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The Perplexity Of The Villa Of Mysteries In Pompeii

The Perplexity Of The Villa Of Mysteries In Pompeii

The Villa of Mysteries was one of the most luxurious villas unearthed during the 1909-1911 excavations of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried in volcanic ash with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.  Miraculously this Roman villa, when uncovered, reappeared almost exactly as it stood more than 2,000 years earlier; even its artwork has survived in surprising condition. The mystery within this ancient villa relates to a particular room where the walls are completely covered with vivid murals of numerous women performing enigmatic interactions. The scenes on the friezes depict images of beautiful women, drunken men, fauns, maenads, winged figures and the ritual flagellation of a young woman. Scholars have determined that these pictorial scenes may illustrate secret ceremonies conducted by a women’s mystery cult. This continuous series of paintings are significant for religious scholars as little is known about secret cultic actions of the past. Even less is known about ancient cults formed by women. The pictorial frieze has often been called the most important and best-preserved artwork from Roman antiquity.

What is the secret behind these religious rituals encoded within the murals of the Villa of the Mysteries?  Are they artworks depicting esoteric rituals that were actually performed by women at this ancient Roman estate? Was this the site where new members were interviewed before initiation? Was the owner bragging of her own initiation? What ancient enigmas are still hidden on these walls?

The Last Day of Pompeii by Karl Brullov (1830–1833) (Public Domain)

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