Listed 5 sub titles with search on: Archaeological sites
for destination: "TIRYNS
Archaeological sites (5)
Wall (Murus, Teichos)
Murus or Moenia (teichos). A wall surrounding an unroofed enclosure, as opposed
to paries (toichos), the wall of a building. The word maceria denotes a boundary
wall, fence-wall. Cities were enclosed by walls at a very early period of Greek
history, as is shown by the epithet used by Homer "well-walled" of Tiryns,
Mycenae, etc., and the massive remains of those cities have also demonstrated
the fact So vast, in truth, are some of these structures as to have induced a
belief among the ancients that they were the work of Cyclopes. (See Cyclopes.)
The following principal species of city walls are to be distinguished:
(a) those in which the masses of stone are of irregular shape and put together
loosely, the interstices being filled by smaller stones, as in the wall at Tiryns;
(b) those in which polygonal stones are carefully fitted together, and their faces
cut so as to give the whole a comparatively smooth surface, as in the walls at
Larissa and at Cenchreae; and (c) those in which the blocks are laid in horizontal
courses more or less regular with the vertical joints either perpendicular or
oblique, and are more or less accurately fitted together, as in the walls beside
the "Lion Gate" at Mycenae.
Brick was largely used in Egypt, Assyria, and Chaldaea, and also in
Greece and Italy; but was often defended against the weather by an outer casing
of stone, when the bricks were sun-dried instead of burned (See Fictile).
After the first Persian War the Athenians began to use marble for their finest
buildings, as in the Propylaea and the Parthenon. A century later marble was also
used for facing walls of brick. Less important structures were made of smaller
stones, rough or square, flints, or bricks.
At Rome there were several kinds of masonry (See Caementum).
(a) Blocks of stone were laid in alternate conrses, lengthwise in one course and
crosswise in the next. (b) The stones in each course were laid alternately along
and across. (c) The stones were laid all lengthwise. (d) The stones entirely crosswise.
(e) The courses were alternately higher and lower than each other. The earliest
walls at Rome, largely of Etruscan origin, were built of huge quadrangular stones,
hewn, and placed together without cement. Such were the Carcer Mamertinus (see
the Cloaca Maxima (see Cloaca),
and the Servian Walls (see Etruria).
The Romans also used small rough stones, not laid in courses, but held together
by mortar (opus incertum) and courses of flat tiles. Tiles were also introduced
in the stone and brick walls. Brick covered with painted stucco was a very common
material at Rome, and even columns were so constructed.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited June 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
The Palace of Tiryns
Domus (oikia, oikesis, oiketerion, a dwelling-house; oikos, generally a room;
in Homer and the Tragedians, domos, but more usually in the plural as a dwelling-house),
One special form of hut appears to have been commonly used by many
different races of men at an early stage of their development. This was a small
circular structure made of branches of trees stuck into the ground in a circle,
and then bent inwards till their ends met and were tied together at the top.
This rude framework was then filled in by wattled work woven in and out, and
the whole was daubed over with tempered mud or clay. The hut of Achilles, thatched
with rushes (Il. xxiv. 450), was probably a dwelling of this sort, and similar
huts are said to have been used in Lydia, Sardis, and other places in Western
Asia Minor (Herod. v. 101): it seems probable that a reminiscence of this form
of building exists in the stone domical structures of Mycenae, Orchomenos, and
other early sites in Greece.
Even in historic times a survival of this ancient circular form
of house existed in the form of the Prytaneum in Athens and elsewhere, and also
in the Athenian Tholus, which was built in the newer part of Athens as an adjunct,
in a more convenient position for the use of the Prytanes. The Tholus was a
round building with a domical roof, and must have had some resemblance to the
Roman Temple of Vesta, to which the same name was frequently applied. The original
Temple of Vesta was a round hut formed with wattle-work of osiers (Ov. Fast.
vi. 261 seq.; Fest. p. 250, M.). Mr. James Frazer, in a valuable article, derives
the form both of the Greek Tholus and the Roman Temple of Vesta, in both of
which a perpetual fire was kept burning, from the pre-historic round hut of
the village chief, under whose charge was the ever-burning fire, which was kept
lighted for the general convenience -a very important thing at a time when a
fresh fire could only be obtained by the laborious process of friction.
Even during the imperial period in Rome one or more wattled huts
were preserved in memory of the primitive dwellings of its founders. One of
these, which stood at the western angle of the Palatine hill, was known as the
Casa Romuli (Dionys. i. 79; Plut. Rom. 20); it was twice burnt and repaired
during the reign of Augustus (Dio Cass. xlviii. 43, and liv. 29. See also Ov.
Fast. iii. 183; Val. Max. iv. 4, 11; Liv. v. 53). The Tugurium Faustuli is probably
another name for the same thing. Another hut, also called after Romulus, appears
to have been preserved on the Capitoline hill (Vitruv. ii. 1; Senec. Contr.
i. 6; Macrob. Saturn. i. 15).
A careful representation of this early form of house, as used by
the pre-historic Latin race, exists in the small sepulchral house-urns, which
are found in considerable numbers in the early cemeteries of Central Italy and
elsewhere. In these the construction is less simple, the roof being evidently
formed of separate branches, laid so as to form projecting eaves. These curious
pieces of archaic pottery have small movable doors fixed with a wooden peg.
During the many centuries which elapsed before the commencement
of the historic period of Greece, a state of society existed very different
from that with which Greek literature has made us familiar. Instead of the large
cities with their flourishing trade and carefully constructed systems of political,
religious, and social organisation, a number of small, highly-fortified towns
or villages were ruled in an autocratic way by some chieftain of semi-oriental
habits, who lived in a style of much luxury and splendour, surrounded by a group
of followers, very much like those of a mediaeval feudal lord. At this early
period wealth and splendour, which in historic times were devoted to the more
public uses of the agora, the council chamber, and the temples of the gods,
were lavished on the palace of the chief. It is this period which is celebrated
in the Homeric poems; which, there is every reason to believe, give us a faithful,
if highly coloured, picture of the magnificence which adorned the dwellings
of wealthy chiefs, such as Alcinous and, in a lesser degree, Ulysses. The discoveries
made by Dr. Schliemann and Dr. Dorpfeld, within the massive walls of Tiryns
(the Tiruns teichioessa of Homer), have for the first time shown us that the
stately and richly decorated palaces of the Odyssey were not wholly the offspring
of a poet's fancy.
