The exterior of a Roman house, normally quite close to the street, was relatively plain. Entering through the front door, one saw a long, narrow hallway leading from the front door into the atrium; this was the vestibulum, also called fauces (“throat”). The rooms on either side had separate doorways opening into the street and did not communicate with the rest of the house. Some doorways were adorned with wall paintings; a particularly noticeable one, at the entrance to the house of wealthy merchants named Vettii in Pompeii, depicted the fertility god Priapus graphically demonstrating the value of the abundance within. The floor of the vestibulum often contained mosaics with a message for the visitor, such as “Greetings” or “Welcome Money,” though some warned would-be thieves to “Beware of the Dog” or depicted a watchdog like this one that would protect the family from unwelcome visitors.

watchdog mosaic

Barbara F. McManus
revised February, 2007
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