House of the Faun

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House of the Faun
Casa del Fauno
House of the Faun (Pompeii).jpg
Front view of the house
General information
LocationPompeii, Roman Empire
Construction started180 BC
The "HAVE" Mosaic (spelling variant of Ave)
Copy of the Dancing Faun

The House of the Faun (Italian: Casa del Fauno), constructed in the 2nd century BCE during the Samnite period (80 BC),[1] was a grand Hellenistic palace that was framed by peristyle in Pompeii, Italy. The historical significance in this impressive estate is found in the many great pieces of art that were well preserved from the ash of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It is one of the most luxurious aristocratic houses from the Roman republic, and reflects this period better than most archaeological evidence found even in Rome itself.[2]


The House of the Faun, along with the House of Pansa, and the House of the Silver Wedding, among others, represent the higher class of the Roman houses of the republic.[3] When after 170 years after its excavation, the craftsmanship and quality of materials have been found to be exceptional, even amongst the other noble houses in Pompeii.[3] There is evidence, most notably in the eastern walls of the tetrastyle atrium, that after the great earthquake in AD 62, the House of the Faun was rebuilt and repaired, as revealed by excavation beneath the floor of the house;[3] yet, the building was only used again until AD 79, when it was ultimately rendered unusable by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Although the eruption was devastating, the layers of ash covering the city preserved artworks, like the mosaics of the House of the Faun, which would have otherwise been likely destroyed or severely decayed due to the passage of time.

The bronze statue of a dancing faun is what the House of the Faun is named after. In the centre of the atrium there is a white limestone impluvium, a basin for collecting water; the statue is located inside the impluvium, as seen in the adjacent picture. The original statue is currently located in the National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) in Naples, thus the statue seen in the house’s ruins today is a copy.[4] Fauns are spirits of untamed woodland; they are typically depicted as half human and half goat. Literate and Hellenized Romans often connected their depictions of fauns with Pan and Greek satyrs, who were the wild followers of the Greek god of wine and drama, Dionysus. It is purely a decorative sculpture of high order: "the pose is light and graceful," Sir Kenneth Clark observed.[5]

Archaeologists discovered an inscription bearing the cognomen Saturninus, suggesting that the dwelling was owned by the important gens, or clan, Satria; a ring bearing the family name Cassius was also found, indicating that someone of the Cassii family married into the gens Satria and lived in the House of the Faun.[6]

The House of the Faun was initially excavated in 1830 by the German archeological institute.

5 bodies were found in the house including one woman and 3 boys.[7]


The Alexander Mosaic

The most notable of the artworks found in the House of the Faun is the Alexander Mosaic; a reconstructed version of the mosaic can be seen today, but it was originally removed from the floor where it was found and placed in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.[8] In the 1830s when it was first discovered, the mosaic was thought to represent a battle scene depicted in the Iliad, but architectural historians have found the mosaic actually depicts the Battle of Issus in 333 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia, which took place about 150 years before the House of the Faun was constructed.[9] This mosaic may be inspired by or copied from a Greek painting finished in the late fourth century BC,[2] probably by the artist Philoxenus of Eretria.[10] Unlike most Pompeian pavements of the late second and early first centuries, this mosaic is made of tesserae, and not the more common opus signinum, or other kinds of stone chips set in mortar.[11]

The Alexander Mosaic is complemented by other floor mosaics with Nilotic scenes and theatrical masks.[2] Other notable works of art from the House of Faun include an erotic Satyr and Nymph and the fish mosaic, a piece closely resembling other mosaics in Pompeii.[2]


Building Plan of the House of the Faun
Building Plan

The House of the Faun was the largest and most expensive residence found in Pompeii, and today it is one of the most visited of the ruins. The house occupies an entire city block or insula, and the interior covers about 3,000 square meters, which is nearly 32,300 square feet.[12] The house is based upon two magnificent colonnaded gardens or peristyles, one Ionic and the other Doric. It also has two atriums, the Tuscan and the peristyle atrium.[3] The focus of the decoration of the house, the Alexander mosaic, is placed on the central visual axis between the first and second peristyles, in a room referred to as an exedra. Mosaics on the floors of the peristyles evoke the flora and fauna of the Nile. The wall frescoes above these pavements are the largest surviving example of the false marble panelling characteristic of the First Pompeian Style.

