Information concerning the rooms in Casa dei Ceii

Jump to:
Entranceway a
Front hall b
Room c
Room i
Room d
Room e
Corridor k
Garden h
Room f
Room g
Room l
Room m
Room n
Upper Levels

Entranceway a in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This was the only entrance to the house and led from the street to front hall b. The walls were painted in the Third Style, consisting of a violet socle zone with plants, a central zone of red fields, and white upper zone with architectural elements and vignettes of landscapes and still lifes. The pavement was lavapesta decorated with rows of white tesserae.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

The breach in the east wall to room c implies that intruders passed through the entranceway.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

Outside the entrance were two masonry seats (figure D.135). Plaster casts of the main doors to this house indicate that they had been left ajar. Apart from the fittings, probably from the door, the only finds were two bronze coins.

Interpretations of room:

The masonry seats are reminiscent of those found in front of the houses in Insula I 10.


Front hall b in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

Front hall b (figure D.136) was entered from the south through entranceway a. Rooms i and c were entered from its south side and room d, corridor k, and room e from the north side. The walls were decorated in the Third Style, consisting of a violet socle zone with plants, a central zone with black central fields with aediculae and floating figures and red side fields with vignettes, and a white upper zone with architectural elements. The pavement was lavapesta decorated with rows of white tesserae and a black and white mosaic border to the impluvium.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

At the time of excavation, the front hall was preserved to the height of the roof and the roof beam holes identifiable (Della Corte 1914:255﹣56). No breaches were obvious in the walls, but it is conceivable that this front hall could have been disturbed through room e. Della Corte noted (1913:250) that the decoration of the north wall had been knocked down and broken in various points by the ancient explorers. Today, however, the decoration appears generally well preserved, at least to the height of the lintels of the rooms off the front hall (Michel 1990: Pls. 93-117).

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

This front hall had a central water-catchment pool (impluvium) furbished in cocciopesto with strips of marble around the edge (figure D.137). A stairway traversed the west wall from the southwest corner with a built-in cupboard, with shelving, underneath. A stairway in the southwest corner led to above room i. The furnishings consisted of a wooden cupboard in the southeast corner (figure D.138), a wooden container in the northeast corner, a circular marble table at the north end of the impluvium and a puteal at the south end, a lead tub near the south wall; and a labrum, of which the base was in the impluvium and the bowl (repaired in antiquity) was near the cupboard under the stairs.

The fittings in the northeast corner identify the wooden container as a chest with an opening in the top. One small ceramic vessel and a system of four fish-spine chains attached to wood were recorded from this chest. The cupboard in the southeast corner contained one glass bottle, a razor, and a conch shell.* By contrast, the cupboard under the stairs contained remains of a casket, scales, a very large knife, a variety of lamps, a lantern, several vessels including a marble basin, and a conch shell similar in size to that found in the cupboard in the southeast corner. Under the window to room d in the north wall were found the remains of scales, a pair of shears, and a pyramical weight, probably a loom weight. This latter assemblage is similar in character to that found in the cupboard under the stairs and might therefore have spilled out of it.

Della Corte (1914:292) thought a small lump of wax found near the cupboard in the southeast corner was used to smooth plaster. While wax was probably utilized in this manner (Barbet 1972:1060, Fig. 64; Vitruvius, 7,9,3 who refers to Punic wax applied to preserve vermilion surfaces), no associated evidence in this house indicates decorating activity.

Interpretations of room:

Della Corte recorded (1913:250) that the Third-Style decoration here was in a bad state of preservation at the time of excavation. The stairway in northwest corner was built over it, thus representing a later alteration in the use of the front hall. The storage under those stairs must also postdate the decoration. The plaster on the area beneath the window to room d was coarse and appears to postdate the main decoration of the front hall. According to Michel (1990:24), however, it was contemporary with it.

