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Casa dei Ceii

Form of house

This house had one entrance from the north side of the street between Insulae I 6 and I 10. It had a ground-floor area of c. 300 m2, thus belonging to Wallace-Hadrill's Quartile 3 (1994:81). The house conformed to a relatively standard front-hall/garden plan but with no rooms off the sides of the front hall.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc A,VI,6 (May 1912﹣March 1929):104﹣95.

Published: Della Corte 1912: 405﹣6, 1913:189﹣90, 220﹣24, 250﹣52, 254﹣56, 1914:292﹣96; Michel 1990:63.*

Excavation recording

Excavations of this house were carried out between May 1913 and August 1914. The recording is comparable to that in the Casa di Trebius Valens but with more reference to the height of objects above ground level and to the stratigraphy of the volcanic deposit. The excavators seemed convinced that this house had been heavily looted. Della Corte (1913:250) reported evidence that ancient explorers rummaged in every corner of the building. This knowledge might have prevented them from excavating carefully in rooms such as c and e, which have breaches and no recorded finds, or in room f, where two walls had breaches. The excavation of room n was completed by the German Expedition to Pompeii in 1982 and was summarized by Dorothea Michel (1990:64).

Interpretation of whole house

At least one incomplete and five complete breaches in this house suggest disturbance to the deposit, but post-eruption intruders are unlikely to have removed every trace of material from rooms c and e, from cupboards and chests in the front hall, and from rooms g and l (see the front hall of the Casa dei Quadretti Teatrali).

Michel concluded (1990:88) that the relatively numerous and sometimes precious finds prove that this house was occupied at the time of the eruption and that since the whole complex had already been robbed out by the time of the 1912 excavations, rooms b, c, i, e, f, g, and possibly l would have been fully furnished. She noted that the Vespasianic coin found in room f indicated that the house had been occupied at least after AD 69. She concluded that the silvered water heater and crystal chalice in room g, the bronze brazier in room l, and the lead reservoir in the front hall had been left behind during the final escape and that the lamps, lanterns, and scales under the stairs in front hall and kitchen utensils in room i had apparently not been stored but simply put away for everyday use. She used Franklin's dating of the graffiti on the façade of the house (1990:90) to show that it was occupied at least until AD 78.

Della Corte (1965: No. 540) used this electoral programmata to identify its owner as L. Ceius Secundus. James L. Franklin, Jr. concluded that L. Ceius Secundus had been aedile in AD 76 (1980:60) and a duumvir in AD 78 (1980:62﹣63). However, Henrik Mouritsen (1988:41) is quite justified in rejecting this exact dating on the basis that some overlaying inscriptions could have been from the same rather than sequential years. In addition, Franklin's dating system is based on the assumption that the latest inscriptions date to AD 79 rather than that the eruption provides a terminus ante quem (see Allison 1999c; compare Foss 1994:236). The only skeletal remains found in this house were of a tortoise in the garden and unidentified animal bones in room n. If the house had indeed been inhabited until the final eruption, then it had been fairly systematically and efficiently abandoned during the burial of the city. If post-eruption intruders did not remove domestic vessels or utensils, as found in the cupboards in the front halls of the Casa della Venere in Bikini or the Casa dei Quadretti Teatrali, and denude many of the rooms observed by Michel, then the absence of this material suggests that the departing inhabitants must have had more time than those in the latter two houses to pack up their more utilitarian possessions before making their escape.

The apparent reuse of room g for storage, the transformation of room i first into a kitchen and then seemingly for the storage of salvaged material, and the reuse of room d after its walls had been furbished with coarse plaster all suggest, however, that this house had been somewhat downgraded before the abandonment.** Living conditions in this house seem therefore to have been disrupted before Vesuvius started to erupt, and some of the general domestic furnishings may also have been removed sometime before that eruption. That the house had still been inhabited after AD 69 is implied by the coin in room f. However the downgrading of room g, decorated in the Fourth Style, indicates, that conditions deteriorated after the introduction of the Fourth Style into this house, which, in the case of the garden, Michel dated to the Vespasianic period.

* Since this study was completed Bernard Sigges has studied the finds from this house (2002).

** Foss's comment (1994:236) that such downgrading does not represent a downgrading of the whole house is strictly true. I also agree with him that the kitchen facilities could have been upgraded (Foss 1994:240). In terms of the overall distribution of household activities, however, three of the six closed and previously decorated rooms in this house had been converted into utilitarian rooms, and there is no comparable evidence that utilitarian rooms had been converted for more formal functions. The evidence, in combination with patterns observed in other houses in this sample, can be read as the downgrading of this house.