Plan of the Palace of Tiryns. (see inside URL below)
Some doubt has been thrown on the remote antiquity of these remains;
but new discoveries of a similar pre-historic building at Mycenae have put an
end to any doubt as to the antiquity of the Tirynthian palace. On the whole
the evidence of the general planning of the building, its methods of construction,
and the style of its ornament give overwhelming proofs that the house is one
which belongs to a far-off prehistoric period of Greek architecture, prior in
all probability to the Dorian invasion of the Peloponnesus. The house itself
occupies more than a third of the Tirynthian Acropolis, the massive stones of
which excited the wonder of Herodotus, Diodorus, and Pausanias, and led to their
being associated with the fables of Heracles and Perseus, and the mysterious
Cyclops, who were supposed to have been their builders. The accompanying plan
shows the arrangement of the house, which is evidently carefully designed to
suit its special purpose.
On entering through the main gateway of the Acropolis, the approach (as shown
by the dotted line on the plan) leads through a narrow passage, strongly defended
on both sides by massive walls, to a second doorway. A continuation of the passage
leads to the outer porch of the palace--a propylaeum, decorated on both sides
by two columns in antis, very similar in design to the 5th-century propylaeum
built by Ictinus at Eleusis. On passing this an outer court is reached; and
then a second propylaeum, smaller but of similar design to the first, leads
into the main courtyard of the palace. Rooms for guards are placed at the sides
of both these propylaea. The main court (aule), round which the apartments of
the men are grouped, was surrounded on three sides by a colonnade (aithousa),
forming a cloister. Near the propylaeum stands a stone altar with a rock-cut
hollow beneath it, into which the ashes would fall. This was probably an alter
to Zeus herkeios, which is frequently mentioned in the Odyssey (e. g. xxii.
335) as being placed in the courtyard of a house. Opposite the propylaeum is
the great hall (megaron, Od. xvi. 341, xvii. 604), with an open portico of two
columns, and an inner proch (prodomos), into which three doors open from the
portico, and one into the hall. The roof of the hall was supported on four columns,
which probably carried a partly open lantern to give light, and also to form
an escape for the smoke of the fire--below, the circular stone hearth (eschara)
of which is placed midway between the pillars. On the west side of the hall
are a number of small rooms for the use of the men; among them is a small bathroom,
about 12 feet by 10 feet, the construction of which is very remarkable for its
ingenuity and the extreme care which has been taken in the workmanship.
The whole floor is formed of one great slab of stone, smoothed accurately
so as to fall to one point, where the water made its exit through a stone pipe,
and so into the main drain. The walls were lined with wooden boards, each of
which had its lower end fastened to the stone floor by two wooden pegs or dowels.
The edge of stone on which these boards rested is raised about an inch above
the general level of the floor, so that water splashed by the bathers might
not soak in under the wooden wall-lining. The bath itself, which was made of
clay deco-rated with a red spiral pattern, much resembled in shape and size
the fire-clay baths now made in large quantities at Stourbridge.
The eastern half of the house seems to have been intended for the
use of the women, and probably the married members of the chief's family. This
portion, like the other, contains two open courts, and a hall with a single
vestibule--all on a rather smaller scale. In this hall the hearth is square,
and, the span being less, the roof was not supported by pillars. On the east
of the hall and court are two ranges of rooms, more in number and larger than
those on the men's side of the house. There appear to have been three means
of access to the women's part: one by a long passage (laure) leading from a
side door in the outer propylaeum, another from the north-east corner of the
men's court, while a third way led by a long passage round the back of the two
halls to a rock-cut stairway, at the foot of which was a small postern door
in the outer fortification wall. In case of a siege this little postern would
be blocked up with stones, but in times of peace the women of the household
probably used this path to fetch water from some spring in the plain below.
When blockaded by an enemy, the garrison appear to have depended on their stores
of rain-water, large cisterns for which were formed in the thickness of the
outer wall. The surface water was collected and carried to the cisterns in clay
pipes and stone drains.
In addition to the rooms on the ground-floor, the walls of which
still exist to a height of from two to three feet, there was also an upper story
(huperoion), which probably extended over all the rooms except the two halls.
Traces of a staircase in two flights still exist on the east side of the women's
Construction of the Palace of Tiryns.
The walls, about three feet thick, are built of roughly-dressed
limestone bedded in clay up to a height of about two feet above the floor level:
the rest of the wall was of sun-dried brick, and the whole was covered inside
and out with three coats of hard stucco, made of lime mixed with sand, gravel,
and broken pottery, forming a coating nearly as hard as stone, which must have
completely protected the unburnt bricks from the effects of weather.
The floors, both of the roofed parts and of the open courts, were
made of a thick layer of good lime concrete. In the rooms the pavement was worked
to a smooth surface, on which simple patterns of squares or spirals were incised,
and then painted blue and red. Pliny (H. N. xxxvi.184) speaks of painted floors
having been used by the Greeks before mosaic came into use: those at Tiryns
are the first examples of this kind of paving that have been found.
The concrete paving of the open-air courts is laid so as to fall
towards open stone gullies, through which the rain-water escaped into the drains:
its upper surface is formed of a sort of rough mosaic made of pebbles; these
are set more closely together in places where there was most traffic.
The various doorways have massive stone sills or thresholds (lainos
oudos), mostly provided with two large drill-holes, in which the bronze pivots
of the doors revolved, showing that in most cases folding doors were used. Some
of these bronze pivots were found during the excavations: they are of very neat
and solid workmanship, and much resemble the pivots of the great Balawat gates
of Shalmaneser II. (859-824 B.C.), which are now in the British Museum. It is
probable that the construction of the doors themselves in the Tirynthian palace
resembled that of the Balawat doors. A number of thick wooden planks were placed
side by side, and held in their place by strong bronze bands, which were nailed
on to them, and lapped round the circular post on which the door swung; each
end of this post was shod with a pivot, which revolved at the bottom in a hole
drilled in the sill, and at the top in a similar hole in the lintel (huperthurion).
