Villa Rustica
The following is extracted from-


by August Mau
German Archaeological Institute in Rome

Translated into English
by Francis W. Kelsey
University of Michigan

New York
The Macmillian Company
London: Macmillian & Co., Ltd.


Less than two miles north of Pompeii, near the village of Boscoreale, a farmhouse was excavated in I893-94 on the property of Vincenzo de Prisco. In the last century similar buildings were brought to light in the vicinity of Castellammare, but they were covered up again. Especial importance attaches to this villa rustica, both on account of the extreme rarity of examples of the type and because of the character of the remains, which makes it possible to determine the arrangements with certainty.

The living rooms, the stable, and the rooms used for the making of wine and oil were all under one roof. The size of the building is not so great as might have been assumed from the variety of purposes which it served; the enclosed area, exclusive oi the threshing floor, measures about 125 by 80 feet. The plan (Plan IV) is regular, the principal entrance being near the middle of the southwest side.

The entrance was wide enough for carts and wagons, which were kept in the court (A). Along three sides of the court ran a colonnade, over which at the front were upper rooms; the roof on the left side and the rear rested on columns connected
by a parapet. Under the Colonnade at the further corner is a cistern curb (1), on one side of which is a large wash basin of masonry (2); on the other is a pillar supporting a small reservoir of lead (3). The reservoir, reached by means of steps (4), was filled from the cistern.

In a Roman farmhouse the kitchen was the large, central room. Vitruvius recommends that it be placed on the warmest side of the court; and in our villa rustica it lies at the north corner (B) where, in winter, it would receive the full benefit of the sunshine. The hearth (1), on which remains of fire were found, stands in the middle of the room; in the wall at one side is a niche, ornamented to resemble the facade of a diminutive temple, in which were placed the images of the
household gods.

A large door in the right wall of the kitchen opened into the stable (H). Near it was a stairway (3) leading to upper rooms; in the corner was a pit (4) affording access to a small cellar in which the standard of the press beam in the adjoining room (P, 4) was made fast. In the opposite corner was a reservoir of lead (2) standing on a foundation of masonry; it received water from the reservoir in the court (A, 3) and supplied the bath. On the same side of the room is the entrance to the bath and to the closet (G).

The arrangements of this bath are in a better state of preservation than those of any other Roman bath yet discovered; the tank and reservoir with the connecting pipes may now be seen at Pompeii in the little Museum near the Forum fitted up for the exhibition of the objects found in this villa. The bath rooms comprised an apodytcrium (D),a tepidarium (E), and a caldarium (F) with a bath basin at one end and a labrum in a semi-circular recess at the other. The bath was heated from a small furnace room (C). Over the hot air flue leading from the furnace into the hollow space under the floor of the caldarium was a water heater in the form of a half cylinder similar to the one found in the Stabian Baths. The tepidarium, as well as the caldarium, had a hollow floor and walls.

Over the furnace stood a round lead tank, the lower part of which was encased in masonry; the pipes connecting it with the reservoir in the corner of the kitchen and with the bath rooms were found in place. The middle pipe supplied the tank with cold water; the flow could be regulated by means of a stopcock. The lower pipe started from the reservoir, but before reaching the tank was divided, the left arm leading into the tank, the other into the bath basin. As there were stopcocks in the main pipe and in the arm entering the tank, by adjusting these the bath basin could be supplied with either hot or cold water through a single pipe.
The upper pipe was divided in the same way, one arm leading to the labrum. In the public baths there was a separate tank for lukewarm water 1 here a moderate temperature was obtained by mixing hot and cold water.

At the bottom of the tank is a short bibcock used when the water was drawn off. On the side of the reservoir we see the end of the feed pipe leading from the reservoir in the court; at the right is a supply pipe which probably led to a cold bath.

On the same side of the court with the kitchen and the bath is a tool room (J), in which were found remains of tools; several sickles were hanging on the walls. Next are two sleeping rooms (K, L), the latter being perhaps the bedroom of the overseer, which, according to Varro, should be near the entrance. A short passage between these rooms leads to the bakery, with a single mill (1) and an oven (2). The large apartment in the corner (N) is a dining room, which is separated from the court by an anteroom (M).

The oblong room at the southeast side of the court contained appliances for making wine. At each end was a large press (1) with a raised floor. The presses were operated on the same principle as that previously described, and though the woodwork has perished, it is easy to understand the arrangements from the depressions in which the posts were set.

