The whole other side of Homer, leading up to and including the Trojan
War -- Achilles, Agamemnon, and Helen of Troy -- are everywhere,  
as a visit to the Museum in Naples quickly shows. And there are plenty
of references to Bacchus, Ariadne, and Theseus, in connection with the
famous stories of the labyrinth of Crete, to convince us that Pompeian
house owners valued somehow their houses' connections with these story
cycles. Last but certainly not least, figures of Venus as well as hundreds
of erotic situations involving either her or her son Cupid also show a
very permissive aesthetic code, by our standards, in the town's homes
and temples. But is this the same Venus -- or Aphrodite -- of the
Homeric
Odyssey ? Is it feasible, based on the existing frescoes we see in
Naples or in publications of Pompeii, to think that everyone in the town
agreed to not ever commission a painting of Odysseus's tearful reunion
with either his son Telemachus or his wife Penelope for one of their
triclinium dining rooms or alcoves? As a symbol of domesticity or
faithfulness, moreover, wouldn't a scene of Penelope's knitting and
un-knitting the famous shroud have been just the Pompeian thing? Why
not?  In fact, considering Pompeii's proximity and political
subordination to Rome, as its colony, from 80 B.C., what does it mean
that in the "Room of the Aldobrandini Marriage" of the Vatican
Museums one can see today a series of large, stunning wall frescoes from
the 1st century B.C. found in a villa of Rome's Esquiline Hill -- all of
them illustrating episodes from the
Odyssey, for example, concerning the
witch Circe, the hero's battle with the Lastrygons, and his most famous
encounter with the song of the sirens? In addition, like that of Naples,
didn't Pompeii's history connect it to the seafaring peoples of Magna
Grecia -- the Greeks -- who colonized those regions of what was then
Italy as far back as 600 or 700 B.C.? (Italian legends about Hercules'
founding not only of Herculaneum but also Rome, abound, so the Greek
connection is historically a solid one, even if only on the level of myth
and fantasy, which, of course is also were painting drew from anyway.)
Toroazul Painting and Fine Arts
Pompeii : See it like a native

Basically, then, the reader of this essay by now is probably
challenging me to do something "a la Fiorelli" with the missing family of
mythological -- Odyssean -- characters in Pompeian paintings and
mosaics . . . . At this poing, can I produce anything concrete out of the
fact of this missing storyline from ancient times? Why the silence
regarding Odysseus and Penelope?

If there is an answer I can give it comes in the form of a question: Do
you think the content and nature of the Iliad VS. the Odyssey is
something that can be thinned out into one sentence, Wikipedia style,
to provide a suitable explanation?
  The closest I have come to making sense out of this was when I
recently visited Pompeii in the company of Allegra and Ethan Hill, of
Miami, 13 and 11 years old, respectively, who went to the site with
their parents and me eager to understand all the fuss made about
Pompeii through time. At one point at the end of the full-day walk
through the streets, houses, and forum areas, and after I challenged
young Ethan to paint his own stage set for a scene from Mozart's
opera The Magic Flute, based on the ruins of the  Temple of Isis in
Pompeii (Mozart is known to have been inspired there to compose his
work), Allegra pointed out that there was something half comical- half
tragic about the place that reminded her of the storyline in Strauss's
opera, Ariadne aux Naxos, where a group of players who want to put
on a performance of the tragic abandonment of Ariadne by the hero
Theseus end up having all their seriousness trashed by the arrival on
the scene by a group of comedians who have anything BUT tragedy on
their mind. The result, as Allegra told us that day, is that the tragedy
of Ariadne's high art arias and sentiments are made light of and
transformed by the comedic bawdiness of the other players.
  It occurs to me that in Pompeii something like this took place and
the recurrent appearance of Ariadne and Bacchus, in fact, bear this
out, somehow lightening up the tragic preludes of devastation that we
associate with the place.
  One of the most interesting bits of Wikipedia type knowledge that I
gathered about Pompeii in my travels, is that when it was made a
colony by Rome in the year 80 B.C., under General Silla, the place
name was legally changed to Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum
-- and the word "Veneria" had to do with the traditional affiliation of
the town with a cult of the river goddess Mefite, whom Romans called
La Venere Fisica. Physical Venus.  
  This opens up some new doors of conversation here. About a sort of
rebelliousness and originality in the way Pompeii probably acted
towards Rome and maybe also towards the cultural baggage of their
time. Although when one compares the Iliad and the Odyssey, the
latter seems to be the comic epic, maybe Pompeian sensibilities were so
mightily capable of truly building their city on a unique axis of vision
that seemed to be one thing but that was indeed another, that they
did just that. They transformed the Iliad into an Odyssean celebration
of homecoming and left the Odyssey to fend for itself in the mondane
world of the obvious fantastic. For the Pompeian, there seems to have
been a wonder, indeed, about physicality that defied any fantasy and
that made out of the tragic a comedy of art and illusion that is what
the great Pompeian frescoes and mosaics are all about.
  Pompeii : a city of Bacchus, a city built and painted with the magic
of theater.

Painted bird from the House of the Venus
in the Shell -- Pompeii

Fresco from the House of Venus in the Shell --- Pompeii
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Paintings of the Odyssey from a Roman villa, 1st century B.C.
-- Rome, Vatican Museums