The Villa of the Mysteries

Discovered in 1909, the villa is named after the fresco in the Second Style with almost life-size figures decorating a triclinium, interpreted by some scholars as the representation of the rite of initiation to a mysterious cult.

The systematic studies carried out between 1929 and 1930, unearthed a complex with a square plan, made up of about 90 rooms, and dating back, in its first construction phase, to the 1st century BC.

Three nuclei can be distinguished in the overall plan, all of which arranged arounf a large central peristyle: to the north, storage and service areas, to the east and south, the rustic quarter and kitchens, to the west, the sumptuous residential quarter that once overlooked the sea and was built upon a perspectival axis comprising an atrium, a tablinum, and a living room closed off at the back by a semicircular exedra characterized by large windows.

The tablinum - the area where the master of the house would receive guests and clients - offers one of the best examples of a black-ground Third-Style decoration in all of Pompeii. Decorating the walls, divided into three parts by slender architectural elements, are refined miniature motifs of the "pharaonic" type, in which groups and single subjects alternate symmetrically: uraei and sphinxes erect on tables; the god Toth with the head of an ibis and holding a scepter with the ankh and djed; the winged goddess Isis, protector of the dead.

Closely imitating Egyptian painting with a purely decorative value, these subjects, because of their colorful linear style devoid of depth, go perfectly with this style's decorative scheme.