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Regio IV - Insula II - Caupona del Pavone (IV,II,6)

The Inn of the Peacock is situated on a secondary street, the Via della Caupona (Street of the Inn). Some Hadrianic masonry has been preserved (opus mixtum), but not enough to establish the function of the building. Major modifications took place in the Severan period (opus vittatum).

The main entrance of the south-west wing of the building was corridor I. Next to the door is a small stairwell (II). In room III the excavators found a huge number of black and white mosaic tesserae. At the far end of the corridor is a courtyard without a roof (IV), from which a small latrine (V) could be reached. Another corridor (VI) leads to the main rooms in this part of the building: X and especially VIII (c. 5 x 4.50 metres, c. 3 metres high). From room VIII a tiny but high annex (IX) can be reached by descending along two treads. From corridor VI four steps lead down to a second courtyard (VII), with benches along the south-east and north-east wall, and - to the south of room IX - a niche on a podium (a pseudo-aedicula). A staircase set against the north-west wall leads to an underground well (shown on the plan as if it is in room XVI). The courtyard provided light to rooms IX and VIII through windows. Room XVII is a shop with a back room (XVIII).

The building is famous for its Severan wall-paintings, that have a curious purple overtone. On the floors are black-and-white mosaics, presumably also Severan. In corridor VI yellow, red and white niches were painted containing Medusa-heads and a flying, crowned Genius. On the floor is a mosaic of half-circles. In room VIII dark-red panels are separated by columns. On the panels are male figures wearing togas (philosophers?), female figures, a centaur, and a Genius. The socle, imitating yellow marble, is an addition from c. 250 AD. Here we find a fairly complex geometric mosaic. The paintings in room VIII recall the Antonine style. Room IX was painted at the same time, but shows a new taste. The architectural illusion has disappeared. Instead we see a patchwork of red and yellow panels of varying size. On the panels are theatre masks, maenads, togati, birds, a grain measure, and two nude Genii (perhaps spirits of seasons). The room has a simple marble floor. In room X are white panels with vegetative motifs, dolphins and a flying, nude male figure. On the floor is a geometric mosaic of blocks.

The pseudo-aedicula in courtyard VII is also Severan. On the outside are paintings imitating marble. On either side of the niche are brick bases for columns that were painted, or made of stucco or wood. In the niche is a blue peacock with an unfolded tail. The bird is flanked by a round object (a patera?), and a rhyton or cornucopiae. These objects may symbolize the Genius and Lares Familiares. Below the peacock is a garland. The peacock is related to the cult of Dionysus, and a symbol of immortality.

In the east corner of the room VIII a bar-counter was installed, after the Severan period, because it covers part of the mosaic and wall-paintings. It has a water basin and is decorated with marble. On the front are paintings imitating marble, in the water-niche green and red fishes were painted. Behind the counter are two brick piers, supporting three stepped shelves. This private bar, far from the street, has led to the hypothesis that the building was a hotel. It is not clear whether it had the same function in the Severan period. Hotel rooms may have been in the north-east wing. This part of the building had a separate entrance on Via della Caupona, leading to corridor XII, that could also be reached from corridor I. In room XIV are linear paintings on a white background, perhaps to be dated to c. 250 AD. This must have been an expensive hotel, and it is not a coincidence that it is situated in a wealthy neighbourhood. Across the street are three domus from the third century.

Plan of the building. South-east is up.
From Gasparri 1970.


The flying Genius in room VI.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The paintings in room IX, seen from the south-west.
Photograph: Stephan Mols.

The paintings on the north-east wall of room X, seen from the west.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The pseudo-aedicula in courtyard VII, seen from the north.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Detail of the niche of the pseudo-aedicula in courtyard VII.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The peacock in the pseudo-aedicula in courtyard VII.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The bar-counter in room VIII, seen from the west.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The paintings in room XIV, seen from the south-west.
Photograph: Stephan Mols.

[jthb - 29-Dec-2005]