Herculaneum Insula Orientalis I.2. Casa del Rilievo di Telefo or House of the Relief of Telephus



Herculaneum Insula Orientalis I.2. Casa del Rilievo di Telefo or House of the Relief of Telephus

Herculaneum Ins Or I.2. Casa del Rilievo di Telefo or House of the Relief of Telephus.

See Pesando F. and Guidobaldi M. P., 2006. Pompeii, Oplontis Ercolano et Stabiae. Roma: Laterzi.

According to Maiuri, taken as a whole, including the area occupied by the servants’ quarters and the garden which reaches to the side street (Vicolo Meridionale) with the entrance doorway at No.3, this habitation forms one of the richest and most extensive in the southern quarter of the city. The atrium quarter is on the same level as the street, whilst the peristyle quarter is on a lower level, the two parts being connected with each other by means of a ramp. The good preservation of the flooring and the scanty preservation of the walls and their decoration show that more damage was caused by the violent impetus of the volcanic eruption, which overthrew and dragged after it in its ruinous path all that stood in the way of its flow towards the sea, rather than by the tunnelling.

The atrium, without fauces (entrance corridor) and with colonnades at the sides in two minor aisles, calls to mind the forms of the so-called oeci corinthii, that is noble, porticoed rooms. The roof was on the level of the upper floor. The marble oscilla with satiric figures and theatrical masks, suspended between the columns, stand out admirably from the glossy red background of the walls and columns. (Then, there in 1936, but probably not there now, he wrote – Other minor marble panels and oscilla, some of them bearing vigorously carved Satyrs and Sileni, were to be seen in a glass case in the left wing near to the podium of a shrine (they were found in the rooms above the atrium) together with various household objects, including a precious necklace of amulets, several lamps and various remains of comestibles, such as bread, small cakes and eggs. Also mentioned –

On either side of the entrance doorway into the atrium there was a beautiful relief with a quadriga in motion; these have been recomposed from fragments found partly in this house and partly in other houses along Cardo V ………., etc.)

On the north side of the atrium two small doors lead from the living quarters to the stabulum, which had its own entrance at No. 3, with the usual ramp for the passage of small carts and beasts of burden.

The stabulum /stable is easily recognised in the rectangular room with a low ceiling that backs upon the atrium wall.

A steeply sloping corridor leads to the part of the house built upon a lower level: the great luxurious quarter of the peristyle and the terraces, together with a few other areas.

The peristyle with brick columns enclosed a garden surrounded by the low walls of a pluteus, with a rectangular tank faced with blue plaster in the middle.

Part of the garden area which lies above the still-interred subterranean rooms is paved by a stratum of bipedales, in order better to protect the underlying cellars from the infiltration of rain and soil.

To the south of the peristyle are three more or less richly decorated rooms with the remains of paintings, of marble dados and floors in opus sectile and mosaic:

behind them, at the end of the corridor which continues the walkway of the peristyle, there is an open terrace with several rooms opening upon it.

The largest and most splendid of these on the extreme southern limits of the house is that which has restored to us the most magnificent marble decoration ever found in a private house of antiquity and worthy of an Imperial palace. The room (9.20m x 6.60m) has its main entrance on the side of the loggia, and, besides the rich polychrome marble flooring, it had a sumptuous dado faced with great horizontal and vertical panels of cipollino, pavonazzetto and African marble, framed by bands and interrupted by spiral fluted half columns with Corinthian capitals. Of the precious whole, it has been possible to reconstruct the dado of one of the walls; the rest was carried away by the fury of the eruption. All the decorations may be said to be of the Flavian period.

In one of the smaller rooms that precede the rich drawing room there was a found a charming neo-Attic relief representing the myth of Telephus.

The garden to the north of the dwelling, which must have been a later addition, hides here and there in the subsoil the remains of preceding constructions. Here, roughly attached to the boundary wall, there is the rustic shrine, dear to the servant who had charge of this humble part of the dwelling.

This house, taking advantage of the low level of the ground, displayed its rooms on the lower floor like the House of the Albergo. These rooms, as those on the upper floor, preserve a rich decoration: under the sumptuous hall with marble flooring and walls, another one was built, with finer marble floor and the walls decorated with one of the most elaborate decorative compositions known in the Herculaneum paintings.

The gallery on the eastern side of this hall, with half-columns and windows, leading to the other rooms of the house (not yet excavated), is to be noted.

See Maiuri, Amedeo, (1977). Herculaneum. 7th English ed, of Guide books to the Museums Galleries and Monuments of Italy, No.53 (p.64-66).

According to Wallace-Hadrill, the ground to the east of Cardo V once sloped steely downhill. The excavation of the Vicolo Meridionale, the side lane running just north of these houses, shows the land dropping down towards the river-harbour below. This enabled a spectacular succession of rooms with different orientations at different levels.

The excavations here revealed the string of rooms to the south of the garden at the ground level. Though ruinous, their coloured marble opus-sectile floors show their quality.

Below them, still unexcavated, was another level of rooms. We can see from the excavated edges that they were richly decorated and had wide marble thresholds and windows.

In front of them was a portico, the columns of which were tossed like matchsticks by the violence of the surges to the beach below.

Below them was yet another level of rooms beneath concrete vaults. The edges of the triclinium couch, just visible in the unexcavated rock, shows that these too were places of leisure.

See Wallace-Hadrill, A. (2011). Herculaneum, Past and Future. London, Frances Lincoln Ltd., (p.246-253)




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