Coordinates: 40°45′6.74″N 14°29′35.84″E / 40.7518722°N 14.4932889°E / 40.7518722; 14.4932889

Still Life with Eggs and Game: A wall painting from the House of Julia Felix

The House of Julia Felix, also referred to as the praedia of Julia Felix, the Latin term for an estate, or land, is a large Roman villa in the ruined city of Pompeii located on the via dell' Abbondanza. [1][2] It was the residence of Julia Felix, who converted portions of it to apartments, available for rent, under her ownership. The apartments became available and necessary for the residents of Pompeii after a major earthquake in 62 AD, a precursor to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, that destroyed the city of Pompeii. Archaeological excavations began in 1755 and the remains of the House of Julia Felix can be visited today in its original location in Pompeii.



The so-called "Venus in a bikini", from the house of Julia Felix, Pompeii, Italy actually depicts her Greek counterpart Aphrodite as she is about to untie her sandal, with a small Eros squatting beneath her left arm, 1st-century AD [3]

Julia Felix was a Roman woman who resided in the city of Pompeii. She was a determined female property owner who used her property to help residents of Pompeii and make a living for herself. Scholars disagree on her upbringing and the ways in which she inherited the money needed to create a villa. Some scholars believe Julia Felix was a "low-born, illegitimate daughter of Spurius" some believe she descended from imperial freedmen, meaning the emperor's ex-slaves.[4] Renting out her villa helped her earn an income and establish herself as a property owner, business woman, and public figure in Pompeii. It is unclear if Julia Felix was married or if she worked with a male figure to furnish and rent out her villa. During Julia Felix's lifetime, laws were implemented limiting women from owning property without a male figure or guardian. Some Roman women were able to independently own land and other types of property if those women were independent of their fathers, husbands, or male guardians.[4] If legal guardians were required in specific situations, those guardians would have to approve actions involving the transferring of women's property. Elite women specifically, were able to bypass the need for a guardian in property ownership and property transfer.[4] Julia Felix's villa, at the height of her ownership and business, took up an entire block of land in the city of Pompeii and she rented it out to the residents of Pompeii who lost their homes in the 62 AD earthquake. Some of the extravagant architecture and art within Julia Felix's villa exists today and depicts the unique establishment that benefitted many citizens of Pompeii.


The homes of the wealthy citizens of Pompeii were built around courtyards that were rectangular in shape into which the main rooms opened and had enclosed gardens and private water supply.[5] The architecture of the House of Julia Felix was a combination of indoor and outdoor areas made up of architectural techniques customary to Pompeii; many of the surrounding buildings followed the same style.[4] Specific to the House of Julia Felix, there were sections of the praedia that allowed for indoor and outdoor seating, landscapes of leisure and gardens.[4] The portico, made up of pillars rather than columns, and the door signifying the main entrance are two of the many architectural features that still stand today and act as a support for the house as well as a piece of Pompeian art.[6] Much of the architecture of the House of Julia Felix can be visited today. Due to the multiple excavations of Pompeii and specifically the House of Julia Felix, the beauty and durability of the architecture gives viewers insight into the history of the Pompeian past.

Portrait of a Pompeian couple inside the home of Julia Felix. (Portrait of Paquius Proculo)

Inside the villaEdit

Inside their villas, Pompeians chose many different ways to express themselves through art and the layout of the interior rooms and the exterior amenities of their homes. In terms of art, some Pompeians would copy Greek paintings and others would choose a theme of love or fertility, but most chose landscapes. The pieces of art found in Pompeii were mostly of local scenes, villas from along the coast, or woodland and hills. The art within the House of Julia Felix was also very interesting, it depicted small-time merchants and the lifestyles of every day Pompeian citizens.[7] Some of these paintings include the "Portrait of a Pompeian Couple," pictured right, "Still Life with Fruit Bowl," and the famous, "Still Life with Eggs and Game," pictured above. Some of the paintings that were painted directly on the walls of the house still exist today in their original location. In terms of some of the facilities used by those renting from Julia Felix, the dining rooms and baths were some of the most extravagant aspects of the house. The House of Julia Felix was important in hosting those who lost their homes during the earthquake, yet the appeal came from the dining room section; it was an environment of pure luxury.[7] The dining rooms were elegant and welcoming to all the guests. The structure and designs of the dining rooms were said to imitate those of the wealthiest citizens of Pompeii, who owned homes surrounding the countryside and coast.[4] The dining room overlooked Julia Felix's gardens that incorporated small pools and waterfalls.[4] As well as the dining rooms, the baths were a popular addition to the House of Julia Felix. The house included fully equipped and elegant baths intended for the respectable citizens of Pompeii.[8] The appeal to the house came from its extravagance and necessity, but in terms of baths, the House of Julia Felix was the only place in that area that had fully equipped baths.[4]


