Roaming through Pompeii ruins, the rooms, courtyards and gardens of Pompeii houses are definitely one of the things that will bring you closer to the people of the ancient city Pompeii and the way they lived.
What you'll notice immediately is that a Pompeii home was very different from the houses built today.
Rectangular in floor plan, they were centered around the inner courtyard...all the rooms were facing onto it, and had no window opening towards the outside of the house.
But let's walk you through a typical Roman and Pompeii home of those times: when facing the house facade from the street you would first notice the house most probably had two storeys. On the ground level of the house, opening to the street, were the tabernas or shops.
In between them, there would be the main entrance into the house, the vestibulum, that leads into an atrium or the formal entrance hall, surrounded by smaller rooms.
This is where the guests and clients would wait for their reception by the patron of the house. The main feature of the atrium was the impluvium or the shallow pool, which collected rainwater through the opening in the roof.
The atrium was often surrounded by the tablinium or the reception room, triclinium or the dining room and other small rooms and bedrooms, the so-called cubiculum.
The second part of the room was centered around the open garden
surrounded by a colonade or peristylium.
Around the perystilium, there were the bathroom, the cucina or the kitchen, storehouses and sometimes workshops.
This type of house we find in ancient city Pompeii was just perfect for the Mediterranean...centered around open courtyards, it enabled its inhabitants to spend a lot of time in the open and enjoy the mild climate.
When you see the Pompeii ruins, you will notice that the Pompeii homes have different names. Often, those refer to different pieces of Pompeii art: Pompeii mosaics, Pompeii fresco paintings or statues found in them.
Here's a few of the most prominent ones:
House of the Faun - With almost 3000 sq meters, this Pompeii home is one of the largest in the ancient city Pompeii. As a matter of fact, with its two peristyles, this house takes up a whole block or the so called insula.
Built at the beginning of the 2nd Ct BC, this house got its name from the bronze statue of the faun standing up in the center of the impluvium.
But the house is most famous for its Pompeii mosaics, the most known one being the one showing the victory of Alexander the Great over Darius, King of Persia.
Pompeii Homes: House of the Small Fountain
- This is a typical house with an atrium and perystilum, whose walls were richly decorated with frescoed landscapes and maritime buildings.
It got its name from the mosaic covered fountain nympheum at the rear of the peristylum. Use of the mosaic and statue decorated nympheums became widespread in the mid 1st Ct AD.
There are frescoes in the cubicula and the perystile, too.
House of the Dioscuri - This is one of the largest houses in Pompeii, named after the frescoes of Dioscuri, the twin sons of Zeus, Castor and Pollux. This Pompeii fresco is now kept in the Naples Archaeological Museum but in the house itself we can still see some frescoes remaining in situ.
This Pompeii home is centered around one of the four known 'Corinthium atriums' in the ancient city Pompeii, which means that the roof of the atrium is supported by 12 Corintian columns, which is quite unusual.
Pompeii Homes: The House of Meleager and Atalanta - Named after the vestibule fresco showing two chracters from Greek mythology, this Pompeii home is also noted for the reception rooms decorated with columns in Corinthian style, which is a rarity in Pompeii.
House of Apollo - The house is richly decorated with both mosaics and frescoes, some of which relate to the myth of Apollo. Also, there were two bronze statues found here: one of Apollo and another one of a Faun hunting a deer.
In 1830, a ring was found in the house that may bear the name of the house owner: M. Herenulli Communis.
Pompeii Homes: House of the Tragic Poet - The most noted features of this house are the black and white mosaics of a dog on a chain in the vestibule, with the message CAVE CANEM (beware of the dog).
The atrium of the house was decorated with the frescoes with the episodes from the Illiad, which can now be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.
The house was mistakenly named after a fresco found in tablinium: the excavators thought they were looking at a scene of a poet reciting his verse from a role of papyrus, while it was actually a scene of the delivery of the oracle to Admetus.
House of Pansa - This house occupied a whole block. As a matter of fact, a portion of this large property was for rent, a sign found here tells us.
The perystile had sixteen Ionic columns supporting the roof of the portico, and a basin decorated with images of water plants and fish.
For a stress-free day in Pomepii see our recommendations for tours, shore-excursions and transfers below...