A lack of finds in the eastern half of the front hall could have been the result of looting, but the excavators were able to make a plaster cast of the cupboard here. If looters had been responsible for removing material from this cupboard, and if the cast was based on extant evidence (which is likely because the imprint for the rear and left sides was preserved to the extant height of the cast), then they must somehow have emptied it without destroying the cavity in the lapilli. This leads one to suspect that the cupboard had been all but empty when Pompeii was buried.

Even with evidence for disturbance to the northeast corner of the front hall of the Casa dei Quadretti Teatrali, the chest there still contained many items. By contrast, the almost complete lack of anything more than the chest fittings in the northeast corner here hints that this chest, like the cupboard, had been empty at the burial of the town. The finds in the cupboard under the stairs indicate a mixture of largely domestic activities. It is difficult to ascertain whether the collection of lamps was the result of daily tidying, normal storage of replacement items, or represents some kind of hoarding (see rooms 13 and 14 in the Casa dell'Efebo).

The location of a marble base in the impluvium but with the associated basin itself in the northwest corner suggests disruption (see also fittings from the front halls of the Casa del Menandro and the Casa di Trebius Valens). It is conceivable that it was moved here out of harm's way during the eruption, but it is not even certain that the two pieces indeed belonged together. Michel (1990:22) was unable to find a parallel for this type of basin, and, as restored (Michel 1990: Pl. 131), the acanthus leaves on the base are upside down.** The basin itself had also been broken and restored prior to the eruption (Michel 1990:22). It could have been awaiting replacement after restoration or been removed a second time. Displacement of fragmentary marble, possibly salvaged, has been witnessed in many other houses. A travertine puteal recorded by Michel (1990:22) and now in place at the south end of the impluvium was not mentioned in the Giornali degli Scavi but occurs in a photograph published by Spinazzola (1953 I:264, Fig. 288).

The likelihood of heavy looting in the front hall makes it difficult to assess the latest pre-eruption activity there. The furnishings are similar to those of the front halls of the Casa della Venere in Bikini and the Casa dei Quadretti Teatrali, but where they exist, the contents are more varied and, conceivably similar to those in the Casa del Fabbro and House I 10,8. It is arguable that the cupboard and chest were practically empty at the time of the eruption.

* Most of the plaster cast that now stands in the position of the cupboard in the southeast corner is modern reconstruction. Only the rear and left side are constructed from an impression of the original cupboard.

* *However, V. Tran Tam Tinh (1989:Fig. 160) illustrated a marble basin with leaves on the pedestal pointing downward. See also a replica of a bronze basin that has a marble pedestal with upside-down vegetal pattern (Tarbell 1909:105, Fig. 34).


Room c in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This was a medium-sized closed room of the southeast corner of the front hall. It was entered from the latter through a narrow doorway in the west end of the north wall. The walls were decorated in the Third Style, consisting of a black geometric socle zone, a central zone with central aedicula against a green field and red side field with floating figures, and an upper zone with a black frieze and architecture on a yellow ground. The pavement was in cocciopesto delineated and decorated in white tesserae in a carpet pattern of a lattice of octagons and triangles.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

A breach in the west wall near the southwest corner of this room went through to the entranceway (figure D.139).

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

No finds were reported.

Interpretations of room:

According to Michel (1990:30), this room was a cubiculum, but this identification is unsubstantiated.


Room i in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This small closed room in the southwest corner of the front hall (figure D.140) was entered from the latter through a narrow doorway in the center of the north wall. The east wall and half of the south wall had Third Style decoration consisting of a central zone of white fields with central aedicula and landscape vignettes and a white upper zone with stylized floral motifs. This decoration was delineated with green, red, and yellow pilasters to separate the room into a north and a south section. The southwest corner of the south wall had only coarse plaster behind the latrine. There is no record or evidence of a pavement (Michel 1990:26).