Since the excavations of Pompeii, much has been revealed about the villa of Julia Felix. The earliest known excavation was in 1755 between the months of March and April.[2] The excavation occurred under the direction of R.J de Alcubierre and his assistant K. Weber.[2] Many of the sections belonging to the villa were uncovered during this excavation and most can be visited today. Some of the excavated parts of the villa, revealed during the first excavation were a tavern, luxurious baths, and richly decorated formal garden dining rooms. Another excavation occurred during the years 1912–1935, and during this excavation an unknown shrine and the façade of the building, the side facing the via dell' Abbondanza was uncovered. Next, between the years 1998–1999 some of the most important discoveries were made by excavators. A trench found behind the caldarium dated back as early as the Augustan period. The caldarium revealed a drain that conducted water from the hypocaust floor, which conducted heat for a bath or room in a Roman home. A nymphaeum or grotto of nymphs with a water-stair fountain and triclinium was also discovered which was a modification put in after the earthquake of 62 A.D. Through the three if not more excavations of the House of Julia Felix, much was discovered, yet historians may never know the entire story of Julia Felix and the vastness of her house during the height of its vacancy.        


  1. ^ Latin Dictionary: Logarium-Zythum. Oxford.
  2. ^ a b c Dobbins, John; Foss, Pedar (2007). The World of Pompeii. New York: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group. p. 358.
  3. ^ Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Napoli). "so-called Venus in a bikini." Accessed 3 October 2016.
    "The statuette portrays Aphrodite on the point of untying the laces of the sandal on her left foot, under which a small Eros squats, touching the sole of her shoe with his right hand. The Goddess is leaning with her left arm (the hand is missing) against a figure of Priapus standing, naked and bearded, positioned on a small cylindrical altar while, next to her left thigh, there is a tree trunk over which the garment of the Goddess is folded. Aphrodite, almost completely naked, wears only a sort of costume, consisting of a corset held up by two pairs of straps and two short sleeves on the upper part of her arm, from which a long chain leads to her hips and forms a star-shaped motif at the level of her navel. The 'bikini', for which the statuette is famous, is obtained by the masterly use of the technique of gilding, also employed on her groin, in the pendant necklace and in the armilla on Aphrodite’s right wrist, as well as on Priapus’ phallus. Traces of the red paint are evident on the tree trunk, on the short curly hair gathered back in a bun and on the lips of the Goddess, as well as on the heads of Priapus and the Eros. Aphrodite’s eyes are made of glass paste, while the presence of holes at the level of the ear-lobes suggest the existence of precious metal ear-rings which have since been lost. An interesting insight into the female ornaments of Roman times, the statuette, probably imported from the area of Alexandria, reproduces with a few modifications the statuary type of Aphrodite untying her sandal, known from copies in bronze and terracotta."
    For extensive research and a bibliography on the subject, see: de Franciscis 1963, p. 78, tav. XCI; Kraus 1973, nn. 270-271, pp. 194-195; Pompei 1973, n. 132; Pompeji 1973, n. 199, pp. 142 e 144; Pompeji 1974, n. 281, pp. 148-149; Pompeii A.D. 79 1976, p. 83 e n. 218; Pompeii A.D. 79 1978, I, n. 208, pp. 64-65, II, n. 208, p. 189; Döhl, Zanker 1979, p. 202, tav. Va; Pompeii A.D. 79 1980, p. 79 e n. 198; Pompeya 1981, n. 198, p. 107; Pompeii lives 1984, fig. 10, p. 46; Collezioni Museo 1989, I, 2, n. 254, pp. 146-147; PPM II, 1990, n. 7, p. 532; Armitt 1993, p. 240; Vésuve 1995, n. 53, pp. 162-163; Vulkan 1995, n. 53, pp. 162-163; LIMC VIII, 1, 1997, p. 210, s.v. Venus, n. 182; LIMC VIII, 2, 1997, p. 144; LIMC VIII, 1, 1997, p. 1031, s.v. Priapos, n. 15; LIMC VIII, 2, 1997, p. 680; Romana Pictura 1998, n. 153, p. 317 e tav. a p. 245; Cantarella 1999, p. 128; De Caro 1999, pp. 100-101; De Caro 2000, p. 46 e tav. a p. 62; Pompeii 2000, n. 1, p. 62.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h D'Ambra, E. (2012). "Women in the Bay of Naples." A Companion to Women in the Ancient World. Chichester: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. pp. 406–408.
  5. ^ Drummond, Andrew (1993). The World of the Romans. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 132.
  6. ^ Magi, Giovanna. All Pompeii: The City Rediscovered. Firenze: Bonechi Editore. p. 50.
  7. ^ a b Butterworth, Alex; Laurence, Ray (2005). Pompeii: The Living City. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 276.
  8. ^ Cooley, Alison E.; Cooley, M. G. L. (2004). Pompeii: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group. p. 171.