The neatly-fitted planks are spoken of by Homer (Od. ii. 344) as sanides pukinos
araruiai. This method of hanging heavy doors lasted throughout the Greek and
Roman periods, and was used, as can still be seen, for the great doors in Aurelian's
wall round Rome. The wide bronze bands which were constructionally necessary
for this sort of door formed also in some cases a rich and elaborate method
of decoration, as they could be enriched with repousse reliefs and gilt. A beautiful
little earthenware box (pyxis) of the 4th century B.C. in the British Museum
shows that doors of similar construction were used by the Greeks of later times.
The painting on it represents a toilet scene in a lady's room, and in the background
is a double door covered with wide bands, attached by rows of rivets along each
edge, exactly like the Balawat doors. Owing to the use of soft unbaked brick
for the jambs of the doorways, it was necessary to line the whole opening with
woodwork, so as to protect the angles from injury. In some cases there seems
to have been a stone lining, but even then the woodwork was not omitted. Grooves
cut in the stone upright of some of the door-jambs (stathmos) show with what
extreme care and neatness the wood lining was fitted into its place. It is interesting
to note that this system of using wooden doorlinings survived till later times,
and was used in cases where it would seem needless. Even the beautifully-finished
white marble doorways in the Parthenon and Propylaea at Athens had their reveals
concealed by wooden casings.
The roof of the men's hall was supported by four intermediate columns
(kiones), which, like all the columns at Tiryns, were made of wood, resting
on a carefully-levelled block of stone. The construction of the roof, of which
nothing but charred fragments and ashes remains, may be guessed from an early
rock-tomb in Phrygia discovered by Prof. Ramsay. In this a copy of a wooden
roof is carved in the rock: it is a simple lowpitched roof, having a principal
rafter with tlebeam and king-post. These principal rafters are, according to
some commentators, the mesodmai of Homer (Od. xix. 37); the small rafters or
ceiling joists being the dokoi (Od. xxii. 176), and the ceiling itself the melathron
(Od. viii. 279): the whole roof is called the orophe (Od. xxii. 298). A similar
arrangement of hall with central hearth and pillar-supported roof was discovered
by Dr. Schliemann at Hissarlik, and in both cases there was an open porch with
Part of a wooden column found at Khorsabad shows us what was probably
a common method of decoration: the whole was sheathed with plates of bronze,
beaten so as to represent the scales on a palm-tree; the metal was then thickly
gilt. This system of ornament is probably a survival of an earlier time when
a real palm-tree, with all its outer scales still attached, was used as a support.
In some of the rooms at Tiryns, part of the wall surface was decorated in a
very magnificent way. The wall was first lined with wooden planks, and on these
plates of bronze were nailed, repousse with reliefs and gilt. Examples of these
bronze linings on doors or walls, dating from the 6th century B.C., have been
found at Olympia. The designs of these plates retain a very strongly-marked
Oriental influence. Nothing could exceed the splendour of effect produced by
these wall-linings of what would seem to be gleaming gold, broken into half-tones
and high lights by their delicate reliefs. Homer's description of the bronze
walls of the palace of Alcinous (Od. vii. 84) may have a foundation of reality;
and even such apparently fabulous details as the golden doors and silver posts
and lintels probably refer to a real custom of sheathing woodwork with gilt
or silvered bronze.
Another of Homer's phrases, hitherto of somewhat doubtful meaning,
has been rendered intelligible by a discovery at Tiryns. This is the thrinkos
kuanoio (Od. vii. 87) which ornamented the walls of the hall of Alcinous. In
the porch of the Megaron at Tiryns Dr. Dorpfeld discovered a frieze of alabaster,
about 22 inches deep, which was carved with delicate patterns of rosettes and
spirals, very early in character, and studded at intervals with jewel-like rows
of bits of deep blue glass or paste, extremely magnificent in effect. The pieces
of alabaster which form this magnificent frieze are fitted together with extreme
neatness, the joints being concealed by rebates. Other similar fragments of
friezes set with sham jewels have been found at Mycenae, Orchomenos, and Menidi.
All the wall surfaces at Tiryns which were not lined with bronze
or with bands of alabaster and marble, seem to have been ornamented with paintings
on stucco, executed in simple earth colours with much decorative effect. These
paintings were of several different styles: some had simple patterns of chequers
and spirals which were evidently copied from the designs on woven stuffs; others
were human figures or beasts with great spreading wings of purely Oriental style,
treated in a very effective way by painting the feathers in alternate colours--red,
yellow, and white. One very spirited painting represents a man on the back of
a bull galloping at full speed. The exterior of the building seems to have been
decorated with similar paintings on the stucco, which protected the unbaked
clay of the upper part of the walls from the effects of weather.
The Homeric Palace of Ulysses. (see inside URL below)
It is interesting to compare the palace of Tiryns with that of Ulysses
as depicted in the Odyssey. Among the many descriptions of the latter, one of
the clearest is that given by Prof. Gardner, of which we subjoin an abstract,
together with his ground-plan of the palace. But it is necessary to remember
at the outset that there is this difference between the abode of Ulysses and
the palace of Tiryns, that the former is rude and rustic, while the latter is
more like the glorious abode of Alcinous in Phaeacian fairy-land, or the splendid
house of Menelaus, which glittered like the sun and moon as one drew near to
it. The Homeric house, observes Prof. Gardner, consisted of three parts: aule,
the fore-court; doma or megaron, the hall of the men; and thalamos, called in
later times gunaikonitis, the apartments of the women (hoi hoi epoiesan thalamon
kai doma kai aulen, Il. vi. 316). The house was entered by massive folding doors
(thurai diklides, Od. xvii. 267), and on either side were stone seats (hedrai,
cf. Od. iii. 406, xvi. 344). The doors led into the aule, or open courtyard,
which was used as a kind of farm-yard. On either side and behind were chambers
(thalamoi) used for various purposes, such as grinding the corn (Od. xx. 105),
sometimes for sleeping in (Od. xix. 48; Il. ix. 473). In one corner of the court
was the tholos (Od. xxii. 442, 459), a circular building, no trace of which
is found in the palace at Tiryns. (See above, p. 654.) In the midst of the court
was the altar of Zeus herkeios (Od. xxii. 335), which, as we have already seen,
existed at Tiryns. In the court were two colonnades or porticoes, each called
aithousa, one on either side right and left of the court-yard (aithousa aules),
and the other opposite the entrance to the court-yard, and along the front of
the doma or megaron. The latter is often considered as part of the prodomos,
so that aithousa and prodomos are often used as synonymous terms (for references
Crossing the Aithousa, the visitor passed into the megaron or doma, where the
chiefs lived. At either end of the megaron was a door, one leading into the
court-yard through the aithousa, and the other into the women's apartments,
the thalamos, properly so called. In front of either door was a threshold (oudos),
probably raised. The threshold in front of the door into the megaron was made
of ash-wood (melinos oudos, Od. xvii. 339), and the threshold in front of the
door into the women's apartments was of stone, lainos oudos (Od. xx. 258), a
distinction which is most important, as Prof. Gardner points out, for understanding
the combat between Ulysses and the suitors. By the ashen threshold was the dourodoke
or spear stand, close to one of the pillars (Od. i. 128). The megaron was of
great size. In the palace of Ulysses the three hundred suitors of Penelope feasted
in it. Its height was that of the house itself, and its roof was supported by
lofty pillars (kiones, Od. xix. 38). In the upper part of the megaron was the
eschara, or hearth, where the food was cooked (Od. xx. 123), and the smoke escaped
through a hole in the roof, as in the old Roman atrium. Such a hole, called
kapnodoke by Herodotus, is mentioned in an early Macedonian house, where the
sun shone through it (Herod. viii. 137). Besides the two principal doors of
the megaron already mentioned, there was a third, or postern-door, called orsothure
(Od. xxii. 126, 132, 333), the position of which has given rise to much dispute.
