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The Mystery of Room No. 5

The Mystery of Room No. 5

What strange rites were performed in that out of the way ancient Villa at Pompeii?

Autore/i: Villani Silvano

Editore: ITER

english version by Brian Williams, graphic and illustration by Maria Pia Di Marco.

pp. 112, XXII plates, Roma

The «great painting» of the Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii was brought to light in 1909, and still remains today the greatest example of pictorial art which has come down to us from Graeco-Roman antiquity. It is also the most baffling. Indeed, of all the witnesses to the ancient world which we have, it is, with two or three others, the most impenetrable. From the day of its discovery the fresco, in exceptionally good condition in comparison with other paintings found before and after in Pompeii, has resisted the attempts of scholars who have tried to fathom out its meaning. The author of this book – the only one dedicated exclusively to the frescos which the public can find easily to hand in the bookstores – does not put forward a solution, even though he has formed some notions which the careful reader will be’able to discern in the text. He has attempted, rather, to gather together some of the most interesting interpretations which have so far been put forward by Specialists, and to present them to those who, having felt the fascination of these images, continue to ask themselves what they could mean. Is there a connection between the «great painting» and the affair of the Bacchanalia – the most alarming of the scandals which troubled ancient Rome? Were the rites in the Villa a manifestation of the surviving will of the province to resist the City – what an English scholar has called «the legacy of Hannibal»? What do those gazing eyes, directed at us across the centuries, seek to tell us?

Silvano Villani, born in Trieste in 1923, was for many years foreign and special correspondent with Corriere della Sera – for some time now he has been devoting his study to the literature and art of the first century.

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