Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Villa of the Mysteries

There is much to be curious about when it comes to Pompeii, an entire city caught in a freeze frame, captured as its people went about their daily lives, and preserved intact for us to see. I often ask myself how the townspeople were caught so off guard. Didn’t they see the warning signs? The frequent tremors? The smoking mountain?

It’s both heartbreaking and morbidly fascinating to see the plaster bodies, their faces registering genuine terror and surprise. And just like that, an entire village wiped from history for nearly 2,000 years.

When it was finally uncovered, beneath layers of ash and volcanic earth,  it was a ghost town. Eerie in its silence, everything left neatly in its place. Including, the Villa of the Mysteries.

This Roman villa was much like any other in its elegant triclinium, or formal dining room, rooms designated for entertainment, and an in house wine press-  but it is its frescoes which earn it its name. Depicting various Bacchian rites, the villa is said to have been the  location of induction into a special cult of Dionysus, in which the inductees drank intoxicants and performed other trance inducing activities, not limited to dance, music, and even flagellation. It was most often foreigners, slaves, and women who took part in these rites since it helped liberate them from the restraints of society.

As the murals depict a logical progression of rites involving a female inductee, it is often argued that the rites were nothing more than the symbolic depiction of marriage rites, but no one is one hundred percent certain of their true meaning.

Be that as it might, it’s almost frightening to imagine the type of drug induced debauchery that might have occurred in this building, but just as equally fun to imagine the many secret society type groupings they might have had. It would certainly be an interesting time period and location to write about. Especially if the ending is one we all know, where Mt Vesuvius goes boom.

About Isabelle

Isabelle is a multi-published author who dabbles in romantic fantasy and Young Adult fiction. A dreamer who loves Jane Austen as much as she loves Star Wars, Isabelle is most comfortable on stage behind a microphone belting out her favorite karaoke tunes, or curled up in bed with a book and a cup of cocoa on a rainy night. View all posts by Isabelle

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