Cities of Vesuvius

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Private buildings: villas - houses - shops

See: "Villas" pp.119-122.

What are the following types of villas?
  • Villa rustica
  • Suburban villa
  • Otium villa

In what ways do villas differ from town houses?
In what ways are they similar?
What are the main features of the following villas?
  • Villa of the Papyri
  • Villa of the Mysteries
  • Villa Regina (Boscoreale)

The Villa of the Mysteries

The Villa of the Mysteries

Floor plan of the Villa

  • The Villa of the Mysteries combines the luxury and position of an otium villa, with the utility of a working villa rustica. One theory is that it was reduced to a working villa after the earthquake of AD 62.
  • Large and luxurious, overlooking the sea.
  • Faces outwards to take advantage of its position, unlike the inward facing town houses.
  • The entrance leads directly into the peristyle.
  • It had its own bath suites.
  • Terraces, galleries and cellars.
  • Working area, with torcularium and half-buried dolia.
  • Excavation of this villa which began in 1909-10 and is still not yet complete. This is because, it is thought that further excavations can provide or add little to the knowledge we already have.
  • It is not known who owned the villa.
  • The most famous feature is the series of life-size frescoes which give the villa its name (triclinium - Room G). It is believed to represent an initiation into the cult of Dionysus, though its interpretation is still unclear.
Go to the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii in Pictures / Soprintendenza

The Villa of the Papyri


The Villa of the Papyri is an otium villa. It is believed to have been owned at one time by Lucius Calpurnius Piso, the father-in-law of Julius Caesar. It was discovered in 1750 and excavated via tunnels over the next 15 years. Many marvelous statues and busts were found as well as hundreds of carbonised papyrus scrolls.


The excavated part of the Villa dei Papyri

Purpose and Size:

The Villa of the Papyri was just outside Herculaneum, overlooking the sea. It ran 250 metres along the coast with aterrace along much of the length. It was over 33000 square metres.


There were four levels on the sloping site each containing different rooms, terraces and gardens. The entrance to the Villa was on the sea side and opened with a columned portico leading into the atrium. In the atrium, the impluvium was surrounded by eleven fountain statues depicting mythological beings pouring water into it. The Villa had two peristyles with the first containing a swimming pool in its centre. The second larger peristyle could be accessed through a large decorated tablinium. The peristyles and surrounding gardens were filled with statues and fountains. The living areas were around the terraces, overlooking the sea.

Example of carbonized papyri:
Carbonised papyrus

Other artefacts:
Statue of a runner from the Villa dei Papyri

As well as 1800 carbonized papyri scrolls, many other artefacts have been found in the Villa of the Papyri. 87 marble and bronze sculptures from the Greek archaic period were found decorating different areas of the Villa. The sculptures were of many different things including gods, nymphs, famous orators, athletes, philosophers and forest animals.

Visit the National Archaeological Museum's selection of photos for the Villa.
View 53 photographs of artifacts found in the Villa dei Papyri and now in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.

Villa Regina at Boscoreale

The Villa Regina is a small working farm. It was discovered in 1977 and carefully excavated over the next three years. It had little comfort as in the otium villas and had the sole purpose of producing wine and possibly other agricultural products. 18 dolia are embedded in the ground, enough to produce about 10,000 litres of wine.

Among objects found were a marble herm of Bacchus in the lararium, kitchen vessels, lamps, a carriage and a pig.