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Villa of the Mysteries

On the western side of Pompeii, the Villa of the Mysteries is one of the best preserved and most imposing buildings in the excavated town. It forms part of a group of suburban villas which, with those of Cicero and Diomedes, possessed exceptional works of art.

The actual entrance to the Villa is through a small portico leading into a semi-circular room which opens onto an uncovered terrace. This is not the original ancient entrance, which is on the other side of the Villa, still covered in volcanic material. The Villa of the Mysteries is a typical example of a luxurious house containing a farm annex. It is situated on quite a steep slope, with all parts facing the sea, resting on an artificial embankment under which is the cryptoporticus, used as a cellar.

The main rooms of the house revolve around the atrium, which included a cubicle, oeci (type of dining room), a tablinum and an exedra with semi-circular windows, and an area of house facilities around a peristyle, including a tetrastyle atrium with a bathroom. Besides this there is also a courtyard with the kitchens, oven and servants quarters and a farm area with room for the manager and for the farm equipment.

The villa is richly decorated, one of the paintings being a cycle of enormous figures possibly representing the initiation of a bride into the Dionysiac mysteries. In the so called Room of the Large Painting there is a cycle of frescos covering all the walls which are the successive stages of a single ceremony: a young man reads the ritual under the guidance of a seated woman, another woman follows closely and a young woman with a tray of offerings makes to the right. A group of women assist at a sacrificial ceremony.

Angels on the mountain at work, Roman recipe, @ Stonehenge

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