House of the Faun

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The House of the Faun (Casa del Fauno), constructed in the 2nd century BCE during the Samnite period (circa 80 BCE), was a grand Hellenistic residential palace complex that was framed by peristyle in the Roman Pompeii, Italy. The House of the Faun was the largest and most expensive residence found in Pompeii.

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The historical significance in this impressive estate is found in the many great pieces of art that were well preserved from the ash of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It is one of the most luxurious aristocratic houses from the Roman republic, and reflects this period better than most archaeological evidence found even in Rome itself.

The House of the Faun, along with the House of Pansa, and the House of the Silver Wedding, among others, represent the higher class of the Roman houses of the republic.

Although most of the original artworks have been relocated to the National Archaeological Museum, Naples, the most famous pieces, like the Dancing Faun and the Alexander Mosaic, have been recreated to give tourists a clearer picture of what the house was originally like.

Brief History


There is evidence, most notably in the eastern walls of the tetrastyle atrium, that after the great earthquake in 62 CE, the House of the Faun was rebuilt and repaired, as revealed by excavation beneath the floor of the house; yet, the building was only used again until 79 CE, when it was ultimately rendered unusable by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.



The house occupies an entire city block or insula, and the interior covers about 3,000 square meters, which is nearly 32,300 square feet. The house is based upon two magnificent colonnaded gardens or peristyles, one Ionic and the other Doric. It also has two atriums, the Tuscan and the peristyle atrium.

The focus of the decoration of the house, the Alexander mosaic, is placed on the central visual axis between the first and second peristyles, in a room referred to as an exedra.



Entrance A
The entryway of the House of the Faun is decorated by red and white stone (marbles) that read out the Latin message "HAVE" (inspect), which can be translated to "Hail to you!" or "Welcome!". The fact that this mosaic is not in the local languages, Oscan and Samnian, has caused debate between historians on whether it was put into place before the Roman colonization of Pompeii in 80 BCE or if the owners were inspired Latin glory.

Like many ancient Roman houses, the House of the Faun had tabernae (inspect), or storefront shops, and a highly sophisticated building plan, which details the many rooms.


The entrance vestibule opens onto the fauces which has a richly decorated floor consisting on small triangular pieces of coloured marble and slate. The fauces is decorated in the first style to a height of about 2.5 metres. Above this on either side is a tufa shelf (inspect) on which rests a lararium consisting of a temple facade with small Corinthian columns.


Tusacan Atrium
The fauces leads into a large rectangular atrium (Atrium Tuscanicum). The sombre shade of the floor, paved with small pieces of dark slate, formed an effective contract with the white limestone edge and central impluvium which is covered with pieces of coloured marbles. The walls of the atrium were decorated in the first style in shades of red, blue and yellow above a lower black frieze. The upper zone was left white.

On either side of the atrium are cubicula while at the rear is the first (smaller) tablinum. In the centre of the floor is a rectangular section paved with egg-shaped pieces of black, white and green stone; the rest of the floor is of white mosaic.


The tablinum located against the rear wall of the larger atrium, has a broad window in its north wall opening onto the colonnade of the first (smaller) peristyle. Doors either side of the tablinum opened onto large triclini. (inspect)


Small Peristyle
Mosaics on the floors of the peristyles evoke the flora and fauna of the Nile. The wall frescoes above these pavements are the largest surviving example of the false marble panelling characteristic of the First Pompeian Style.

The colonnade of the first peristyle was single storeyed. The entablature of the Ionic columns presents a mixture of styles with a Doric frieze and a dentil cornice. The wall surfaces were divided by pilasters and decorated in the first style. In the middle of the garden is a marble fountain


Wine Cellar
The room next to it was undecorated at the time of the eruption and was used as a wine cellar.


Large Peristyle
The large peristyle was added to the house in the second to the late 2nd century BCE and the final size of the residential-estate was established. This peristyle occupies about one third of the total area of the entire insula.

At the rear of the second peristyle is a series of small rooms, the depth of which varies according to the angle of the street at the north end of the insula.

A corridor to the east of the exedra leads from the first to the second peristyle. The columns here, of the Doric order, are of brick with tufa capitals. The entablature rested on a line of timbers and the colonnade may have been in part two storeys high.


Tablinum with Battle of Issus Floor Mosaic
The tablinum or exedra contains a tesserae mosaic (inspect) depicting the Battle of Issus (333 CE), fought between the Greek and Persian armies under the command of Alexander and Darius. The large mosaic fills almost the entire floor, and was the most famous of ancient mosaic pictures. The mosaic is a reproduction of a painting made either in the lifetime of Alexander, or soon after his death, possibly by Philoxenus or Eretria. The left side of the picture is only partly preserved.

It is located north of the smaller peristyle, fronted by two corinthian columns. At the rear of the this exedra there's a wide window opening on to the large peristyle, spanning almost the entire width of the chamber. Between the columns at the entrance were mosaic pictures of wild creatures of the Nile - hippopotamus, crocodile, ichneumon and ibis.


Triclinium A
On either side of the exedra are triclini and, one open its entire breadth onto the second peristyle while the other has a narrow door with two windows.


Entrance B
The domestic apartments were entered by the front door. The vestibule, unlike that of the main entrance, is open to the street, the fauces being longer and narrower.


Tetrastyle Atrium
The tetrastyle atrium (Atrim Tetrastylum) has four substantial Corinthian columns. The alae here are in the middle of the sides; the one at the left (west) served as a passageway between the two atria. This part of the house was badly damaged by the earthquake of 62 CE, and there are many traces of repairs. The walls were simply decorated in the fourth style.

A long corridor on the east side of the first peristyle connected the rooms on the east of the small atrium with the private bath suite, the kitchen and cubiculum. The two rooms of the bath suite, tepidarium and caldarium, were provided with hollow floors and walls, and were heated from the kitchen next door.

Notable Artefacts


Faun Statuette
The bronze statue of a dancing faun is what the House of the Faun is named after. In the centre of the atrium there is a white limestone impluvium, a basin for collecting water; the statue is located inside the impluvium, as seen in the adjacent picture. The original statue is currently located in the National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) in Naples, thus the statue seen in the house’s ruins today is a copy.


Alexander Mosaic
The Alexander Mosaic is the most notable of the artworks found in the House of the Faun. It is featured on the floor of the exedra or the tablinum facing the small peristyle garden. The original was removed from the floor where it was found and placed in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, and a replica was installed on the site.

In the 1830s when it was first discovered, the mosaic was thought to represent a battle scene depicted in the Iliad, but architectural historians have found the mosaic actually depicts the Battle of Issus in 333 BCE between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia, which took place about 150 years before the House of the Faun was constructed.


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