It seems incredible that 2,000 years have passed. A spectacular banquet hall with elegant black walls, decorated with mythological characters and themes inspired by the Trojan War, has just emerged during recent excavations in the famous city of Pompeii.

The site, found in insula (block) 10 of Regio IX, is now visible in all its splendor, as explained by Italian archaeologists in an article published in the magazine Scavi di Pompei. The space “provided a refined setting for entertaining during moments of conviviality,” the researchers write.

The hall was probably not dedicated only to banquets. Experts point out that it could also have been used to develop peaceful afternoons of conversation following “an elegant lifestyle” as reflected in the “size of the site, the frescoes and mosaics dating from the Third Style, the artistic quality of the paintings and the choice of characters.”

The Pompeian Third Style, also known as mixed or ornamental, opted for a more figurative, elegant genre, rich in colors and details. Its execution rules were quite strict: the wall was divided into three horizontal zones and between three and five vertical squares. Mythological scenes, landscapes, temples and hills were commonly used in his illustrations.

Hence, archaeologists were not surprised when they discovered that the dominant theme in this banquet hall was heroism, represented by pairs of heroes and deities involved in the Trojan War. But they also dealt with the question of destiny and “the possibility, often untapped, that human beings have to change their own fortune.”

In addition to the famous lovers Helen and Paris (also known as Alexander), indicated in a Greek inscription placed between the two figures, the Pompeii fresco features Cassandra, Priam’s daughter, who is depicted on the dining room walls along with Apollo. .

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was famous for her gift of foresight and her terrible destiny that prevented her from altering the course of future events. Despite her ability to know what was going to happen, no one believed her when she tried to prevent the tragic events of the Trojan War (which were unleashed after Paris kidnapped Helen). After being raped during the taking of Troy, Cassandra would end up being Agamemnon’s slave in Mycenae.

“The frequent presence of mythological figures in the paintings of living rooms and dining rooms of Roman houses had the explicit social function of entertaining guests and diners, providing talking points for talks and reflections on life,” the researchers point out in a statement. .

Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, highlights that the walls of this room “were painted black to prevent the smoke from the oil lamps from being seen.” “People gathered for dinner after sunset and the flickering light made the images seem to move, especially after a few glasses of good Campanian wine,” he points out.

“Mythological couples provided – continues Zuchtriegel – ideas for conversations about the past and life. The representations show the relationship between the individual and destiny: Cassandra can see the future but no one believes her; Apollo sides with the Trojans, but being a god, he cannot ensure victory; Helena and Paris who, despite their politically incorrect love relationship, are the cause of the war or perhaps simply a pretext.”

The room is about fifteen meters long and six meters wide and opens onto a patio that appears to be an open-air access area with a long undecorated staircase leading to the first floor of the house.

Under the arches of the staircase was a huge pile of construction materials that had been set aside. Someone had drawn with charcoal two pairs of gladiators and what appears to be a huge stylized phallus on the fresh plaster of the vaults.

The excavation of block 10 of Regio IX is part of a broader project aimed at shoring up the perimeter between the excavated areas and those that have not yet been excavated, improving the hydrogeological structure with the aim of making the vast heritage of Pompeii ( more than 13,000 rooms in 1,070 residences, as well as public and sacred spaces) is more efficient and sustainable.

The area excavated so far has revealed two interconnected houses, a dwelling with a bakery and a fullonica (laundry) facing via Nola, whose facades had already been discovered at the end of the 19th century. Behind these two buildings emerge sumptuous frescoed living rooms that were being renovated and restored at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

“Today, Helena and Paris represent all of us: every day we can choose whether to focus solely on our private lives or explore the way our lives intertwine with the broad spectrum of history, thinking, for example, not only about war and politics, or the environment, but also in the atmosphere that we are creating in our society, communicating with others in real time and on social networks,” concludes Gabriel Zuchtriegel.