Suburban Villas in Ancient Pompeii

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The Suburban villas (ville suburbane) of Pompeii were luxurious residences located on the outskirts of the ancient city, providing wealthy Romans with a retreat from urban life while still being close enough to enjoy the amenities and social activities of Pompeii. These villas were characterized by their expansive layouts, elaborate decorations, and often incorporated agricultural or leisure facilities, reflecting the wealth and status of their owners.

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Suburban villas in Pompeii typically included a variety of architectural and functional elements designed for both comfort and opulence. These villas were often larger than urban houses, taking advantage of the more available land on the outskirts of the city. They included multiple rooms for various purposes, extensive gardens, and sometimes even private baths. A hallmark of suburban villas was the inclusion of large, open columned courtyards (peristyles) and landscaped gardens. These spaces were used for relaxation, social gatherings, and enjoying nature. Villas featured spacious atria, dining rooms (triclinia), and reception areas for entertaining guests. These rooms were often lavishly decorated with frescoes and mosaics. Some villas were part of larger agricultural estates and included facilities like vineyards, orchards, and storage areas for produce. These areas not only provided food but also contributed to the owners' wealth. The suburban villas of Pompeii were known for their elaborate decorations, showcasing the wealth and taste of their owners.

Suburban villas served as a retreat for Pompeii's elite, offering a combination of luxury, leisure, and productivity. These properties allowed their owners to escape the bustling city while still being close enough to engage in urban social and economic activities. The presence of agricultural facilities also highlights the integration of leisure and utility, as these villas often produced food and wine.

The excavation of suburban villas around Pompeii has provided valuable insights into Roman domestic architecture, decorative arts, and daily life. The preservation of frescoes, mosaics, and structural elements allows historians and archaeologists to understand better the lifestyle and aesthetic preferences of the Roman elite.

List of the Suburban Villas

circa 60/70 BCE

Villa of the Mysteries
The Villa of the Mysteries (Villa dei Misteri) is named after the hall of mysteries located in the residential part of the building, which faces the sea. A large continuous fresco that covers three walls, one of the most preserved ancient paintings, depicts a mysterious rite, that is reserved for the devotees of the cult. The scene is linked with Dionysus, who appears on the central wall with his wife, Ariadne. The house preserves wonderful examples of second style wall decoration, that is with depictions of architecture. Egyptian inspired miniature paintings are seen in the tablinum.


Villa of the Mosaic Columns
The Villa of the Mosaic Columns (Villa delle Colonne a Mosaico) is one of the biggest and most important residents of Pompeii on the main road to the city of Herculaneum. is located just outside the city walls, if you exit via Ercolano Gates. It was named so after the original columns, carrying mosaic decorations, now kept in the Naples Archaeological Museum. There is a beautiful mosaic fountain in the inside garden. Down the street, near the villa, you can see a necropolis with several tombs.


Villa of Cicero
The Villa of Cicero (Villa di Cicerone) stands on the Herculaneum road outside Pompeii at the Herculaneum Gate of the city. The mosaics from this villa are today kept in Naples, and they undoubtedly represent an example of the excellent craftsmanship of the ancient architects of Pompeii. Villa itself was covered with earth as early as 1763. Today, only a few stones protrude from under the ground. Almost the entire building remains underground.


Villa of Diomedes
The Villa of Diomedes (Villa di Diomede) was one of the first buildings to be excavated in Pompeii and was a key destination for all travellers in the 19th century, as evidenced by the numerous graffiti that bear the names of famous travellers, such as the Count of Cavour. It develops scenically on three levels, opening with gardens and pools towards the ancient coastline. It is one of the largest buildings of the entire city with an area of 3500 square metres. Upon entering, one accesses the peristylium directly, around which there are the most important rooms of the house, such as the triclinium.

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