Painting of a scene around the River Nile in Egypt, found in Casa dell'Efebo

Archaeologists Discover Paintings of Ancient Egypt in a 2,000-Year-Old Villa in Pompeii


A team of archaeologists have discovered impressive paintings of Ancient Egypt in a Roman villa in Pompeii. The portraits clearly show the vast influence the Egyptian culture had in early Roman society. Experts speculate that some of the paintings could possibly underscore an early form of Globalization.

Drawings Show Strong Egyptian Influence on Early Rome

Daily Mail reports that paintings portraying the River Nile were found in a beautiful garden in a luxurious ancient villa in Pompeii. Experts are optimistic that these paintings will reveal a lot of secrets on how the early Roman Empire was influenced by ancient Egypt.

Complex drawings from Casa dell'Efebo – one of the largest households in the city before it was severely damaged during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 – present a series of Nilotic murals with hippopotamuses, crocodiles, lotuses and short-statured men battling with vicious beasts.

Painting of a short-statured man fighting a beast (CC by SA 3.0)

Caitlin Barrett from the department of Classics at Cornell University claimed that the drawings give the house a cosmopolitan touch and outlines how the Romans were influenced by the ancient Egyptian culture such as religion. “The paintings from the Casa dell'Efebo were created after Egypt was incorporated into the Roman Empire, but several generations after Augustus' initial conquest of Egypt. Some researchers have turned to explanations emphasizing religion: maybe paintings of Egyptian landscapes have to do with an interest in Egyptian gods,” she told IBTimes of UK. And added, “Others have interpreted these paintings as political statements: maybe this is about celebrating the conquest of Egypt. I suggest that instead of trying to apply a one-size-fits-all explanation, we should look at context and individual choices.”

Sexual Activity is Present Regardless the Political and Cultural Focus of the Paintings

It’s no secret that Pompeii was famous for its intense sexual life and wild parties. As a result of this lifestyle, many paintings discovered from that era are extremely graphic, including strong doses of excessive sexual content. Let’s not forget that when the city was rediscovered in 1599, the city became buried again (thanks to censorship) for nearly another 150 years before the king of Naples, Charles of Bourbon, ordered the proper excavation of the site during the late 1740s. As DHWTY reports in a previous Ancient Origins article, despite the erotic nature of these images, it has been suggested that they were merely an idealized version of sex. Thus, it has been postulated that the lives of the prostitutes at the most famed bordello in Pompeii, Lupanare, was far grimmer than the erotic images suggest. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the main theme of the recently discovered paintings is sex and alcohol consumption.

A fresco found within one of Pompeii’s brothels.

A fresco found within one of Pompeii’s brothels. Source: BigStockPhoto

Paintings Could Underscore a Form of Globalization

Despite the obvious themes of the paintings, Barrett also argues that they could underscore how the Romans interacted with the outside world; thus a form of globalization. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Archaeology, appears to share its views with Barrett’s suggestions and also proclaims that artifacts discovered around the garden of the household and the building’s elaborate architecture such as water installations mimic the diverse nature of the Roman Empire. Barrett stated as Daily Mail reports, “In this particular assemblage, rather than solely trying to make some kind of statement about Isiac rituals or Roman politics, the owner of this house seems to be asserting a cosmopolitan identity as a citizen of the Empire. In Pompeian houses at this time, when people are representing faraway lands in domestic art, they are also trying to figure out what it means to them to be participants in the Roman Empire.”

Representations of sexual activity, music and alcohol consumption are often central to these paintings

Representations of sexual activity, music and alcohol consumption are often central to these paintings (CC by SA 3.0)

The study adds that the paintings of the Nile in the Pompeian villa provided its owners with a unique chance to come in contact with shifting local and imperial Roman identities and to reproduce a microcosm of the world they lived in, “People sometimes imagine phenomena like globalization to be creations of the modern world. In fact, if you look at the Roman Empire there are lots of parallels for some of the cross-cultural interactions that are also very much part of our own contemporary world” the researcher of the study concludes at the end.

Top image: Painting of a scene around the River Nile in Egypt, found in Casa dell'Efebo (CC by SA 4.0)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Comments

Really?  What an incredulous leap I have lethograghs of French villas in my house. Maybe I'm a latent globalist.  What an ackward concept added to an otherwise interesting subject. 

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