Like many ancient Roman houses, the House of the Faun had tabernae, or storefront shops, and a highly sophisticated building plan, which details the many rooms. The entryway of the House of the Faun is decorated by red and white stone that read out the Latin message “HAVE”, which can be translated to “Hail to you!”.[13] The fact that this mosaic is not in the local languages, Oscan and Samnian, has caused debate between historians on whether it was put into place before the Roman colonization of Pompeii in 80 BCE or if the owners were inspired Latin glory.[14]

Like other wealthy aristocrats of the Roman Republic, the owners of the House of the Faun installed a private bath system, or balneum, in the house. The baths were located in the domestic wing to the right of the entrance, and along with the kitchen was heated by a large furnace.[3] The servants’ quarters were dark and cramped, and there was not much furniture.[15] The house features beautiful peristyle gardens, the second of which was created as a stage to host recitations, mimes, and pantomimes. Additionally, the house contained an entrance passage, a number of bedrooms (cubicula), dining rooms (triclinia) for both the summer and winter, a reception room (oecus), and an office (tablinum).[3]


In the present day, visitors can still explore the remains of the House of the Faun in modern Pompeii, along Via di Nola. Although most of the original artworks have been relocated to the National Archaeological Museum, Naples, the most famous pieces, like the Dancing Faun and the Alexander Mosaic, have been recreated to give tourists a clearer picture of what the house was originally like.[16] Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, one of Pompeii's past archaeological superintendents, explained, “I want visitors to have the impression that they are entering the same luxurious house in which the ancient Pompeian owners lived before it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.”[16]



  1. ^ Cambridge Ancient History. [New] ed. London: Cambridge University Press, 1970.
  2. ^ a b c d Grant, Michael; Kitzinger, Rachel (1988). Civilization of the ancient Mediterranean: Greece and Rome. New York: Scribner's. ISBN 0-684-17594-0.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dwyer, Eugene J. (2001). "The Unified Plan of the House of the Faun". Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 60 (3): 328–343. doi:10.2307/991759. JSTOR 991759.
  4. ^ Donovan, Matt (2012). "House of the Faun, Pompeii". Agni (76): 26–33. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  5. ^ Clark, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form 1956:263 (illustrated fig. 145).
  6. ^ Gordon, Mary L. (1927). "The Ordo of Pompeii". Journal of Roman Studies. 17: 165–183. doi:10.2307/296132. JSTOR 296132.
  7. ^ G. Luongo et al. / Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 126 (2003) p195
  8. ^ Hirst, K. "House of the Faun at Pompeii - Pompeii's Richest Residence". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  9. ^ Hirst, K. "House of the Faun at Pompeii - Pompeii's Richest Residence". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  10. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History xxxv. 10.36§ 22.
  11. ^ Westgate, Ruth (2000). "Pavimenta Atque Emblemata Vermiculata: Regional Styles in Hellenistic Mosaic and the First Mosaics At Pompeii". American Journal of Archaeology. 104 (2): 255–275. doi:10.2307/507451. JSTOR 507451. S2CID 194101486.
  12. ^ Hirst
  13. ^ "Perseus Digital Library".
  14. ^ Hirst, K. "House of the Faun at Pompeii - Pompeii's Richest Residence". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  15. ^ Stillwell, Richard; MacDonald, William Lloyd; McAllister, Marian Holland (1976). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691035420.
  16. ^ a b Merola, Marco (2006). "Alexander, Piece by Piece". Archaeology. 59 (1).

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Coordinates: 40°45′4.5″N 14°29′4.5″E / 40.751250°N 14.484583°E / 40.751250; 14.484583