This is only tangentially related to cats, but 1) It’s awesome, 2) It represents one of the best surviving examples of Roman home life, and 3) Cats invited themselves to the party.
The AP has a story and an extensive photo gallery of what it calls “newly restored remains of an opulent house in Pompeii that likely belonged to two former slaves who became rich through the wine trade offer visitors an exceptional peek at details of domestic life in the doomed Roman city.”
The House of Vettii was known as Domus Vettiorum in Latin and its owners, Aulus Vettius Conviva and Aulus Vettius Restitutus, were freed slaves who used their knowledge of wine — probably gleaned from their former dominus — to launch a successful business which propelled them to the economic heights of Roman society.
And who do we have there in slide number 16 of the photo gallery? A tabby cat, checking out the restored lararium, a nook where Romans would venerate their “household gods.”
The Vettii spared no expense when it came to hiring the best craftsmen and artists to lavishly decorate their home, covering the walls with scenes from Greek and Roman mythology. It took 20 years to restore the domus to much of its former glory
“They evidently tried to show their new status also through culture and through Greek mythological paintings, and it’s all about saying, ‘We’ve made it and so we are part of this elite’” of the Roman world, said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, a German archeologist who is now the director of the Pompeii archaeological park.
Looking at the restored home, it’s clear shows like HBO’s Rome and Starz’ Spartacus did a good job of portraying what Roman houses looked like on the inside, and how individual rooms were used by the people who lived in the homes as well as their servants:
We tend to think of ancient Greek and Roman buildings as monochrome since the paint has long worn off most structures, but the unique circumstances of Pompeii allowed some homes and other structures to remain largely preserved under volcanic debris since 79 AD.
Here’s a scene from Rome showing the interior of Servilia’s home, giving us an idea of how a wealthy Roman’s house would have looked in contemporary times: