Best Books about Pompeii



Plaster Casts at the Villa of the Mysteries
Plaster Cast from Pompeii
Background Information
Where to see them
Pompeii Antiquarium
Garden of the Fugitives
Stabian Thermal Baths
Horrea and Olitorium
Villa of the Mysteries
Caupona Pherusa
House of the Four Styles
Region I
Porta Nocera
Boscoreale Antiquarium
Historical Information
Younger Pliny's letters
Seneca's describes AD 62 earthquake
Gautier short story about Pompeii

Early account of making plaster casts

Charles Dickens describes Pompeii
Mark Twain describes Pompeii
William Dean Howells describes Pompeii
WW2 bombing of Pompeii
Visiting Pompeii and vicinity
visiting Pompeii
visiting Herculaneum
visiting Mt. Vesuvius
Further Information
books about Pompeii
touring Pompeii exhibitions
websites about Pompeii









The Villa of the Mysteries is located just outside of ancient Pompeii, north of the Ercolano Gate (P. Ercolano, or Porta Ercolano, on the map to the left). A small part of it was excavated in 1909-1910 by the owner of the land, but the major part of the excavation and restoration took place in 1929-1930 after the government of Italy took over.

The Villa of the Mysteries is one of the most remarkable private houses (where agricultural products, especially wine, were cultivated) discovered so far. It is best known for its wall paintings; they are simply stunning with their vivid colors and dramatic images (see below for a YouTube video that shows them off to their best advantage).

But a number of individuals lost their lives here as well when Vesuvius erupted. At the time of the eruption, workers were still repairing damage to the villa that had occurred in the major 62 AD earthquake. 

In all, nine bodies were recovered from the villa. Room 54 (highlighted in red below) revealed the remains of three people: two women and a baby girl. Although these three individuals were only skeletons, they were identified by their jewelry: armbands, a gold and emerald necklace, and three rings. They appear to have taken refuge on an upper floor, but the roof (and attic) collapsed under the weight of the volcanic debris, sending them below. Today all of the rooms at the back of the Villa of the Mysteries (#52-60) are inaccessible to visitors, but two casts are on display.

Although records are not clear, at least one plaster cast (the first one shown below) was created from the other six remains. It is currently exhibited behind a barred and locked door in Room 32. (Thank you, Rick Bauer, for the photo.)

The barred entrance to Room 32; the plaster cast is visible in the glass case

You can peek through the bars to see the plaster cast (one that looks as if the person arrived from Mars; the faces on a few of the casts, it should be noted, do look less than lifelike--this is one of them).

Another cast can be seen in Room 35 (enter through Room 34). (Thank you, Rick Bauer, for the two photos below.)

A look into Room 34 and beyond Room 35, with its plaster cast

The plaster cast of Room 35

Of all the houses in Pompeii, the Villa of the Mysteries is one of my favorite. You might enjoy this video from YouTube to see why:



For more information about the plaster casts of Pompeii, read Bodies from the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii Widgets



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