Chapter IX - Fullonica

Chapter 8 Contents Chapter 10

The Fullonica is situated just behind the back wall of the house of the Poet, and has a door, like it, opening into the vicus, as well as a great entrance from the street, which passes under the arch of Tiberius Caligula or Augustus, near the Temple of Fortune. That street is now called the Street of Mercury, or of the Mercuries, from the number of paintings of that divinity which it exhibits. Before we enter that street, however, it will be necessary to notice the prolongation of the Street of the thermae, which passes along the north flank of the Temple of Fortune, and in which, at the present moment, February, 1829, the excavations are continuing. It is very probable that this street may be that branch of the Via Domitia which ran to Salernum, and leads to the gate commonly called that of Nola ; and the frequent and deep traces of wheels at the point now excavating prove the street to have been a much-frequented passage through the city.

Between the house of the Poet and the triumphal arch, several rooms bear the appearance of having served as places for refreshment for those who used the baths. Beyond the arch, the first pier or termination of a massive stone wall of great blocks was ornamented with a most interesting painting of a galley with its equipage, now defaced, and, beyond this, is the entrance to a house now called by the names of Ceres and Bacchus, and of the Bacchanti, from paintings of these divinities in the atrium. The painting of the galley had, for some time, acquired the name of Casa del Naviglio for the house.

In the entrance, pretty groups of vases are painted, one of which is given in plate XII. On the right is a sort of recess, not observed in other houses, where a slave or porter might have been stationed.

The atrium of this house of Ceres is sufficiently preserved to show that, at least in this house, this division of the dwelling arose to the height of two ordinary stories before it was covered in by the roof. The triclinium or tablinum, at the further extremity, which is not large, must have been singularly lofty in its proportions, if, indeed, it was lighted at all by windows which were above the tiles.

Plate 62 - Commentary

Plate 83

It is so different in its effect from other houses of Pompeii, that a view of it has been selected for plate LXII, by which a correct idea of its present state may be obtained. In a little room, on the right of the atrium, were found, leaning against the wall, several iron fellies of large wheels, so exactly similar to those of modern construction, that the paintings lately discovered were scarcely necessary to convince us that, in the first century of our aera, wheels were no longer of the antiquated form represented on vases and marbles with four spokes, but, as nearly as possible, resembled those now used in Europe.

The House of Ceres was evidently the dwelling of a person of consequence, and is connected, by means of the passage, or faux, on the right of the triclinium (Vide plan, Plate LX), with what may have originally been another habitation, which might have been a new acquisition, as it was evidently undergoing a repair, and receiving fresh embellishments at the moment when every thing was interrupted by the final catastrophe. This second division of the house consists only of the remains of a portico, with a large central room and two small chambers, occupying one side of a square court, in the centre of which is a fixed triclinium, or raised bench of masonry, suited to the reception of three sofas or beds, with a table in the centre.

The walls of this court or garden, or whatever it might have been, seem not to have been yet covered with plaster. The entrance is from the Street of Mercure.

On the piers of the houses near that of Ceres and Bacchus, are found several inscriptions, opposite the northern flank of the Temple of Fortune.

V. B. O. V. F.

This is in red characters. The proprietor seems to invoke the favour O. V. F. of C. Lollius Fuscus and Popidius Secundus, good men V. B., and of M. Cerrinius Veius the Aedile, worthy of the Republic, or R. D. Another has

M. G. M.

This street is much worn by carriages beyond the House of Ceres and the Temple of Fortune, and, from its direction, probably follows almost a direct line to the gate commonly called that of Nola, but which, perhaps, points more directly to Sarno, where the fine sources of the river must always have collected a population.

The arch which forms the entrance into the street, now called Via dei Mercurii, or the Street of the Mercuries, from the many repetitions of the figures of Mercury or his attributes, may be supposed, from the fragments of a column and a capital lying near it, to have been ornamented with Doric columns, and fountains which threw up water in jets, as may be imagined from the pipes yet distinguishable in the masonry. The whole was, of course, covered with marble, because every thing of the kind at Pompeii was decorated with that material. Near the arch was painted a fragment, supposed to imply Virum Amplissimum, etc

V. A. H. A.

In red is


In black

O. V. F.

A person of the name of M. Plautius Hypsaeus, who was consul in the year 125 before our aera, was, possibly, the subject of this inscription. It is always an agreeable circumstance to meet with a memorial of any person known in history.