It should, however, probably be placed, for the reasons given by Gardner and
Jebb, on the side of the megaron, as shown in the plan (Plan, 6), leading into
the laure (Od. xxii. 128, 137) or narrow passage, which gave access to the women's
apartments from the outer court-yard, thus avoiding the necessity of passing
through the megaron.
The women's rooms, or thalamos, properly so called, also called
megara gunaikon (Od. xxii. 151), were immediately behind the megaron on the
ground-floor, directly communicating with the latter by a door. This is clear
from the whole narrative in the Odyssey of the combat between Ulysses and the
suitors. The passages proving this have been critically examined by Prof. Jebb
in the essay quoted below (Cf. Od. xvii. 506, xx. 389; iv. 718). Here the women
sat engaged in weaving and domestic occupations. Here was the nuptial chamber,
with the marriage bed made by Ulysses with his own hands (Od. xxiii. 192, 295).
The ordinary sleeping and other rooms of the women were in the upper story (huperoion),
which was reached by a ladder, klimax (Od. xxi. 5; cf. Od. ii. 358, iv. 760;
Il. ii. 514, xvi. 184; Eustath. ad Od. i. 328, 53). Hence we find Penelope,
after sleeping with Ulysses in the nuptial chamber, ascending with her hand-maids
into the upper chamber (Od. xxiii. 364). It is therefore a mistake on the part
of some modern writers to describe the women's rooms as situated only in the
upper story. In the women's rooms was the armoury (thalamos hoplon, cf. Od.
xxii. 140, 151-156), and the treasury at the further extremity (thalamos eschatos),
with a high roof (Od. xxi. 8). In the women's part of the house there was also
an open court, in which grew an olive-tree in the palace of Ulysses (Od. xxiii.
190). There was a similar court in the palace of Priam, where fifty chambers
were built for his fifty sons and their wives (Il. vi. 242).
II. THE LATER GREEK HOUSE.
The discoveries of recent years have shown that bricks made of unbaked
clay were very extensively used by the Greeks down to quite late times. This
point is well brought out by Dr. Dorpfeld (vol. ix. of the Mittheil. d. deutsch.
archaol. Inst. in Athen), who shows that even important structures, such as
the Heraion at Olympia and the walls round Athens which were destroyed by Sulla,
were mainly formed of sun-dried bricks. The same perishable material was commonly
used for the private houses of the Greeks, and this is one reason why examples
of Hellenic domestic architecture are also very rare. Burnt bricks were first
introduced by the Romans. Till quite recently very few remains of Greek houses
were known to exist. In the Ionian Antiquities there is figured a Greek house
at Delos, of which a ground-plan is given by Guhl and Kone. The excavations,
however, made in the Greek city of Naukratis in the Egyptian Delta during 1884-86
by Messrs. Petrie and Ernest Gardner have brought to light remains of a large
number of Greek streets and houses, all built of sun-dried brick coated with
painted stucco. The accompanying figure (see inside URL below) shows part of
Mr. Petrie's discoveries: A is a single house forming a complete
insula, as the Romans would call it: it consists of six rooms, with what was
probably a small central open court. B B appear to be shops. C C are narrow
streets. In this Greek city the streets seem all to be very narrow, and the
insulae are mostly very small; in many cases, like the figured example, consisting
of one house only. Though but very scanty remains were found of the unbaked
brick walls, yet in a few places patches of painted stucco on the exterior were
found in situ. Though walls of this sort would last very well as long as they
were roofed over and protected by their coating of hard stucco, yet when once
they had fallen into a ruined state the process of decay would be rapid and
complete, even in Egypt, and of course much more so in a more rainy climate.
The other most important examples of Greek domestic architecture
which have yet been discovered are some houses in the Peiraeus, the foundations
of which were exposed in 1884 during the laying out of a new street by the municipality.
(See Dr. Dorpfeld in Mittheil. d. deutsch. archaol. Inst. in Athen, vol. ix.,
No. 3, 11884.) The figure (see inside URL below) shows a reduction made from
Dr. Dorpfeld's plan.
On the S.E. and S.W. sides the block faces on to streets: it appears
to be a double house, though this is not quite certain, owing to the impossibility
of ascertaining the positions of all the doors. On the N.W. side remains were
found of a large open peristyle, apparently derived from the aule of the earlier
Hellenic plan: under the covered porticus of this cloister an altar was found,
probably dedicated to Zeus Herkeios.
Plan of a Greek house discovered in Peiraeus.
On the S.E. side the house was entered through a long shallow porch,
with two columns, in which stood another altar, probably that of Apollo Agyieus.
