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Fanny Kärfve, Greeting the visitor in Pompeii. Roman fauces mosaics contextualised

To the modern day visitor in Pompeii, the mosaic Cave canem (Beware of the dog) is probably one of the site’s best-known pieces of art. Situated in the entry hall, fauces, to a private atrium house, this mosaic illustrates well the problematic dual role of this particular source material: Pompeian fauces mosaics. On the one hand, the Cave canem mosaic is being treated almost as a unique expression of the Roman culture whereas the town’s remaining fauces mosaics are more or less left into oblivion. On the other, scholarly tradition tends to portray the Pompeian fauces as a space commonly decorated with a mosaic floor.

In my doctoral thesis, Greeting the visitor in Pompeii. Roman fauces mosaics contextualised, my aim is to nuance the view on the mosaic decorated fauces, as expressed in the two thousand years old town of Pompeii. The material consists of some thirty fauces mosaics, the majority still to be seen in situ in some of the several hundred atrium houses. My principal concern deals with the question of a potential individual voice (i.e. the house owners’ through the mosaics), which may be communicating in this transitional space in the midst of private and public domains.

By studying the mosaic iconography (figurative, ornamental as well as epigraphic), and the locations and dimensions of the atrium houses within Pompeii, the purpose is highlighting the fauces mosaics as one coherent source group, both chronologically and geographically. The ambition is to provide deeper insights into the Roman attitudes concerning their private homes and interaction with the outside community.

Fanny Kärfve
Doctoral student, Ancient history and classical archaeology
Lund University
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