The same name is repeated in another place : L. VERANIVM HYPSAEVM.

In this street was an inscription of the Pomarii or Fruit-sellers ; and it seems that there must have been a fraternity of almost every trade or profession. Bonucci has collected several of these, and of such as complimented the aedile or protector of their shops.


This incorrect inscription is a compliment from Photinus, a seller of tunny, to Postumius.

Marcellinum aedilem Lignarii et Plostarii rogant ut faveat. The Woodmen and Carmen invoke the favour of Marcellinus the aedile.

M. Cerrinium aed. Salinienses rog. The Saltworkers invoke the aedile Marcus Cerrinius.

A. Vettium aed. Saccarii rog. The Porters of Sacks invoke Aulus Vettius the aedile.

C. Cuspium Pansam aed. Aurifices universi rog. The Corporation of Goldsmiths invoke the aedile C. Pansa.

C. Jul. Polybium II. V. Muliones. The Muleteers salute the Duumvir Caius Julius Polybius.

Pilicrepi facite. Applaud ye who play at ball.

Fornacator Secundo aed. The Attendant on the Furnace invokes Secundus the aedile.

Paquio Duumv. I. D. Venerei. The Venerei salute the Judge Paquius the Duumvir.

After an advertisement for a venatio are the words «O Procurator felicitas». These inscriptions are copied from Bonucci, who collected them on the walls of divers edifices. There are also inscriptions of the Isiaci Universi.

In this street was the following Oscan inscription :

in which the word emens seems clear, but the remainder is nearly effaced.

It is further curious to observe, that on the great and antique stones which form the wall of the house of Bacchus and Ceres toward this street, are to be traced

M. C. V. R. DORP

cut into the blocks. The writer was D. R., worthy of the republic, but perhaps he had erected the wall at his own expense - Pecunia Sua.

Among others, is on the left


Near the arch


The O. V. F., orat ut faveat, is in a species of cipher.

The street is among the widest yet opened in the city ; and as two great roads passed through Pompeii, that called the Popidiana to Nola, and that branch of the Via Domitia which ran through Nuceria, it is not improbable that, by pursuing the excavation, the street of the Mercuries will be found to be the Via Popidiana itself. This, however, is on the supposition that the gate of Isis, now commonly called that of Nola, did not lead to that city, which does not in fact lie in that direction.

About six or seven shops occur between the arch of Caligula and the great entrance of the fullonica. Vide the Plan, Plate LX.

The court of the fullonica is forty-five feet long and twenty-two feet six inches wide. On each side were fixe piers instead of columns, which may have been united by architraves or timbers, for none remain. It seems, however, from several columns which must have fallen from above, that two ranges existed. On the north side, between the piers, is the beautiful marble mouth, of a well, prettily ornamented with triglyphs. In the portico is lying a large circular vase, or jar, which lias been broken across the centre horizontally, and is so singularly and carefully sewed together with wire of metal, that such vases must have borne a high price at Pompeii, though of the most common red clay.

There seems to have been a porter's lodge, or something equivalent, at the entry. Vide plan.

The west end of the court is entirely occupied by four large square vessels corresponding in use to what we call coppers, but built of solid masonry and lined with stucco. They are above seven feet deep, and it required a little flight of steps to enable the fuller to look into them. The water seems to have passed from one into the other in succession ; and the portico, on the north side, retains the vestiges of six or seven smaller basins, in which lighter articles have been washed, or which contained the different mixtures necessary for preparing the cloth for receiving a new colour. The ancients seem to have dyed and cleansed their garments with great tare, and to have used sulphur, and a variety of other ingredients,with fuller's earth and lime, for that purpose. A jar of lime was found in the fullonica of Pompeii.

At the east end of the court was a fountain, exhibited in plate L, one of the prettiest things of the kind yet discovered, and showing that the ancients had the art of constructing fountains in jets as we now possess it.

On the pier, seen in that view on the left, but the other side, are some curious scenes relative to the fuller's art, and given in plates LI and LII. The whole pier has, it seems, been removed to the Museum at Naples.

There are, under the southern portico, several small rooms, seemingly appropriated to the fullers themselves, and the use of the trade.

Among these, an oven, with a phallus over the mouth, is found in perfect preservation. The walls of the portico and the apartments in general are painted in a way little different from those of the best houses of Pompeii ; and the trade of the owner was probably of so lucrative a nature, that he was inferior to few of the citizens in wealth.

Vignette 20 - Commentary