This porch led into a small open court, surrounded on three sides by a covered
walk (stoa or porticus). The pavement of this was laid so as to drain into an
open gully, through which the rain-water escaped into a drain. In one corner
of the court was a well, and on the other side a stone cistern for storing water;
a second cistern stood in the room adjoining the open court on the N.W. Some
remains of paving were found, as is indicated on the plan. In one room it consists
of stone flags; in another of a sort of rude mosaic, formed of pebbles set in
concrete, as in the open courts of the palace at Tiryns. On the S.W. side are
some rooms which were entered directly from the street: these may have been
shops or public offices. Traces of a staircase leading to an upper floor were
found at one end of the room with the flagging pavement. This block measures,
without counting the large peristyle, about 140 feet by 75 feet. The clear open
space of the peristyle was about 68 feet wide; its other dimension was not discovered.
It is possible that this block may have been all part of the same house one
portion being the andronitis or men's part, and the rest the gynaeconitis or
During the most flourishing period of Greece the private houses
appear to have been small and simple in design: splendour of materials and ornament
were reserved for the temples of the gods and the public buildings, such as
the Agora and the great stoai, which in Athens especially contributed so largely
to the architectural magnificence of the city. The front of the house towards
the street was not large, as the apartments extended rather in the direction
of its depth than of its width. In towns the houses were often built side by
side, with party walls between (homotoichoi oikiai, Thuc. ii. 3; Isaeus, de
Philoctem. hered. 39, Plut. de Genio Socr 33 Plaut. Mil. Glor. ii. 2). The exterior
wall was plain, and often covered with plaster or stucco (Plut. Comp. Arist.
et Cat. 4). Sometimes, as in Tanagra, the exterior was adorned with what was
probably terra-cotta . Plutarch says that Phocion's house was ornamented with
plates of bronze (Plut. Phoc. 18). Unbaked clay, as we have already shown, was
used for the walls, with probably a good deal of timber in the upper story (Xen.
Mem. iii. 1,7): thus it was easy for the Plataeans to break through the party
walls of their houses, so as to communicate with each other (Thuc. l. c.). For
the same reason the burglar was called toichoruchos, because he found it easier
to obtain an entrance into houses by breaking through the soft walls than by
the door or windows (Plat. Legg. E; Plut. Dem. 11).
Foreigners were specially struck by the mean appearance of the private
houses of Athens in the time of Pericles, as strongly contrasting with the splendour
of the public buildings (Thuc. ii. 14, 65). A stranger, says Dicaearchus (p.
8), might doubt upon a sudden view whether this were really the city of Athens,
so mean were the houses and crooked and narrow the streets. It was not till
the time of Demosthenes that good houses began to be built in Athens (Dem. c.
Aristocr. p. 689, 207 if.; Olynth. iii. p. 35, 25 ff.). Meidias built a house
in Eleusis larger than any in that place. But after the time of Alexander the
Great the decay of public spirit and the growth of private luxury led to the
erection of larger and more richly decorated houses throughout the Greek cities,
and especially in the chief colonies of Magna Graecia and Sicily. In cities
such as Tarentum and Syracuse the costly magnificence of the private houses
far surpassed those of the mother country.
The views of Socrates as to the arrangement of a good house are
given by Xenophon (Mem. iii, 8, 9, 10). It should (he says) be cool in summer
and warm in winter, with convenient accommodation for the family and their possessions.
The chief rooms should be lofty, and should face the south so as to get the
full rays of the sun in winter, while for the sake of shade, when the sun was
high up in summer, the house was to be shaded by projecting eaves; the rooms
on the north, for the sake of shelter, were to be lower. Paintings and any sort
of elaborate decorations destroyed, Socrates thought, more pleasure than they
In all cases the country houses must have been much finer buildings
than those in the old cities, where streets were narrow and sites often very
cramped (Isocr. Areop. 20). Thucydides (ii. 14) speaks of the preference of
the Athenians for houses in the country.
The plan and whole arrangement of town and country houses would
naturally be absolutely different, and it is unreasonable to suppose that one
fixed type of house was used by the Greeks. Existing remains show us that the
Roman houses had as many varieties of plan as we have now, and yet many archaeologists
have written as if there was one stereotyped plan of house used in classical
times. The somewhat pedantic language of Vitruvius (vi. 7, 10) on the subject
has tended to support the belief in the existence of one fixed type of Greek
house, but at his date, in the reign of Augustus, archaeology was practically
an unknown science, and it may reasonably be suggested that the so-called Greek
plan of Vitruvius does not represent the domestic architecture of the bygone
days when the Greeks were an independent race, but rather Vitruvius' private
notion, as a practising architect, of a house to be built for some wealthy Roman
in the revived pseudo-Hellenic style which began to be popular in the reigns
of the early emperors of Rome.
That the domestic architecture of the Roman empire was to a great
extent derived from that of the far more artistic Greeks is shown in many ways,
and especially by the fact that nearly all the names used in Rome for the different
parts of a house were not Latin, but Greek: yet it should be remembered that
the luxurious and ostentatious habits of imperial Rome had little in common
with the austere simplicity of private life in Greece during its period of glory,
and that therefore it is almost certain that a plan and arrangement of house
would be required in Rome very different from that used in Athens during the
age of Pericles, or even much later. Nevertheless, with this important reservation,
many of Vitruvius' statements may be of great use in illustrating difficult
passages in older Greek writers, which treat of some details in the Hellenic
house, especially when the description is compared with some of the existing
Roman dwellings, which are evidently designed to some extent after a real or
supposed Greek model.
