University of Leicester
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Venus in Pompeii: Iconography and Context

posted on 2018-09-03, 10:18 authored by Carla Alexandra Brain
This thesis investigates the significance of representations of Venus and their spatial contexts in Pompeii. The database for this thesis comprises 197 representations of Venus in Pompeii, of which 162 are from domestic contexts. This is the first time a comprehensive study of images of a single deity in Pompeii has been undertaken. I identify and compare the different types of Venus representations within domestic contexts and their locations. I also compare them with those from public contexts to ascertain any wider trends regarding artworks featuring Venus across Pompeii and to assess whether the public or domestic context of an artwork featuring Venus affected its content or location. I adopt a quantitative approach based on my database so that my conclusions are substantiated by numerical data. This is a departure from the more qualitative approach previously taken to relationships between decoration and room function. This thesis concludes that Venus does not occur more often in areas pertaining to her spheres of influence (such as bath areas and gardens) compared with other areas of the house. It is relatively rare in domestic contexts for the room type to influence the content of artworks featuring Venus. Several artworks featuring Venus appear to have religious, ritual, or protective significance, and she was sometimes invoked as a protector of the water supply in Pompeii (ascertained through the composition and location of these artworks). An examination of the spatial distribution of artworks featuring deities in a subset of three houses indicates that despite being the patron deity of Pompeii and occurring more frequently than other deities in fixed artworks in this sample, Venus was sometimes of less significance than other deities in the paintings and pavements of these three houses when factors such as allusions to deities and sight-lines are considered.



Allison, Penelope; Edwards, David

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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