Italy: Frescoes of Pompeii


The Romans had many comforts: running water in the wealthy homes (delivered by lead pipes – hmmm, does that explain Nero’s madness), drinking fountains on the streets, private gardens, a shopping mall, bakeries, taverns, chariots – okay, I’m not sure a chariot is comfortable, but perhaps it beats walking. Take a look at the table in the first picture. Very stylish, with the lions as legs.worship altar

They also had little religious shrines, much like I saw along the back roads in Italy on our trip. Different Gods, but the same idea.

But there are three surprising facts about the ancient Roman way of life.

First, they took their baths in public, although men were separated from women. One of the baths in Pompeii was newly restored, and for a population of 8-12 thousand, seemed small, especially compared to the baths in Bath, England, which I have seen. But oh my, the luxury. As usual, there were three rooms, the frigidarium, the tepidarium and the caldarium. You can guess the temperature of the water in the first two, which leaves calda = hot in Italian. In one room, the edge of the ceiling was sculpted with various scenes. I loved the horses, although I’m not sure what they had to do with frieze

Secondly, pottery containers for oil or olives or whatever were carried with sticks through their handles and weren’t flat on the bottom. Counters had holes to receive the pots. The picture on the right is one of several storerooms I saw filled with pots.detail carrying potstored pots

Finally, the Romans didn’t hang pictures on their walls. They were frescoed and decorated with painting. The floors were mosaic and incorporated bits of white that would reflect the light from an oil lamp. The original night light. You can get an idea from the wall pictured at the left.wall fresco

The frescoes were arranged the same in many of the houses: a wide band, often painted with flowers at the bottom, the main wall sectioned into areas, and in each area a detail or a portrait or a full-on painting of a god lounging or a man entering his business. Even some ceilings were painted.detail mandetail flowersLady 1

Ancient Roman artists must have made a good living. I found these details irresistible. Imagine coming home to the smell of wet plaster and a tiny painting of your favorite flower, or goddess or insect. Not all the art is fantastic but the fact that we are looking at something painted almost 2000 years ago absolutely is!

An unusual “wallpapered” wall and a mosaic face from a tavern, lined with shells.detail wallpaper
detail shells
An example of a portrait. It’s about 4″ in diameter.
detail head
Sometimes decorations were in bas relief, like this fussy cupid.
detail fussy cupid
I didn’t know what this magnificent alcove was until I searched the internet. It appears to be a fountain. It was in a section that was closed; I caught it with a long lens. Look at the detail in the mosaic. Why don’t I have something like this in my house! Too hard to clean…

Here’s a link to my last post about the streets of Pompeii.
detail arch


  1. Robbin Bakr says:

    Very nice pictures.

  2. Julie Hayhurst says:

    Great pictures Terri, thanks for sharing.

  3. yer cuz Karen says:

    Bee-yoo-tee-ful!! Thanks for the pix AND narrative!

  4. I’d like to try a Roman bath at least once. Really beautiful. Too bad artists don’t have as many jobs these days!

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