Greek houses had three principal features in common. First, there
were one or two open courts, surrounded by the various rooms. Secondly, in a
Greek family the women lived in private apartments allotted to their respective
use. Hence the house was always divided into two distinct portions, -the Andronitis
(andronitis), or men's apartments; and the Gynaeconitis (gunaikonitis), or women's
apartments. Thirdly, the Gynaeconitis was, as a general rule, in larger houses
behind the Andronitis, and on the same floor as the latter. Much difficulty
has been occasioned in the arrangement of a Greek house by the statement of
Vitruvius (vi. 7, (10)) that the principal entrance led at once into the Gynaeconitis,
and that the Andronitis therefore was behind the women's rooms, or rather, if
we construe his words strictly, by their side Conjunguntur autem his [i.e. the
Gynaeconitis] domus ampliores [i.e. the Andronitis]). But such an arrangement
is alike inconsistent with the careful state of seclusion in which the Greek
women were kept, and also with the positive statements of the writers of the
period. It is very likely that Vitruvius misunderstood to some extent the descriptions
given by his Greek authorities, and has assigned to the Gynaeconitis the arrangement
of the Andronitis. In any case, as we have stated above, his account cannot
be accepted as a correct representation of a Greek house in the period from
the Peloponnesian war to the time of Alexander the Great. The general plan was
much the same as that of the Homeric house. He shows that the Peristyle of the
Andronitis is the successor of the Homeric Aule; the Andron, or eating-room,
of the Homeric Megaron; and the peristyle of the Gynaeconitis of the Homeric
Thalamos. As the Greeks grew in culture and took to living in cities, the Aule
would naturally become civilised, and the rooms round it part of the house,
while the feeding-room of the men would lose its enormous proportions, and become
a dining-room instead of a feasting hall. That this was the case is shown by
the position of the altars of the deities, which were least likely to be changed
in an ancient house. Thus the altar of Zeus herkeios was situated alike in the
Homeric Aule and the historical court of the Andronitis, and the sacred hearth
or altar of Hestia occupied the same position in the Homeric Megaron and the
The above plan (see inside URL below) of the ground-floor of a Greek
house of the larger size, with two courts or peristyles, is taken, with slight
alterations, from Guhl and Koner. It is of course conjectural, but it will serve
for the probable arrangements (for further we cannot go) of the Greek house
at the period we are speaking of. Other plans, differing very much from this,
have been given by several modern writers; but this appears on the whole the
most consistent with the ancient authorities. In smaller houses the Gynaeconitis
was much more limited, having no open court, and in some cases, as we shall
presently see, was restricted to the upper story.
That there was, in some cases, no open space between the street
and the house-door, like the Roman vestibulum, is plain from the law of Hippias,
which laid a tax on house-doors opening outwards, because they encroached upon
the street (Aristot. Oecon. ii. 6, 5). The prothuron, which is sometimes mentioned
(Herod. vi. 35), may be the space indicated in the cut before the passage A.
We learn, however, from the same law of Hippias, that houses sometimes had projections
encroaching upon the street (prophragmata or druphaktoi, Aristot. l. c.; Heracl.
Pont. Polit. 1). In front of the house was generally an altar of Apollo Agyieus,
or a rude obelisk emblematical of the god. Sometimes there was a laurel-tree
in the same position, and sometimes a terminal bust of the god Hermes or Hecate
(Thuc. vi. 27; Aristoph. Thesm. 489 seq., Vesp. 804) .
A few steps (anabathmoi) led up to the house-door, which generally
bore some inscription, for the sake of a good omen, or as a charm, such as Eisodos
Krateti Agathoi Daimowi (Plut. Frag. Vit. Crat.). There was also frequently
inscribed meden eisito kakon, an inscription which has been found also at Pompeii
and even in Kurdistan (Diog. Laert. vi. 39, 50). The form and fastenings of
the door are described under Janua
(=door) and Clavis
(=key). This door, as we have seen, sometimes opened outwards; but the opposite
was the general rule, as is proved by the expressions used for opening, endounai,
and shutting it, epispasasthai and ephelkusasthai (Plut. Pelop. 11; Dion 57).
Immediately behind the door was the sanctuary of Hermes strophaios (Aristoph.
The house-door was called auleios, auleia, aulios, or aulia thura
(Pind. Nem. i. 19; Menandros ap. Stob. Serm. xxxiv. 11; Harpocr. s. v.; Eustath.
ad Iliad. xxii. 66), because it led to the aule. It gave admittance to a narrow
passage called thuroreion by Vitruvius, and pulon, thuron by Pollux (i. 77),
on one side of which, in a large house, according to Vitruvius, were the stables,
on the other the porter's lodge. The duty of the porter (thuroros, puloros)
was to admit visitors, and to prevent anything improper from being carried into
or out of the house (Aristot. Oecon. i. 6). It was also his duty to sweep the
house (Pollux, x. 28). Plato (Protag. D) gives a lively picture of an officious
porter. The porter was attended by a dog (Apollod. apud Athen. i; Theocr. xv.
43; Aristoph. Thesm. 416, Equit. 1025). Hence the phrase eulabeisthai ten kuna
(Aristoph. Lysistr. 1215), corresponding to the Latin Care canem.
At the further end of the passage Vitruvius places another door (thuroreion
. . . locus inter duas januas), which, however, is not mentioned by other writers.
Plutarch (de Gen. Socr. 18) mentions the house-door as being visible from the
3. Peristyle of the Andronitis
From the thuroreion we pass into the peristyle (peristulion) of
the Andronitis. This was the most important part of the house, corresponding
to the Homeric aule, by which name it is frequently called (Plat. Protag. A,
Rep. C; Pollux, i. 77), though used for very different purposes. It was a court
open to the sky in the centre (hupaithron), and surrounded on all four sides2
by colonnades (stoai), whence the name Peristyle. The one nearest the entrance
was called prostoion (Plat. Protag. E), and the same name was also given to
the colonnade opposite the entrance (en toi kat' antikru prostoioi, ib. C).
The word is also used by later writers as equivalent to peristulion (Pollux,
i. 77). These colonnades were used for exercise, and were sometimes of considerable
extent, as in the house of wealthy Callias, and meals were occasionally taken
in them (Plat. l. c., Symp.; Plut. de Gen. Socr. 32; Dem. in Euerg. 55; Pollux,
i. 78). Here, as in the Homeric aule, was the altar of Zeus herkeios, where
sacrifices were offered (Harpocr. s. v.; Eustath. ad Od. xxii. 335; Plat. Rep.
i. 328 C). The colonnades were arranged for the purpose of obtaining as much
sun in winter, and as much shade and air in summer, as possible (Xen. Oecon.
ix. 4 ; Mem. iii. 8, 9 ; Aristot. Oecon. i. 6.)
Round the peristyle were arranged the chambers used by the men called
by the general name of oikoi, oikemata, and andrones, though the latter more
specifically indicated a dining-room. (See below.) There were banqueting-rooms
large enough to contain several sets of couches (triklinoi, heptaklinoi, triakontaklinoi),
and at the same time to allow abundant room for attendants, musicians, and performers
of games; parlours or sitting-rooms (exedrai), sleeping-rooms (koitones, oikemata),
guest-chambers (xenones), picture-galleries and libraries, and sometimes store-rooms.
