Blogging from A to Z: Z is for Zeus Meilichios, Temple of

Altar and cella, Temple of Zeus Meilichios. Istvánka / CC BY-SA (

Hi, everyone. Can you believe it? It’s the last day of the 2020 A to Z Challenge. I’ll do a summary post in a couple of days.

This is another building that was closed when I visited. The temple is the smallest at Pompeii, and may be found adjacent to the Temple of Isis and the theatre complex (which includes the Quadriportico). There is some argument over whether it was dedicated to Zeus/Jupiter or Aesculapius/Asclepius, based on some statuary found there and now housed in the Naples Archaeological Museum.

Zeus Meilichios is what’s referred to as an epithet: a second name based on a particular aspect of the deity. That aspect might be regional, such as Venus Pompeiia, or about some part of their personality. In this case, the epithet literally translates to “sweet as honey,” so it refers to a god who is easy to approach with needs and who is likely to listen to one’s prayers.

Blogging from A to Z: Y is for Young Bull, House of the

Atrium, House of the Young Bull. Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany / CC BY-SA (

Hi, everyone. Today, we’re going to look at the House of the Young Bull. This house was not open when I visited Pompeii, so I’m going to have to “wing it” a bit from other sources.

Unknown. Statuette of a Bull, 25 B.C. – A.D. 79, Silver with gilding.
14 × 4.5 × 14.2 cm (5 1/2 × 1 3/4 × 5 9/16 in.), 2001.7
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California

The house gets its name from a statue that was on the plinth you see next to the atrium. That statue now lives in the Getty Collection, which graciously permits bloggers to use its images under their Open Content Program.

Unlike many of the houses in Pompeii, we know that this one belonged to L. Pontius Saxesus; a seal with his name on it was found near the main entrance.

The house was originally excavated in 1836, but that project was abandoned. Unfortunately, the many frescoes were lost as a result; no efforts had been taken to preserve them.

This was what we now call a Hellenized home, with a peristyle garden and other Greek architectural influences. What wall art does remain seems to have been in the so-called First Style, in which stucco was painted to represented various types of marble.


Blogging from A to Z: X is for Decem

Clock with Roman numerals, Bad Salzdefurth, Germany. JuergenG / CC BY-SA (

I know, I know. You’re sitting there thinking “How does that even work? Decem starts with a d, not an x.” Well, I’ll tell you.

Today we’re going to have a little Latin lesson, with the numbers 1-10. Chart, below, via Transparent Language.

As you reach number seven, you may notice that the Latin looks kind of familiar. That’s because September, October, November, and December were months seven through 10 in the ancient Roman year. The Roman numeral for 10, X, is decem.

As an aside, I learned to tell time on a clock face with Roman numerals, which hung in our living room. That’s why I included a clock on this post.

1 I ūnus
2 II duo
3 III trēs
4 IV quattuor
5 V quīnque
6 VI sex
7 VII septem
8 VIII octō
9 IX novem
10 X decem

Blogging from A to Z: W is for Wine

Andante Travels archaeological guide Daniela Mantice discussing early Pompeiian vinoculture outside the on-site vineyard.

Hi, everyone. We’re in the proverbial home stretch on this year’s A-to-Z challenge. Can you believe it?

Pompeii was famous for its wines. The volcanic soil was good for the grapevines, and the resulting beverage was widely renowned. Wine wasn’t the same in the early 1st century CE as what we drink today. It was nearly as thick as honey, and was usually diluted with wine or vinegar (think sweet balsamic, not the tart kind). Some people put spices and peppercorns in the wine as well, much the way it is mulled at the holidays.

Archaeobotanists have used plaster casts of grapevine roots found during excavations to figure out, as nearly as possible, what grape varietals were used in Pompeii to make the wine. There is a vineyard on-site, under high security, to grow those grapes and make wine from them. Whether or not it’s drinkable, per the modern palate, is a matter for debate … but it’s been done. You can learn more about it here.

Modern Pompei also has its vineyards, and the local wines are quite lovely. If you ever get a chance to visit (and you like wine), you might give them a try.

(Photo by the author.)

Blogging from A to Z: V is for Villa of Mysteries

Just outside the city walls of Pompeii, if you exit via what is now called the Herculaneum gate, lies a construction that archaeologists have deemed the Villa of Mysteries. While it was buried in ash, the villa sustained very little damage when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. The owner of the sprawling suburban villa is unknown, but a statue of Livia (the wife of Augustus, the first emperor) has led to speculation that it belonged to her.

The house is made of stucco-faced concrete, as evidenced by the curved vaulting and opus reticulatum construction; in some places you can see where the stucco has fallen away and the regularly formed bricks inserted into concrete are visible. The house has a barrel vault that goes all the way around the bottom, and lifts it up for what would have been spectacular views of the sea. (The original name of the Herculaneum gate was Porta Saliensis, which meant it was the gateway to the sea.) The shoreline was much closer in 79 CE than it is today.

The house gets its moniker from a series of paintings in what was either a triclinium (dining room) or a very large bedroom; they appear to depict the complete cycle o a woman being initiated into a Dionysian mystery cult.

(Photos by the author.)