Roman House & Garden, 79 AD: Classical Interior Design

Fig. 1. Pompeii atrium reconstruction, House of the Vettii, Boboli Gardens, Florence, 2007 (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

If I weren’t only eight years old during the seven-month run of Ancient Gardens from Babylon to Rome: Science, Art and Nature in the Florentine Boboli Gardens in 2007, I probably would have bought a plane ticket just to see it. The reconstruction of the Pompeian house of the Vettii family caught my eye – a peristyle atrium and an almost modernist quad garden, planted with oxeye daisies and polyantha roses (Fig. 1). In envisaging the domestic lives of the ancient Greeks, we have very little go on – the sad state of ancient interior decor evidence can be blamed on the materials early civilisations favoured; maple, oak, willow, cedar, cypress, lime, and olive, all of which struggle to survive millennia. However, ancient Greek pot painting gives us a little illustrated inkling into furniture. The brilliant Andokides and Lysippides bilingual amphora, with one side red-figure and the other black, shows Hercules recumbent on a klinē, a couch-like seat used as early as the seventh century BC, enjoying grapes and wine (Fig. 2). The klinē legs, lightly decorated on the red-figure side with abstr