The store-rooms were generally in the women's part of the house; but in the
house of Callias a store-room (tamieion) in the Andronitis was fitted up as
a guest's room (Plat. Protag.D). In the arrangement of these apartments attention
was paid to their aspect. (Vitruv. l. c.; Lys. de caede Eratosth. 24, in Eratosth.10;
Aristoph. Eccles. 8, 14; Pollux, i. 79, vii. 28, x. 32). The disposition of
these rooms is quite uncertain. F in plan, corresponding to the alae in a Roman
house, may, according to Guhl and Koner, be the sanctuaries of the theoi ktesioi
and patroioi (cf. Lycurg. adv. Leocr. 25) when these gods had sanctuaries in
4. Andron, or dining-hall.
The andron was situated in the centre of the house between the two
courts opposite the entrance to the court of the Andronitis. It corresponds
to the megaron of Homer, but greatly reduced in size, as the court of the Andronitis
contained the principal rooms for the men. Here stood the hestia, or sacred
hearth, which is placed by Aeschylus in the centre of the house (mesomphalos
hestia, Agan. 1056); but in historical times it only stood as a symbol of domestic
worship, the hearth being removed to a special kitchen (optanion). In later
times it took the form of a round altar sacred to the goddess Hestia, the Roman
Vesta, and was a sanctuary for suppliants. Thus it was the Hestia in the house
of the Molossian king Admetus at which Themistocles took refuge (Thuc. i. 136;
Plut. Them. 34), and it is mentioned as a place of refuge by Lysias in a small
Greek house (epi ten hestian kataphugon, de caede Eratosth. 27). The Andron
is said by Xenophon to be the place where dinner was taken (epi toi androni
entha to deipnon en, Symp. i. 13; cf. Aristoph. Eccles. 676), and Thales is
represented by Plutarch as going through the porch to the banquet in the Andron
(eis ton androna dia tes stoas, VII. Sap. Conv. 3). In a Greek inscription a
large dining-hall is called andreion, and Pollux (i. 79) defines it generally
as a place where men assemble (andron hina suniasin hoi andres). It is sometimes
used as equivalent to Andronitis, and it is not always easy to distinguish its
specific and more general meaning (cf. Herod. i. 34; Aeschyl. Agam. 243, Choeph.
712). The place occupied by the Andron is called by Vitruvius (l. c.) prostas
or parastas, probably the same as the pastas of other writers, though he is
clearly in error in placing it in the Gynaeconitis, as we have already seen.
He says that on the side of the peristyle facing the south (i. e. opposite the
entrance door) are two antae
(=parastades), at a considerable distance apart, which carry beams, and that
the recess behind them is equal to one-third less than their distance from each
other, and that this recess or room is called prostas or parastas. It is expressly
identified by later writers with the Andron, and the word pastas is absurdly
derived from feeding (apo tou pasasthai, Pollux, vi. 7; Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod.
i. 789; Etym. M. 46). It would seem that the word pastas or prostas did not
originally signify a chamber, but simply a colonnade on the side of the peristyle
opposite the entrance (Xen. Mem. iii. 8, 9; Herod. ii. 169), and was thus the
same as the prostoion mentioned by Plato in the passage already quoted (Protag.
l. c.; see above, 3). We may therefore reasonably conjecture that the name was
afterwards transferred from the colonnade to the dining-room lying immediately
behind it; that is, to the Andron.
5. Peristyle of the Gynaeconitis.
The peristyle of the Andronitis was connected with that of the Gynaeconitis
by a door called metaulos, mesaulos, or mesaulios, which was in the middle of
the portico of the peristyle of the Andronitis, or more specifically of the
Andron. Vitruvius applies the name mesaulos to a passage between the two peristyles,
in which was the mesaulos thura; but such a passage is not mentioned by other
writers, and was probably suggested to Vitruvius by the position of the Roman
Fauces. By means of this door all communication between the Andronitis and the
Gynaeconitis could be shut off. Its uses are mentioned by Xenophon, who calls
it thura balanotos (Oecon. ix. 5; cf. Plut. Arat. 26). Its name mesaulos is
evidently derived from mesos, and means the door between the two aulai or peristyles
(Suidas, s. v. Mesaulion: Ael. Dion. apud Eustath. ad Iliad. xi. 547, 17; Schol.
in Apoll. Rhod. iii. 335). The other name, metaulos, is taken by some writers
as merely the Attic form of mesaulos. But Becker derives metaulos from meta,
as being the door behind or beyond the aule, with respect to the auleios thura
(Lys. de caede Eratosth. 17; Plut. Symp. vii. 1; Ael. Dion. apud Eustath. l.
This door gave admittance to the peristyle of the Gynaeconitis,
which, like that of the Andronitis, was surrounded by colonnades. It was, as
we have already said, situated in larger houses immediately behind the Andronitis
(Lys. c. Simon. 6; Dem. c. Euerg. 53; Xen. Oecon. ix. 5). In like manner Sophocles,
doubtless representing the practice of his own time, describes both sets of
rooms as on the same floor (Oed. Tyr. 1241-1262). But in smaller houses, where
there was no space for a separate court for women, the Gynaeconitis was in the
upper story. Such was the case in the small house (oikidion) spoken of by Lysias
(de caede Eratosth. 19). There was the same arrangement in other houses (Aristoph.
Eccles. 961, Thesm. 482; Babr. Fab. 116); and considering the small value of
many houses at Athens, we may conclude that the women's rooms were often in
the upper story. On the right and left of this pastas (see above), according
to Vitruvius, were two bed-chambers, the thalamos and amphithalamos, of which
the former was the bed-chamber of the master and mistress of the house, and
where also seem to have been kept the vases and other valuable articles of ornament
(Xen. Oecon. ix. 3). The Thalamus, called by Sophocles numphika leche (Oed.
Tyr. 1242), is constantly described as the bridal chamber (Pind. Pyth. ii. 60;
Soph. Trach. 913; Eur. Hipp. 940; Theocr. ii. 136), and was rebuilt or re-adorned
on occasion of a marriage (ethos en tois gemasi thalamon oikodomeisthai, Schol.
ad Hom. Il. ii. 701; Weograptos thalamos, Theocr. xviii. 3; cf. Theocr. xxvii.
