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Collezione Pompei
The Villa of the Mysteries, fresco

The archaeological site of the Pompeii excavations, not far from the Gulf of Naples, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Pompeii, once a thriving Roman city, was covered by about six meters of ash and pumice during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

The house, consisting of about 70 rooms, is located just outside the walls of the ancient city (about 800 meters from Porta Ercolano). It is a suburban villa dating back to the Roman era (built in the 2nd century BC), probably belonging to the Istacidii family, among the most influential in Pompeii during the Augustan age. It is certainly one of the most visited buildings in the Archaeological Park of the Pompeii excavations and is named after the beautiful cycle of well-preserved frescoes in the triclinium inside, depicting Dionysian mystery rites, i.e. the mystery cult of Dionysus, the god of wine.

The frescoes could represent the preparation of a bride for her wedding or perhaps the initiation of a young girl into the mystery rites of the god Dionysus. They are life-size and with a technique inspired by Greek painting: among the scenes, we see a woman arranging her hair with cupids holding mirrors, a matron presiding over the rite, a priestess pouring wine onto a myrtle branch, a satyr (an old rustic god of wine) playing the lyre, a satyress nursing a kid accompanied by a satyr playing the flute. In one scene, the barefooted young woman uncovers the phallus of the god Dionysus, a symbol of fertility. There is also a flagellation represented, and finally, a dance accompanied by cymbals.

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