Friday, 28 May 2010

Houses of Julius Polybius and the Chaste Lovers

The two houses that form the focus of the Commissioner's new "Pompei Viva" campaign will be open on a regular basis to visits from 1 June it has been announced. More info here.

Perhaps blog contributers would like to discuss the houses if they've visited them - they are certainly causing a lot of debate both positive and negative. Anyone had the chance to visit yet on one of the pre-opening events? If no one wants to comment, I'll feel obliged to get the ball rolling myself:) - after all you all said on the survey that you'd like more discussion....


Jackie and Bob at pompeiiinpictures said...

This month we have added new photos and plans to the House of the Chaste Lovers and the Painters at Work. As it was open briefly, with a limited number of places by telephone appointment, we went in twice during April. Rick Bauer came with us.

It was interesting to compare our 2006, 2009 and now 2010 photos of the house. One interesting part was the lack of a wall on the west side of (our) room 1. Was this the wall that collapsed because of all the rain? It looked like it was being rebuilt, so presumably in the future, one will assume this was the original wall. In a recent lecture by Mary Beard she finished by quoting an early 18th century opinion ………… that all of Pompeii was, in fact, false, and built in secrecy in the 18th century, this being the reason why access was totally restricted!!

The highlight of the visit to the House of the Chaste Lovers for Jackie, was to see the beautiful peristyle columns appearing from the lapilli, at the rear of insula IX.11, possibly IX.11.7, the House of Cornelius Maximus? The aerial viewing of the House of the Pictors (whoops sorry, Painters) at Work part of the tour was excellent as it gave people the chance to see various stages of excavations that had been carried out, in a way that would not have been allowed, for safety reasons at ground level.

The tour of the House of the Chaste Lovers was split into Italian or English groups, so you needed to be sure you booked on the right one. We made sure we booked on to the english tour. The first time included many Italians who then expected the guide to translate everything for them, effectively having to do her job twice. This delayed the tour and at the very end it had to be cut short because the next tour was ready to come in. We were all hurried out by a very rude and aggressive man. The second time we went, again half the tour only spoke Italian, and this time the guide told them she could not translate for them - so they left. There were three TVs with video presentations with the history of the house and the excavations and these were what needed translating.

Unfortunately many of the rooms were cordoned off, and surely with only 25 people maximum on a tour, with a custodian and a tour leader watching all the time, it would not have been too much to be able to go into these rooms. One of these rooms was the famous one with the banqueting pictures, surely what people had come to see? Our biggest disappointment was not being able to go into the kitchen to see the lararium painting. It is on the same side wall as the roped off doorway and also directly underneath the walkway so either way you cannot see it. Our polite request to be allowed to take just one photo was very gruffly refused.

The House of Julius Polybius had the guide explaining and answering questions, until we came to a room where Julius Polybius, in person, welcomed us to his house. A least the hologram did. This was delivered by a finely spoken male voice, in perfect English, but went on too long and lost the interest of the group, especially the children. Worse was to come. In another room the daughter of Julius Polybius arose from the dead and proceeded to tell us about what had happened to her, at great length and in Italian. She took a lot longer to die than would have been the case in 79AD. Despite these shortcomings, the House is another excellent choice for opening to the public.

One problem that was evident while we were there was that the houses were only open by appointment, by telephoning a specific number. Many people only visit Pompeii for one day and would not be aware of this beforehand. While we were there, a steady stream of people were hoping to get in and were having to be turned away as a result. This telephone number has been supplemented by a web booking facility, though it would be nice to be able to book at one of the site ticket offices on the day. We have no objection to paying extra if it allowed the public the chance to see more houses that would normally be closed, if they wished.

Jo Berry said...

I've not visited yet this year, but I'm interested in your photos from different years - have you noticed any deterioration of the wall-paintings and/or general conservation?

I have to say too that I'm not overly impressed by the fact that visitors have to pay extra to see these houses. Then again, at least now they can be seen ...

Jackie and Bob at pompeiiinpictures said...

1. General conservation in these two houses is improved. Julius Polybius, for example, had green mould growing on some walls and paintings see This has now gone.

2. The general impression however is of sanitisation and sterilisation.

3. Estelle Lazer in her excellent book resurrecting Pompeii suggests that there are two Pompeiis - one for the archaeologists and one for the tourists. It looks like the tourists (money, money, money) are winning.

Jackie and Bob

Rick Bauer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Bauer said...

Hi everyone,

In early June, Pompeii re-opened the House of the Chaste Lovers and the House of Julius Polybius as a special event along the "friendly pompeii" tour route. At the ticket counters, they are now offering supplemental tickets to view each place, for an additional charge.

All the best from Bella Napoli,


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