The Domus of Triptolemus

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The Domus of Triptolemus (VII 7, 5) located in front of the Basilica and adjacent to the Sanctuary of Apollo…

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The Domus of Triptolemus


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The House of Triptolemus (VII 7, 5) is located in front of the Basilica and adjacent to the Sanctuary of Apollo. Since the second century BC it was a lavish domus provided with two atriums and two peristyles, which had both a board andprivate areas. The house is inserted in a block which was occupied since the third century BC, and after 80 BC changed into a single property by attaching the nearby house ofRomulus and Remus. The structural modifications and the renovation of the decorative furnishings document the wealth and importance of its owner’s role, who was probably one of the notables of the Sullan colony.the-domus-of-triptolemus
Entering the vestibule located at Via Marina n. 5, one accesses the Tuscan atrium of the house (b),which is paved with marble chips and has a central impluvium. Through two steps, one accesses the peristyle (l) – which has twelve columns and a rectangular basin which is located inthe central area used as a garden.
The peristyle columns are covered with red and white plaster, and were originally connected to each other through wooden bulkheads.

From the portico of the peristyle, which is paved with a white mosaic dotted with black pieces, one accesses the boardrooms (m, n and u). The wide hall (m) is decorated with Fourth Style frescos. It shows a series of small paintings depicting erotes, which are located on the top of thesocle decorated as fake marble. Among them there are the paintings depicting Venus and Adonis, and Hermaphrodite in the mirror, which are known only through drawings of the late 1800s.

The famous fresco depicting Triptolemus was part of the triclinium’s decoration
(n), which gives the name to the house. The hero, chosen by Demeter to teach the agricultural arts to humankind, is depicted as receiving a basket of ears of wheat. Another painting celebrated Venus coming from the sea on the back of a triton, and her arrival at the hill where she would found Pompeii, the city of Venus (Veneris sedes: Martial. IV, 44).

The exedra (u), which is completely open on the peristyle and on axis with the entrance, was the most important room of the house. It is accessed through a threshold of lava blocks, which is followed by a polychrome mosaic pavement decorated with the motif of the city wall. The center of the room is decorated by a big square decorated by limestone tiles with a perspective cubes motif, which is similar to the one found in the cella of the nearby temples of Apollo and Jupiter. The recovery of this motif in a domestic context is a rarity, which was used by the owner to increase the importance of the house. From the peristyle of the house of Triptolemus one accessed the adjacent house which was used as pars privata. It is provided with a second colonnaded peristyle (x), another atrium with tufa impluvium (g) which is set off-center from the vestibule, on which wider and smaller (cubicula) are open, and service rooms.

On the southern side of the peristyle there is a marble block, which is part of an architrave. It carries the name M(arcus) Artorius M(arci) l(ibertus)Prim[us], who was an Augustan Age architect, responsible for the restoration of the Great Theater of Pompeii (CIL X, 807; 841). Despite the fact it was found in the house, the block belonged to a public building, probably the nearby Basilica.
In the triclinium (n) two large pieces of the vault decorated with mosaic from the Suburban Baths are exhibited, which were discovered during the 1959 excavation. They were part of a barrel vault of a hall (m 11,40 x 7,60), which is almost completely occupied by a swimming poolwarmed up through a ‘samovar’ system (and this is the only case known in Pompeii so far). The rare mosaic, which is stylistically close to Fourth Style paintings, was made after the AD 62 earthquake. In the first section of the mosaic (which is located on the left of the series) there are colorful frames which are worth noting; one of these frames is decorated with shells and fishes, among which there is a darting dolphin. In the second section, under a circle decorated with a shell motif, there are meander motifs, garlands held by a winged figure, an eagle on a globe inserted in a tripod, and a landscape painting.


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