Gli apparati decorativi delle case di livello medio in età sannitica
In: Studi e Ricerche del Parco Archeologico di Pompei: 41, 2020
The last chapter of this book has been dedicated to the
study of decoration of the houses of medium standing. The
analysis has concerned firstly the painted decorations of walls
and ceilings, then the accessory elements, such as architectural
terracotta and doorways’ capitals, and at last the floors. Each
category has been examined with a diachronic approach and in
its analysis a part has been played both by the excavations data and the survey of decorations dating to the III and II c. B.C.,
still visible in Pompeii.
The study of decorations of houses of medium standing
allowed retracing the changes of taste of Pompeian people during Samnite period and showed that decorations, sometimes
refined, were not restricted to the upper class dwellings. They
were widespread also in houses of medium wealth already by
the III c. and became common in the second half of II c. B.C.
As to the paintings, we can distinguish two main phases, referring to two different decorative traditions. The style in use
between the end of IV and the end of III c. has parallels in
Etruscan and Italic contemporary funerary decorations.
It is characterized by a string course decorated by the waves motif, that separates the socle from a white and plane zone and, moreover, by doors or windows frames enriched by the nozzle of the corbin motif. By the end of III c. B.C., a new decorative fashion spread, elaborated in Greece and Asia Minor. It is distinguished by the imitation of the architectural structure of public buildings façades, made with the use of relief plaster or sometimes of incision. The spreading at Pompeii of this style is done firstly by a type of paintings that is closer to the Greek model than the First Style paintings, which is used in the second half of the II c. B.C. In the latter period, wall decoration is characterized by two different patterns, one related to the First Style and another, simpler and comparable to the Zone Style. The Simple Pattern Style paintings have been systematically analysed in the entire site. Thirty-nine rooms decorated in this fashion have been found, they are pertaining to houses of all standings and analysed in a catalogue attached to chapter III. To complete the decoration of the houses of medium standing, there were terracotta. The analysis of the figured slabs and of the ship’s prow found in Protocasa del Granduca Michele has been of great interest. The slabs, part of the atrium decoration, were moulded and were painted with some precious pigment, such as Egyptian blue and cinnabar. Their iconography is composed of two characters, dressed with a long-sleeves tunic and a Phrygian cap, put at the sides of a shield bearing a gorgoneion emblem. The ship’s prow was one of the dripstones of courtyard and was probably of Punic type. It was the reproduction of these trophies that decorated the Roman Generals’ houses, like the domus rostrata of Pompeius in the I c. B.C. The finding of decorations depicting these subjects led to a reflection on the diffusion of images evocating military victories inside the houses in the II c. B.C. It also suggested the existence of an imitation’s phenomenon of the wealth and values of the elite by people of medium fortune. The presence of images referring to military victories, which are characteristic of Generals’ dwellings, in houses of medium standing and probably belonging to people that had no important public tasks, is an attempt to emulate the prestige of elite. This phenomenon of imitation is retraceable in the decoration and structure of the house. The house, in fact, while it represents for the mighty people an essential instrument to assert their power, for the others it represents the mirror of their prestige and a means to show a sense of belonging to a society whose ideals were the ones established by the elite.