Condition of volcanic deposit:

No stratigraphical information.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

The fixtures in this room included a bench in the center of the east wall, a seat against the north wall, and a latrine in the southwest corner under the stairs. The finds included a hand mill, bronze and ceramic vessels, and the remains of life-sized statuary: a marble dove with iron feet (length: 210 mm) but lacking its head, and a thumb (length 65 mm) from a marble statue.

Interpretations of room:

The fixtures in this room imply that it had served as a kitchen, but the remains of painted decoration suggest that it previously had served a more formal purpose. Michel suggests a cubiculum (1990:26). The finds seem unusual for kitchen equipment. None of the vessels can be related to cooking. Particularly extraordinary for a kitchen are the remains of marble statuary. Such statuary could have been stored in the kitchen during the eruption, but the present pieces are merely fragments. This is comparable to the storage of apparently salvaged marble remains in other houses (for example, the Casa del Menandro and House I 6, 8-9). It is therefore conceivable that this room had not been a normally functioning kitchen at the time of the eruption.


Room d in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This room was on the north side of the front hall. It was entered from the latter through a small doorway in the southeast corner of the south wall and had a window in the south wall overlooking the front hall. It also provided access to the garden through a wide opening in the north wall. The walls were furbished with coarse gray plaster (Della Corte 1913:221). The pavement was in cocciopesto delineated and decorated with white tesserae in a lattice of stars and squares with an opus sectile emblema of colored stone slabs that was bordered with a black and white mosaic pattern approximately in the center of the room (c. 1.2 m from the east, south, and west walls and 1.5 m from the north wall).

Condition of volcanic deposit:

No stratigraphical information.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

The only finds from this room were a patera and four bronze disks. The latter appear to be furniture decoration, probably similar to those found in room B of the Casa del Menandro, which were from wooden chests. A rectangle cut out of the pavement (0.42 m x 0.90 m) in the center of the west wall was conceivably for a piece of furniture.

Interpretations of room:

Spinazzola suggested (1953, I:265; hence Michel 1990:35) that the layout indicated this was a tablinum that functioned as a "triclinio estivo" and had been in the process of being renovated at the time of the eruption. Rooms of this type and location with coarsely plaster walls have already been noted in the Casa del Fabbro, Casa dei Quadretti Teatrali, and the Casa dell'Efebo. The finds are not very informative beyond indicating some activity in this area. As in the Casa dei Quadretti Teatrali, the so-called tablinum appears to have been used for storage.


Room e in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This (figure D.141) was a relatively large room in the northeast corner of front hall b and entered from the latter through a narrow doorway in the west end of the south wall. It also had a window in the south end of the west wall overlooking corridor k. The walls were decorated in the Third Style, consisting of a black geometric socle zone with a red predella, a central zone with black side fields with birds separated by aediculae against a red or white ground and central panels, and a white upper zone with a black frieze and architectural elements. The pavement was lavapesta with an opus sectile emblema of squares of colored marble with a black and white mosaic border c. 1.5 m from the west, north, and east walls and c. 2.5 m from the south wall.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

A breach in the north wall indicates that this room had probably been disturbed after the eruption.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

No finds were reported.

Interpretations of room:

This room has been identified as a triclinium (Michel 1990:36). It is difficult to ascertain whether there had been nothing in this room prior to the eruption, whether intruders removed everything from it or whether the excavators, presuming it to be looted, chose not to record any finds.


Corridor k in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This was a narrow corridor that provided access from the north side of front hall b to the south side of garden h. The walls were decorated with a black central zone with vignettes of still lifes. The pavement was in lavapesta with pieces of white marble.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

No stratigraphical information.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

In this corridor were found a hoe, a coin, and fittings that, from the size and description, appear to have been from both furniture and doors.

Interpretations of room:

These seem to unlikely finds for a corridor. A possible explanation is that they had been dragged here by post-eruption intruders. If this were the case, then the hoe could have been used in such an intrusion. By analogy, the tools in room g could also conceivably indicate post-eruption activity.


