The Samnite House of Herculaneum



The Samnite House (Casa Samnitica) is one of the older homes in Herculaneum – at the time of the eruption it was about 300 years old.

The house originally occupied all of the southern part of Insula V and included a three sided peristyle, perhaps with a hortus, which once stood on the site of the later House of the Great Portal.


After the earthquake in 62 AD, the rooms on the upper floor were separated from the house and rented out, creating an indipendent entrance.

The lovely view frames the portal topped by tufa capitals supporting the wooden architrave: the entrance is decorated in the first style, with a coffered second style ceiling.


The atrium has a gallery with Ionic columns closed off with a stucco lined tracery screen on three sides while it is left open to the east.


The floor is signinum opus dotted with white tiles, while that of the tablinum is adorned with a rosette of diamond shapes centered around a round copper tile.

To the right of the entrance is a cubiculum with a green monochrome fresco, decorated with architectural motifs, hangings and, in the centre, a small panel illustrating the Rape of Europa. The room has a red and white mosaic floor and is lit by a small window in its south wall.


In the middle of the north side of the atrium a doorway opens onto a small room which gave access to the service area and to the upper floor by way of  a steep staircase.

At the rear off the atrium, the tablinum is, like the atrium, decorated in the fourth style. The floor of the tablinum is decorated in black and white mosaic with a rosette of diamond shapes around a round copper tile.


A corridor on the south side of the tablinum once led to the peristyle area at the back of the house, which consisted of a colonnade and inner court.



The elegant decoration of the ground floor is in stark contrast to that found on the upper floor which is entered at door.


Amongst the objects found during the excavation there are a mutilated statuette of Venus putting on her sandal, several fragments of wooden feet from table-legs carved in the form of a dog running, and among the comestibles, a basin full of small cakes.