented. Its overall recording, therefore, differs from that of the previous houses, which were excavated at the end of the nineteenth century. While long lists of utilitarian finds were reported from the earlier excavations, their precise provenances are difficult to ascertain. It is conceivable that much which was excavated in the first excavations went unrecorded. Hence, probably little of the total house contents was found and recorded in the later excavations. Generally, the recording in the houses in Region VIII was less attentive than in the other houses in this study.

Interpretation of whole house

Stratigraphic information for this house is lacking, but the breaches in the area of front hall b' and the reports of mixed deposit imply some post-eruption disturbance. Sogliano (1893:46) numbered this house among the most splendid in Pompeii. Mau noted (1892:8) that front hall bb was the more stately, with front hall b giving access to the kitchen area and secondary garden area. He concluded that the rooms around the latter had been adapted for slaves and domestic use.

The pavements and architectural layout of the house suggest that it had once been a grand establishment, but according to Noack and Lehmann-Hartleben (1936:157), a new building period began in this area after the AD 62 earthquake and had lasted over a considerable period until the final eruption (1936:158). The most notable feature in both sections of the house and perhaps attributable to this new building phase is the predominance of white-plastered and coarsely plastered rooms and lack of painted decoration. Noack and Lehmann-Hartleben (1936:158) argued that the decoration in the front area of House VIII 2,14 had been incomplete. This was perhaps a grand establishment at one time, but the coarse plastering or reportedly unfinished redecoration implies that it had lost much of its formal function and had been downgraded, possibly for a more industrial/commercial activity. While few finds are precisely provenanced, the quantity and character of the unprovenanced finds imply substantial activity in this house, which may have continued until the eruption despite the evidently incomplete repair. These finds were generally of a domestic nature and occurred in rooms whose refurbishing was reported to have been left incomplete (for example, room cc) or seemed unrelated to its supposed final function (for example, room e). This evidence is insufficient to be conclusive, but it does hint at a similar pattern of reuse of downgraded rooms, as witnessed in other houses.

*The plans in Mau (1892) and PPP indicated that this house had been connected to House VIII 2,5. The house plan of Noack and Lehmen-Hartleben, who carried out the structural study of this insula, leaves the latter area out, however. Heavily overgrown, this area is no longer possible to examine. Extension of this study to include this area would have added little to it.