Garden h in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This consisted of a garden area with an ambulatory along the south side in the northwest corner of the house. It was entered from the south side through corridor k. Room g opened off its west side and rooms f and l off its east side. The walls of the ambulatory were decorated with a black socle zone with plants and a black central zone with fields of ornamental borders and vignettes of birds separated by twisted candelabra. The garden area was decorated in the Fourth Style, consisting of a red socle zone with plants and birds and a central zone of a large hunt scene on the north wall (figure D.142) and Nilotic scenes with pygmies on the west and east walls, all with red or yellow borders containing decorative elements. The pavement in the ambulatory was cocciopesto with rows of white tesserae.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

No stratigraphical information.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

Near a cistern mouth on the south side of the garden was found a bronze hairpin. The skeleton of a tortoise was found near the west wall.

Interpretations of room:

According to Michel (1990:73), the garden paintings were Vespasianic Fourth Style. The tortoise had possibly been alive at the time of the eruption but died after climbing 0.1 m onto the lapilli (Della Corte1913:221). Although tortoises might have been kept as pets (see the garden of the Casa di Julius Polybius), it is not possible to ascertain the relationship between its presence here and the state of occupancy of the house.


Room f in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This relatively small room opened off the east side of the ambulatory of garden h through a narrow doorway in the center of the west wall. Its walls were decorated in the Third Style, consisting of a black geometric socle zone; a central zone with central aedicula and central panel on a white ground and red side fields with floating cupids, and a white upper zone with architectural elements, figure garlands, birds and ornamental bands, and a white lunette on the east wall. The pavement was in white mosaic with a black border and had a centrally placed emblema of polychrome mosaic.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

Della Corte (1913:250) identified two large breaches in the south and east walls as having been made by post-eruption intruders wishing to investigate the rooms behind. The breach in the east wall had plaster on its lower side, indicating that there had originally been a window here (figure D.143). This suggests that the people making the breach located the window first and cut from this side through to the Casa del Criptoportico. The Giornali degli Scavi (A,VI,6:254) records that the finds from this room were in volcanic deposit disturbed by these investigators, suggesting that these breaches were probably not made by fugitives trying to escape the eruption.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

The finds from this room included bone hinges (whose dimensions imply they were from a cupboard), a bronze basin, a forma di pasticceria, a silver shell, a spinning implement, and a coin of Vespasianic date.

Interpretations of room:

This room has been identified as a cubiculum (Michel 1990:46). If this identification and its traditional interpretation were correct, then either the forma di pasticceria is misplaced or this vessel is incorrectly identified. The other finds were possibly for washing and for spinning or are luxury items.


Room g in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This room at the west end of the ambulatory of garden h was entered from it through a narrow doorway in the south end of the east wall. The walls were decorated in the Fourth Style, consisting of a central zone of white fields with ornamental borders and floating cupids and a white upper zone with architectural elements, figures and medallions. There is no record of the pavement.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

According to Della Corte (1913:221), post-eruption intruders had broken and dispersed fragments of wall plaster in this room as in all the others. One incomplete breach in the south wall was started from inside this room but did not penetrate the wall.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

Shelves lined all the walls of this room (figure D.144). Evidence of cupboards or chests was found in the southeast and the southwest corners. The few finds that were not fittings from storage furniture included a broken glass chalice, silver and bronze water heater (see Borriello et al 1986:182, Nos 70-72) with a lead tray underneath, two iron tools, a bronze foot from a stool, and an empty wooden casket, reportedly a moneybox.

Interpretations of room:

According to Spinazzola (1953 I:274) this was a cubiculum transformed into a storeroom where the holes for the shelving had disfigured the painting. The Fourth-Style wall decoration indicates that this room had probably not been intended as a storeroom during the final decorative phase, but the shelving indicates that it had later been adapted into one. Michel refers to this room as an apotheca (1990:142) and later as a quiet room or reading room (1990:256). The main contents had been storage containers that seem to have been relatively empty. If looters had penetrated this room they apparently took everything except a water heater, a broken glass cup, and containers. Three possible explanations exist: everything stored in this room had been valuable to the looter; the owner had time to pack up the material stored here; or very little was stored here prior to the eruption. The latter explanation is similar to that for the lack of material in the cupboard on the east side of the front hall.


