Room 14 in Villa di Poppea contains two variations on the theme of the false-door. The room is thought to have been used as a triclinium (dining area) and its wall-paintings provide a complex allegorical backdrop to the notion of the 'eternal banquet'. A Roman banqueting ritual conducted in honour or gods and ancestors (see Dunbabin 2003).

The north wall, directly opposite the entrance, depicts a walled-up entrance leading to a sanctuary dedicated to Hekate (fig.1). She is depicted on top of a pedestal column holding flaming torches in each hand. This portrayal associates her with the Roman custom of night burial and her role as a psychopomp. Other emblematic images, such as the basket of ripe figs and a drinking bowl indicate the presence of Dionysus (fig.2), whilst a bow and quiver may signify Apollo or Diana, the huntress (fig.3).

The east and west lateral walls of the triclinium mirror each other in that they both depict gated facades leading to tholos sanctuaries (fig.4). The root meaning of the word tholos is “to go or depart” and the origins of this architectural form can be traced back to the tumulus. The ancient burial mound being signified by the cupola that normally caps this architectural form. The room's lateral walls also contain complex eschatological references such as the downward facing extinguished torches at the base of the wooden gates depicted on the east and west walls. Apotropaic entrance motifs are present in the form of 4 lion head door knockers (fig.5). The entrance motif is further protected by winged griffins on either side of the gate and sea creatures depicted on the lintel and concave pediment, whilst a shield, possibly symbolising Macedonian lineage, hangs above the gate (fig.6). Beyond the pediment a colonnaded sanctuary encloses a tholos shrine, which appears ambiguously ungrounded. The shrine on the west wall contains a statue wearing a red jewelled diadem, possibly Venus the goddess associated with love and prosperity (fig.7).



False-Doors: and related signifiers
Hekate 1
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Venus in tholos 7>