The Villa of the Mysteries is a well-preserved suburban ancient Roman villa on the outskirts of Pompeii, southern Italy. It is famous for the series of exquisite frescos in one room, which are usually thought to show the initiation of a young woman into a Greco-Roman mystery cult.
Villa of the Mysteries is a well-preserved suburban ancient Roman villa on the outskirts of Pompeii
Although covered with meters of ash and other volcanic material, the Villa sustained only minor damage during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE
The villa was buried under hundreds of feet of ash and volcanic material when the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 destroyed Pompei, Herculaneum, and other nearby towns. Although covered with meters of ash and other volcanic material, the Villa sustained only minor damage during the eruption. Most of its walls, ceilings, and particularly its frescoes survived largely intact. Since its excavation, the roofing and other parts of the house have been maintained as necessary.
The Villa of the Mysteries is named after the hall of mysteries located in the residential part of the building, which faces the sea. A large continuous fresco that covers three walls, one of the most preserved ancient paintings, depicts a mysterious rite, that is reserved for the devotees of the cult. The particular cult represented here seems to be dedicated to Dionysus or Bacchus, the god of wine, fertility, and religious ecstasy.
A large continuous fresco that covers three walls depicts a mysterious rite, that is reserved for the devotees of the cult
Female figures, as well as fauns, maenads, and winged figures, are seen on the side walls, engaged in various ritual activities. Besides Dionysian ecstasy expressed in dancing and drinking wine, one sees the ritual flagellation of a young girl resting on the lap of a seated woman (bottom right). The other rooms also preserve wonderful examples of second-style wall decoration, that is with depictions of architecture.
The villa also includes an area intended for the production of wine with a rebuilt wooden press. The complex dates back to the 2nd century BC but was given its current shape in 80-70 BC, which is the same period of the frieze of the mysteries.