Sunday, 25 September 2011

Oplontis – the Villa Poppea

Villa Poppea

The Villa Poppea at Torre Annunziata (Roman Oplontis) is an astonishing villa in terms of the quality of its frescoes and its size. It was thought to have been owned by the second wife of Nero - Poppaea Sabina. She was his mistress and later became his 2nd wife. In 65AD when she was pregnant, he kicked her in the stomach and she died.Beryllos Slave of Nero  

This deduction stems from some graffiti scratched in wet plaster which says “Mnesthei Beryllos” meaning “Be Beryllos Remembered” (or remember Beryllos). Beryllos was the name of Nero’s secretary.

It was uninhabited at the time of the eruption as was possibly under repair from the 62AD earthquake – this being deduced from the fact that little furniture but a lot of building materials were found there. It has a large swimming pool which was full of water at the time of the eruption.

It was discovered in the 1500s when a canal was being dug through the site (they carried on digging) and not excavated properly until the 1960s. Part of the villa is still under modern buildings and other villas are known to be nearby.

It is hard to take decent photographs in the villa because flashes are banned because of possible damage to the frescoes.

So as an amuse-bouche:

Triclinium 1 

Part of the Triclinium

Apollos Shrine

Apollos Shrine Detail

A fresco in Apollo’s Shrine and a detail from it.


A moulded and painted pelmet around the top of one of the room

Attrium wth late second style

Looking from a bedroom through an atrium with a plant growing in the atrium, a second style fresco of a plant on a wall of the atrium and a window beyond.

Calderium Calderium Fresco 1

A niche in the caldarium and a detail of the fresco on the wall which shows Hercules in the Hesperides orchard (he had to kill a dragon and steal some apples).

Fresco Details 

A clever fresco of a glass vase


Peristyle Detail 1

Around the peristyle were second and fourth style frescos. Above a second style bird and below some larger sections of a fourth style fresco


Peristyle fourth style

and some details from this fresco.

Peristyle Detail Frog or Mouse
a bird a dormouse or a frog
Peristyle 4th Style Detail
a grasshopper
Peristyle Goat
a running goat

Around the villa are a few signs of everyday life such as


a wooden door also showing its hinges,


the kitchen,

Communal Latrine

and the toilet.

This really is a wonderful villa and although close to the Torre Annunziata Circumvesuvana Station, it does not seem to have many visitors because most go to Pompeii, some to Herculaneum and few to elsewhere.

There are numerous websites devoted to this villa including Google Sites, Wikipedia and The Oplontis Project.


  1. Pat and Paul, many thanks for this post. Very useful, both the pictures and the texts. S. Pinheiro.

  2. We are glad you found the blog useful, it really is a most amazing villa and relatively under visited when compared to those on the tourist trail. Its frescos are some of the best we have every seen.