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Roman houses of the wealthy were made to be luxurious, and their exteriors were not always pleasing. The house of the Vettii is no exception with its flat monotone outside walls, trapezoidal shape, and small, squat squares for windows, it appears clumsy and ugly to a pedestrian. Yet inside the structure one could walk over exquisite tile mosaics, stroll in beautiful gardens, and be dazzled by colourful frescos depicting stories taken from Roman culture.


The House of the Vettii was introverted, exposing only a few tiny windows to let in small amount of air and light. Wealthy homeowners preferred to ignore the street level noise and turned to the privacy and comfort of their houses. For fresh air and comfort, the residents of Vettii turned instead to the peristylium, a large open room in the rear of the house containing a garden surrounded by pillars. The Vettii peristylium contained an elaborate fountain and had beautiful frescoes painted on its walls, but piscinas (fish ponds), or statues were also used in gardens.


While the peristylium was the centre of rear of the house, with all of the rear rooms grouped around it, the forward rooms of the house were built around the Atrium. The Atrium had its origins in the Greek megaron, a large prominent room with a hearth in the centre. The atrium sometimes roofless, but always having a compluvium, a square opening on the roof allowing rainwater to fall to the impluvium, a pit below to the compluvium in the centre of the Atrium that caught rainwater for the house reservoir. People must always pass through the Atrium to access the rest of the house, making it a living room and a reception hall for visitors. Chests were found near the atrium and the business office would have been strategically placed here in order to provide a careful view over visitors to the house and to protect the chest.


While the residents would have often hold dinners and parties for friends on special occasions, the Vettii townhouse was not designed for large gatherings. While the house is large, it is divided into many private rooms and service quarters, and lacks a large hall other than the Atrium or the peristylium, thus it is unlikely it could host more than forty guests for a Banquet. Instead of being host to a large party, the Romans would have preferred to be lounged more intimately in the small luxurious rooms, served by their slaves.


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The House of the Vettii may have the most extravagant examples of Roman artwork ever discovered. Virtually every wall has a beautiful frescoes depicting mostly mythological tales from Roman and Greek culture. A mural shows Cyparissus being changed into a cypress tree having killed a favourite deer of Apollo, and another the torturing of Ixion, who had courted Hera, Zeus’ wife, inciting his wrath. This emphasis on mythological stories that were mostly Greek in origin, displays the influence of religion on art and culture to the Romans. There are also murals involving traditional good omens such as a hanged rabbit symbolizing bounty, or more lewd talismans, such as a large mural of a man weighing his phallus, a sign of good fortune and fertility, or paintings of sexual activity in one of the bedrooms promoting fertility.


The relatively large service section of the house left of the main Atrium relative to the entrance reveals the large amount of slave servants the residents employed. These slaves would provide for the relaxed lifestyle the residents would have enjoyed.


One section common in wealthy Roman homes was missing in the House of the Vettii�a shop. Many upper class Romans despite their wealth had shops such as bakeries or tanneries built into their houses whose goods were sold onto the street. These shops were called tabernae, and were sometimes designed into the house or added in later. Their absence suggests primary role of luxury home the House of Vettii had.


The House of Vettii was found vacated. Fortunately, the residents had moved out just before the eruption that had preserved it, but they must have indeed gravely missed their beautiful resort home.











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