Room l in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This room opened off the northeast corner of the ambulatory of garden h. A large window in the west wall overlooked the garden. The walls were covered with coarse plaster with a delineated socle zone. The pavement was cocciopesto.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

Breaches in the north and south walls indicate that post-eruption intruders had probably penetrated this room.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

Remains of wooden furniture, a wooden casket and a bronze brazier were found in this room (see room 18 in the Casa dell'Efebo).

Interpretations of room:

Della Corte observed (1913:250) that the decoration of this room was rustic. The coarse character of the plastering suggests that this room had been a service or storage room. Michel suggested (1990:63) that it might once have been a kitchen.The distribution of finds is comparable to that in room g in that little more than fragments of furniture and a heater were found here. A brazier, possibly a cooking implement (Foss 1994:238), had also been stored near the garden in the Casa dell'Efebo.


Room m in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This small room in the northeast corner of the house was entered from room l through a narrow doorway in the west end of the south wall. Della Corte observed (1913:250) that this room was furbished with coarse plaster. The pavement is of cocciopesto with chips of lime.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

This area had one breach in the south wall providing access into room l.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

The only finds reported from this room were four numbered lead weights and a pair of tweezers.

Interpretations of room:

The finds provide little information on the function of this room.


Room n in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

This small room to the east of room l had no apparent means of access. The walls were covered with coarse plaster. There is no record or visible evidence of the pavement.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

One breach in the west wall of this room provided the only access to it. Michel recorded (1990:64) that plaster fragments were first encountered 1.8 m above the pavement of room l in the 1982 excavations. Fragments of what appeared to be ceiling decoration were also found during these excavations, at lower levels.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

Michel indicated (1990:64) that much broken pottery-from storage, table, and utilitarian vessels-was found above floor level in this room. She also recorded the remains of small glass vessels, fragments of plastic ceramic vases, bone ornaments, locks, lamps, charcoal, a ceramic weight, and animal bones, including jawbones (the species are not identified by Michel but described as large).

Interpretations of room:

Michel postulated (1990:63) that this might once have been a latrine. All the finds were recorded from above floor level. Many of them could have fallen from an upper floor, but some could also be from furniture deposited in this room after it had gone out of use or had been disturbed by post-eruption intruders. The latest fragments of painted plaster found in this room have been dated to the Neronian period (Michel 1990:64). The presence of large animal bones in this part of the house is curious.


Upper Levels in Casa dei Ceii

Description of room:

A cocciopesto floor from an upper story was found in place above entranceway a (Della Corte 1914:256). The stairway in front hall b also indicates upper-floor rooms, probably above rooms d, k, and e.

Condition of volcanic deposit:

No stratigraphical information.

Summary of Finds and Fixtures Distribution:

The only recorded finds that might have come from an upper story are fragments of amphorae above room d, possibly a glass bottle at the top of the stairway in the front hall and a small circular limestone block at the height of the compluvium, and possibly some of the finds from room n.

Interpretations of room:

Structural evidence suggests an upper story at least above the front of the house and the rooms above d, k, and e. The stairway in front hall b could also have led to rooms above rooms f, l, n, and m. Michel believed (1990:67) that an upper story had been constructed above rooms 1, m, and n in the last years prior to the eruption. Unless the finds in room n can be shown to be from the upper floor, little can be said about any upper-floor occupancy except that the finds did not indicate as much activity as observed in the upper floor of some other houses. The possible presence of amphorae above room d suggests storage and is reminiscent of the upper-story rooms of the Casa di Julius Polybius, House I 6, 8-9, the Casa degli Amanti, and Casa di Stallius Eros