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A wall of the triclinium, traditionally interpreted to represent the stages of initiation to the cult.
Fresco depicting a Bacchian rite
Fresco depicting the reading of the rituals of the bridal mysteries

The Villa of the Mysteries or Villa dei Misteri is a well preserved ruin of a Roman Villa which lies some 800 meters north-west of Pompeii, southern Italy.

Although covered with meters of ash and other volcanic material, the villa sustained only minor damage in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the majority of its walls, ceilings, and most particularly its frescoes survived largely undamaged.

The Villa is named for the paintings in one room of the residence. This space may have been a triclinium, and is decorated with very fine frescoes. Although the actual subject of the frescoes is hotly debated, the most common interpretation of the images is scenes of the initiation of a woman into a special cult of Dionysus, a mystery cult that required specific rites and rituals to become a member. Of all other interpretations, the most notable is that of Paul Veyne, who believes that it depicts a young woman undergoing the rites of marriage.

The Villa had both very fine rooms for dining and entertaining and more functional spaces. A wine-press was discovered when the Villa was excavated and has been restored in its original location. It was not uncommon for the homes of the very wealthy to include areas for the production of wine, olive oil, or other agricultural products, especially since many elite Romans owned farmland or orchards in the immediate vicinity of their villas.

The villa may be accessed from Pompeii. The villa is outside the main town, separated from it by a road with funerary monuments on either side (a necropolis) as well as the city walls. The Villa of the Mysteries is considered a suburban villa (Latin: Villa Suburbana), with a close relationship to the city, but outside the town.

The ownership of the Villa is unknown, as is the case with many private homes in the city of Pompeii. However, certain artifacts give tantalizing clues. A bronze seal found in the villa names L. Istacidius Zosimus, a freedman of the powerful Istacidii family. Scholars have proposed him as the owner of the villa or overseer of reconstruction after the earthquake of 62. The presence of a statue of Livia, wife of Augustus, has caused some historians to instead declare her to be the owner.

As in other areas of Pompeii and Herculaneum, a number of bodies were found in this villa, and plaster-of-paris casts were made of them.

There are many different translations of the frescoes, and they can be found in various books or websites. One quite helpful website is http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/timelines/rome/empire/vm/villaofthemysteries.html

References

  • Converto, Claudia. Campania, civilisation and art. Milan: Kina Italia.  

See also

External links

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