The book ‘The Complete Pompeii’ by Joanne Berry brings to light the different archeological treasures of the city in terms of its civilization, and antiquities which have been left preserved for us to see. While many a research has been conducted on the city and the lives of the people in the roman city’s ruins, this book is unique as it is based on the archeological research heavily supported by innovative technology which has enabled the researchers to gather in depth information without destroying the evidence in its original state.
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The layouts of the city, the shops, the graffiti as well as the art and architecture of the city is depicted in the book through in detail descriptions and illustrated as well as photographed pictures to support the descriptions. One of the interesting facet of the book is that in it Berry provides how the houses depict the social class and status of the owners and how they live their lives along with their involvement in politics and how it affected their lifestyles.
An analysis of the houses of Pompeii highlights a marked difference in the houses of the elite and the working class. The middleclass and the working class in Pompeii had fairly simple houses as compared to the elites. Their houses were built around their work and business. The houses of the workmen were often combined with their shops and work offices while those of the merchants were built around their workshops where daily work was conducted.
The House and Workshop of Verecundus is an example of a typical workshop based house belonging to the dyers in Pompeii. The house features workshops at the entrance of the house while the Forum square house paintings that depict the various dying and workshop based activities that were carried on in the house. Another notable house of a merchant is the House of Casca Longus. These houses had their own sustainable vegetable/fruit gardens and small plots that were used by them to supplement their food. Almost all the windows of the houses belonging to the middle and working class were faced inwards towards the corridor/ courtyards.
The livings quarters of the workmen and merchants were based around these courtyards on the back of the house, while the front section of the house was primarily devoted for their work activities in the workshops which give way to the simplistic layout of the house.
On the other hand the rich and the affluent in the city had houses that were expansive with elaborate garden completed with grandeur decorations, fixtures and fittings. The mosaic was a popular form of carpeting art that was used by the affluent to carpet their interiors and exteriors. The complex complexity of the designs for the mosaics and the materials used depict the high and elite social status of the inhabitants of the houses.
The House of Wild Boar is one of the houses of the elites in Pompeii which has earned its name due to the riveting use of mosaic in the house. The house features many interesting mosaics. However, the most interesting is placed in the atrium of the house which depicts a wild boar being hunted by the dogs. This scene depicts probably the lifestyle and the hobbies of the owners of the house which might have included board hunting. Aside from this the House of Boar also boasts massive landings and floors made of marble and patios around the garden that make use of marble art and sculptures.
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From the outside majority of the houses in Pompeii are similar and depict a monotonous look of homogeneity. However the interiors of the house as well as the structured of the house from the inside depict the differences in the affluence and social class of the people, while others who were amongst the wealthiest the in the city had immense properties with housing spanning large expanses of areas.
The layouts of the houses in Pompeii were such that the houses had inward orientations. The house surrounded the gardens of the house which were usually located in courtyards or central regions of the house. Those with money and status in the city had elaborate art in the gardens and courtyards while those who belonged to the middle class had simple households structured with basic elements of outdoor and indoor fittings.
Those who belonged to the elite social class had houses that were magnificent in terms of their structure and style and often had multiple houses that were merged to form one structure. The House of the Citharist is amongst the largest houses in Pompeii which depicts its owners to be of the elite class. The house is a collection of merged houses with magnificent architecture and richly decorated rooms.
The well off nature of the family as well as their social status is depicted by the materials used in the house, and the decorations that are set throughout the structures as in the House of Citharist. Often sculptured fountains marked the focal point in the courtyards and the gardens of such houses while intricate fresco painting showing mythological creatures, birds, flowers and indulgence were placed throughout such houses. Aside from this the houses also had separate quarters on the grounds which were reserved housing for the servants and slaves of the family.
The House of Menander is worth a mention as well as it was amongst one of the largest in the city heavily decorated with rich art. The house gets its name from the portrait of Menander found in the house. The unique thing about this house is that the house was found to have an extensive collection of silverware. 118 pieces were discovered in the cellar and the chests in the house. This depicts the elite social status of the owners of the house as well as their well off position in the city. This house also had reserved quarters for a curator named Eros who was responsible for the security and the protection of the house and its goods housed in it.
The House of the Golden Cupids is an extensive a richly and elegantly decorated house. The house belongs to a rich family in Pompeii and is famous because of the artwork found in the Cubicula of the house. The Cubicula has a sculpture of cupids that are sculpted and painted on golden leaf. Aside from this the house is riddled with sculptures and artwork depicting theatrical masks and also has a raised platform that was evidently used for staging plays and performances in the house for entertainment. Another note worthy feature of the house is a temple dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Isis which is unique for a house in Pompeii.
The house of Faun is the largest house in Pompeii that belonged to one of the richest and most influential families in the city, namely Sulla. The house features multiple atriums that are designed and decorated using elegant artwork. The bronze stature of the ‘Dancing Faun’ was found in this house, along with the mosaic depicting the ‘Battle of Alexander’ which is housed now in the Archaeological Museum in Naples.
The ‘Battle of Alexander’ which was originally housed in the tablinium in the House of Faun is a unique mosaic which is interesting because of its sheer massive size and the complex scene depicted through the artwork. The house houses many other mosaics that showcase the flora and the fauna of the region as well as those of the river Nile that is housed in the garden/ courtyard of the house. This depicts that the owners of the house traveled extensively and had eclectic taste in arts.
The relationship between the political affluence of the owner and the house is clearly depicted in the House of Holoconius Rufus that belonged to one of the most prestigious and politically affluent families the city of Pompeii. This house is markedly spacious as well as elegant and has devoted well ventilated galleries in the style of tablinium while large pictorial photographs on the walls of the house document the owners and their lives.
The unique feature of the house is the summer gallery which houses fountains and artwork in the form of paintings made in frescos. This shows the indulgence and the lavish life of the politically affluent in city of Pompeii. Another house that is worth mentioning is the House of Paquius Proculus that belonged to a politically influential figure in Pompeii by the name of Paquius Proculus. The House of Paquius Proculus is a complex structure which depicts that it had been constructed and reconstructed many times. The elite class of the owners of the house is depicted by the elegant mosaics in the house the showcase animals and complex geometric patterns. The tablinium in the house is highly unique as it has alabaster flooring surrounded by still life paintings.
Conclusively it can be highlighted that the houses of the elite and the affluent in Pompeii were lavish tributes to their wealth, art and architecture of the region while those of the poor and the middle class were set up based on necessity having the most basic structure and layout that integrated with their work life. The houses of the wealthy featured their hobbies, their lifestyles and their interests through the use of art, decoration and architecture styling of the house. On the other hand the houses of the merchants and workers in the city of Pompeii were mainly workshops and display shops combined with housing quarters that took up the rear portion of the buildings.
Berry, Joanne, 2007. The Complete Pompeii, Thames & Hudson.
Wallace-Hadrill, Andrew, 1996. Houses and society in Pompeii and Herculaneum, Princeton University Press.
Jashemski, W.M.H., Meyer, F.G., 2002. The Natural History of Pompeii, Cambridge University Press.
Sedivy, Ancient City of Pompeii: The Houses of Faun, Vettii, Large Fountain and the House of the Sliver Wedding. Web.
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