At the rear of each press was a strong standard (4, 4), to which the inner end of the heavy press beam was attached. In front stood two posts (5-5), to which were fitted the ends of a horizontal windlass. By means of a pulley and a rope passed around the windlass, the outer end of the press beam could be raised or lowered. When it was lowered in order to increase the pressure on the grapes, the standard to which the inner end was attached would be pulled out of the ground unless firmly braced. Under the rear of each press Was a small cellar, in which was placed a framework for holding the standard in place. One was entered from a pit in the corner of the kitchen (B, 4),the other from a similar depression in a small separate room (W).

The grape juice ran into round vats (2, 2)sunk in the ground. In front of the first press are two, in front of the second only one; an oblong basin of masonry at one corner (3) here takes the place of the other round vat. The oblong vat could be filled also from the first press by means of a lead pipe under the floor.
The round vats were for the pure juice of the first pressing. Into the other Was conducted the less copious product of the second pressing; the remains of the grapes, after the juice had ceased to flow, were drenched with water and again subjected to pressure.

In Pliny‘s “Natural History " (xiv. I36) we read that in Campania the best wine underwent fermentation in the open air exposed to sun, rain, and wind. This villa supplies an interesting confirmation of the statement; the round fermentation vats
Fill a large court (R), the walls of which are pierced with openings in order to give readier access to the wind. Along one side runs a channel of masonry about three feet above the ground, protected by a narrow roof; thence the grape juice was distributed to the vats. During the vintage season, the inner end of the channel was connected with the press room by means of a temporary pipe or channel entering the wall above the oblong basin (P, 3).

The surface of this court is higher than that of the rest of the building; instead of excavating in order to set the large earthen vats in the ground, the proprietor filled in with earth around them. In one corner is a lead kettle (3) with a place for building a fire underneath; perhaps wine was heated in it. The vats in the court seem not to have been used exclusively for wine. In one were found remains of wheat, in another of millet. Other vats stood in the passageway on the side of the court (Q, 1).

Three of the small rooms toward the rear were sleeping rooms (V—V). In another (X) was found a hand mill. At the end of the passageway was a double room containing the appliances for making oil, a press (in Y) and a crusher (in Z). The press was like the wine press described above, only much smaller, with a raised floor(1), a standard for the press beam (2), a pit for bracing the standard of the press beam (3), two posts at the ends of the windlass (4, 4), a pit from which a crosspiece connecting these posts could be reached, and a vat (6) at one side for receiving the oil. This vat, for some reason not understood, was divided into two parts by a partition in the middle.

The olive crusher, trapetum, now in the Museum at Pompeii mentioned above. Was designed to separate the pulp of the olives from the stones, which were thought to impair the flavor of the oil. It consists of a deep circular basin of lava, so hollowed out as to leave in the centre a strong standard of the stone, miliarum. In the top of this standard was set an iron pin, on which was fitted a revolving wooden crosspiece. This carried two wheels of lava. having the shape of half a lens, which traveled in the basin. The wheels were carefully balanced so that they would not press against the side of the basin and crush the stones of the olives.

In the long room S remains of bean straw and parts of a wagon were found, but the purpose of the room is not indicated. South of it is the threshing floor (T), the surface of which is raised above the ground and covered with Signia pavement.
The water that fell upon the threshing floor was conducted to a small open cistern (L\'). As the establishment was not connected with an aqueduct, rain water was carefully saved.

For at least a part of the year the proprietor of the villa probably lived in it. So elaborate a bath would not have been built for the use of slaves, and in the second story was a modest but comfortable series of apartments, apparently designed for the master\'s use. In the farmhouses in the vicinity of Rome and Naples today rooms over the domestic apartments or the quarters of the tenant are frequently reserved for the use of the owner.

In a place where such a find would least have been anticipated — the oblong vat in the room of the wine presses — was made one of the most remarkable discoveries of treasure in modern times. Here a man had taken refuge, and with his skeleton were found, besides more than a thousand gold coins, six gold bracelets. a gold chain nearly thirty inches long, and the beautiful silver table service afterwards presented by Baron Rothschild to the Louvre. We can hardly believe that so costly
a set of silverware was used in this farmhouse. More likely it belonged in a wealthy country seat nearer the mountain; the man who had fled with it, when unable to go further, sought shelter here.
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