Previous / Next

Casa dell'Efebo

Form of house

This house was on the west side of the street between Insulae I 7 and I 8, which runs southwards from the Via dell'Abbondanza. It had three entrances from the same street and a ground floor area of c. 650 m2, belonging to Wallace-Hadrill's Quartile 4 (1994:81). The southern part of the house conformed to a relatively standard front-hall/garden plan with access turned through ninety degrees, but the complete plan also included an extra front hall to the north.

As was the case with Houses I 6,8-9 and the Casa dei Quadretti Teatrali, this house is treated separately from House I 7,19 because they are structurally distinct (see also Foss 1994:254). The amalgamation of the two and its consequences will be discussed at the end of the following section.

Excavation reports

Unpublished: GdSc A,VI,6 (May 1912﹣March 1929):338﹣85.

Published: Maiuri 1927:32﹣83.

Excavation recording

This house was excavated mainly between March and September 1925. At the time of excavation, the ancient surface was some 3 m below the modern surface (GdSc A,VI,6:336). The excavations commenced with the digging of a 2 m deep hole to the south of the front hall of the Casa del Sacerdos Amandus (GdSc A,VI,6:340). The recorders noted several times that the house had been previously excavated. Considerable attention seems to have been paid to the distribution of finds in this house, presumably because there was such a wealth of them. This is curiously different from the excavation of the Casa del Sacerdos Amandus, which was excavated immediately before, this house. As there was evidence of post-eruption disturbance here, we can envisage that comparatively little was to be found in the previous house, irrespective of possible post-eruption disturbance.

The recording seems to be fairly precise, taking note of the deposit in which material was found and at what level. One of the main problems has been the room numbering. Even Maiuri seems to have found it confusing. Initially the house itself was assigned no number and the Giornali degli Scavi referred to rooms according to their relationship with the Casa del Sacerdos Amandus. Particularly difficult to identify are the rooms to the west of front hall A'. There has been much confusion in the transferring of the numbers for the Giornali degli Scavi to the inventory and then to the Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità.

Interpretation of whole house

It has been observed on several occasions that the house had been disturbed after the eruption. The discovery of many household items in the street outside the house gives the same impression (GdSc A,VI,6:338, 340). The excavators concluded that the Pompeians returned after the eruption to search in the ruins of their houses, but while some evidence of disturbance exists, none could be dated to immediately after the eruption (GdSc A,VI,6:349). Despite this disturbance evidence, this house still contained a large and diverse quantity of material at the time of the eruption. Because concentrations of material were found in areas that were apparently subjected to intruders, it would not seem appropriate to accredit the lack of objects in other areas of the house to looting.

Maiuri proposed (1927:32) that the coexistence of three entranceways on the same side of house suggested it had originally been two distinct houses that were later incorporated into one by the last, probably rich, owner. He also suggested (1927:39) that the separate entrances from the street and doors between front halls A' and A" indicated that the rooms around front hall A' had been segregated from the rest of the house. He proposed (1927:32) that entranceway 01' had been used by the family and entranceway 01* by the guests. Generally, the decoration in this house was recorded as in a good state of preservation. It is mainly in the Fourth Style and seems to belong stylistically to the same decorative phase (see Barbet 1985:205﹣9). The stored material in front hall A'; the bed and bedding in room 04; and the bed, bedding, and associated skeletons in the rooms above suggest that this part of the house had been occupied at the time of the eruption. The use of room 04 as a bedroom seems curious, implying that this occupancy had been impoverished or in a state of disruption. The lack of the types of cooking utensils in room 08 that were found in room i of the Casa del Sacerdos Amandus (see also room n of the Casa del Sacello Iliaco) strengthens the impression of disruption.

The distribution of finds in the area of front hall A" shows a more confused situation. While the lack of a tabletop in the front hall could have been the result of looters, the absence of beds in room 10, the salvaged material in room 15, and the mixture of luxury, domestic, and salvaged material in room 13 suggest that this part of the house had been in a state of reorganization before the eruption but after it had been decorated or partially decorated in the Fourth Style. Thus, either another disruption, after that decorative program was finished, resulted in the mixture, dislocation, and lack of household contents, or an upheaval caused the redecoration of room 13 to be abandoned and the occupation of the house to become or continue to be makeshift.

The rooms to the south of front hall A" in the garden area do not seem to have been functioning as an entertainment area at the time of the eruption, as Maiuri suggested. Rooms 15 and 17 had been used to store salvaged material, the kitchen seems to have been abandoned, and the garden given over to building activities. The excavators themselves noted (GdSc A,VI,6:372) that "nothing of importance" was found in this area. The rooms and the masonry couch in the garden were completely decorated in the Fourth Style, which in stylistic terms was very late in the sequence.* Whether or not this dating is accepted, the final abandonment of this entertainment area appears to have occurred not after the earthquake of AD 62 or at the time of the eruption but after the house had been fully or partially refurbished and had subsequently suffered other alterations in living conditions. Thus, as has often been argued for large Pompeian houses (for example, Maiuri 1933:11﹣16), the true owners of this house might have departed from Pompeii long before the final eruption and left it in the hands of a minimal staff while repair was going on. This would help explain why an entertainment area was unnecessary and why the occupancy was concentrated in the area around front hall A'. That repair and alteration cannot all be related to the AD 62 earthquake. See House I 7, 19, for discussion on the relationship between these two houses.

* Schefold (1957a:32﹣34) dated all this decoration, except that of the masonry couch in the garden, to the Vespasianic period.