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Regio III - Insula IX - Domus delle Muse (III,IX,22)

The House of the Muses forms part of the Garden Houses. It is situated in the east part of this complex, facing Via delle Volte Dipinte and the Casa delle Volte Dipinte (III,V,1). It is the largest dwelling in the complex, and not a medianum-apartment, but rather a domus, an elite dwelling. The status of the inhabitants is stressed by the fact that the architecture ignores the communal garden of the Garden Houses (it could be seen only and with difficulty through a window in the relatively unimportant room 11), and focuses on an inner courtyard.

In front of the building is a wide sidewalk, bordered by travertine stones. There are two independent shops, 17 and 18. In the north wall of 18 a cult niche was hacked out, in which vague traces of a painted figure can be seen. The door leading to vestibule 1 was framed by brick pilasters supporting a lost entablature. To the north of the vestibule is a kitchen with a basin (a door was planned in the east wall, as in room 19, but blocked during or shortly after the erection of the building). There is another basin in the adjacent room, 4. To the south is a staircase, that could only be reached from the vestibule. The other upper stories were reached via an external staircase in the west part (12-13).

The rooms of the building are organized around a courtyard with a porticus (2). Room 10 may have been a dining-room. Room 15 is the largest room of the house and may be called a tablinum flanked by two alae (14, 16). In the entrance are two piers in antis supporting brick arches. Originally it had a wooden roof, like all the other rooms, but later piers were added in the corners to support a cross-vault. Room 5 must have had a special status, in view of the nature and quality of the paintings (see below). Rooms 5 and 15 form the main axis of the building. In the north walls of rooms 4, 5 and 6 are windows. Rooms 8 and 9 are set apart behind corridor 7. They had a private character and were presumably bedrooms. In the north wall of 8 and between 8 and 9 are windows. The corridor had a door leading to the outside.

Good photographic documentation of the paintings can be found in our Virtual Museum. The paintings in room 5 were added after the Hadrianic period, but still in the second century. The nine Muses and their guide Apollo are depicted on red and yellow panels, between architectural motifs. There are more figures in the upper zone. In corridor 7 are paintings belonging to the Linear Style, from the first half of the third century. Red lines on a white background frame a panther and an amorino. In room 9 are Hadrianic paintings of architectural motifs and dionysiac figures (Dionysos, Panes, maenads), on a white background. More Hadrianic paintings are found in room 10. The panels are yellow and black. Among the depictions are Atlantes, mythological scenes (largely lost), doors through which two women are entering and leaving, windows, and a wooden balcony. New paintings were added in this room in the first half of the fourth century, imitating marble revetment. In room 11 are Hadrianic paintings of a goat and a wreathed youth, and later paintings of a still life and a young man. All rooms have black-and-white geometric mosaics, with the exception of kitchen 3 and the courtyard, that has a white mosaic.

Plan of the house. After SO I.


The north part of the facade on Via delle Volte Dipinte, seen from the south.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Vestibule 1, seen from the east. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Room of the Muses (5), south wall. Apollo flanked by two Muses. Clarke 1991, plate 20.

Room 5. Detail of Apollo. Clarke 1991, plate 21.

Room 5. Detail of two Muses. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Room 5. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Room 5. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Room 5. Upper zone. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Room 9. Clarke 1991, plate 22.

Room 9, east wall. Mols 2002, fig. 6.

Room 9. A Pan. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Room 9. A Pan. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Room 9. Architectural decoration.
Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Room 10, south wall. Photograph: Sopr. Arch. di Ostia.

Room 11, east wall, top panel. A goat. Photograph: Jos Janssen.

Plan of the building with the mosaics. Clarke 1991, fig. 163.

[jthb - 3-Oct-2007]