36; Apoll. Rhod. iii. 36; Hesych. s. v. thalamoio Weoio). This chamber is frequently
called domation (Lys. de caede Eratosth. 24; Aristoph. Eccl. 8; Theophr. Char.
13; Plat. Rep. iii. C), and sometimes pastas or pastos (Theocr. xxiv. 46; Anth.
P. ix. 245; Heliod. Aethiop. x. 16; Lucian, Dial. Mort. xxiii. 3; Anth. P. v.
52, vii. 711). In the Thalamus were placed the theoi gamelioi. The Amphithalamus
is supposed by some to be the bed-chamber for the grown--up daughters of the
family (cf. Achill. Tat. ii. 9). Beyond these rooms (for this seems to be what
Vitruvius means by in his locis introrsus) were large apartments (histones)
used for working in wool (oeci magni, in quibus matres familiarum cum lanificis
habent sessionem, Vitruv.). Round the peristyle were the eating-rooms, bed-chambers,
storerooms (tamieia, cf. Aristoph. Lysistr. 495), and other apartments in common
use (triclinia quotidiana, cubicula, et cellce familiaricae).
Besides the auleios thura and the mesaulos thura, there was a third
door (kepaia thura) leading to the garden. (Pollux, i. 76; Dem. in Euerg. 53;
Lys. in Eratosth.16).
Some other matters connected with a Greek house require notice.
1. Upper stories.
When there was an upper story (huperoion, dieres), it seldom extended
over the whole space occupied by the lower story. The principal use of the upper
story was for the sleeping apartments, both of the family and of the slaves
(Cf. Dem. in Euerg. p. 1156,56, where the words en toi purgoi seem to imply
a building several stories high). Houses rarely had more than two stories; but
in later times we find in the larger towns mention of houses with three stories
(as in Cyzicus, Aristid. Or. xvi.; tristege, Artemidor. iv. 46; so also in Troas,
Acts xx. 8, 9). The access to the upper floor seems to have been sometimes by
stairs (anabathmoi) on the outside of the house, leading up from the street,
as was the case at Rome (Aristot. Oec. ii. 5; cf. Liv. xxxix. 14). The upper
story was sometimes let, or used for lodging guests (Antiph. de Venef. 14).
But in some large houses there were rooms set apart for the reception of guests
(xenones) on the ground-floor (Vitruv. l. c.; Pollux, iv. 125; Eurip. Alcest.
564). In cases of emergency store-rooms were fitted up for the accommodation
of guests (Plat. Protag.).
Portions of the upper story sometimes projected beyond the walls
of the lower part, forming balconies or verandahs (probolai, geisipodismata,
Pollux, i. 81), like the Roman maeniana.
The roofs were generally flat, and it was customary to walk about
upon them, as on the Solaria at Rome (Lys. adv. Simon. 11; Aristoph. Lysistr.
389 ; Plaut. Mil. ii. 2, 3) or to pass from one house to another (Dem. c. Androt.
p. 609, 53). But high-pitched roofs were also used, covered with tiles (keramos,
Galen, xviii. 1, K.; Pollux, i. 81).
For particulars, see Janua
(=door) and Clavis
(=key). In the interior of the house the place of doors was sometimes supplied
by curtains (parapetasmata, parakalummata), which also hung between the pillars
of the Peristyle (Aristoph. Vesp. 1215). They were either plain, or dyed, or
embroidered (Pollux, x. 32; Theophrast. 5).
The principal openings for the admission of light and air were in
the uncovered Peristyle and perhaps in the roofed part of the peristyle; but
it is incorrect to suppose that the houses had no windows (thurides), or at
least none overlooking the street. They appear to have been chiefly in the upper
story; and in ancient works of art women are represented looking out of them
(Aristoph. Thesm. 797, Eccles. 961; Plut. de Curios. 13, Dion 56. Also called
photagogoi Lucian. Conv. 20).
They were called apopatoi (Aristoph. Acharn. 81; Pollux, x. 44),
ephodoi (Aristoph. Eccles. 1059), koprones (Pax, 99, Thesm. 485; Dem. c. Arist
g). Their position is nowhere expressly indicated, but they were probably, as
in Roman houses, in proximity to the kitchen.
Artificial warmth was procured by little portable stoves (escharia,
escharides), or chafing dishes (anthrakia) (Plut. Apophth. i; Aristoph. Vesp.
811; Pollux, vi. 89, x. 101), see Focus
(=estia, fire-place).It is supposed that the chimney was altogether unknown,
and that the smoke escaped through an opening in the roof; but it is not easy
to understand how this could be the case when there was an upper story. The
kapnodoke mentioned by Herodotus (viii. 137) was not really a chimney, but only
an opening in the roof. But the kapne in Aristophanes (Vesp. 143) seems to have
been really a chimney, as it is described by the Scholiast on the passage as
pipe-shaped (solenoeides). In any case the chimney seems to have been only used
in the kitchen (optanion, Alexis ap. Athen. ix.b).
The decorations of the interior were very plain at the period to
which our description refers. The floors were mere plaster. At a late period
coloured stones were used (Plin. H. N. xxxvi.184). Mosaics are first mentioned
as introduced under the kings of Pergamus.
The walls, up to the fourth century B.C., seem to have been only
whitewashed. The first instance of painting them is that of Alcibiades (Andoc.
in Alcib. 17, Dem. c. Mid. 147; Plut. Alcib. 16). This innovation met with considerable
opposition (Xen. Mem. iii. 8, 10; Oecon. ix. 2). Plato mentions the painting
of the walls of houses as a mark of a truphosa polis (Repub. ii). These allusions
prove that the practice was not uncommon in the time of Plato and Xenophon.
We have also mention of painted ceilings at the same period (Plat. Repub. vii,
cf. kata taichou graphein, Lucian, Hist. Conscr. 29). At a later period this
mode of decoration became general.
8. Letting and price of houses.
There was a great deal of speculation in the building and letting
of houses at Athens (Xen. Oecon. iii. 1). A distinction was made at Athens between
the oikia, which was a dwelling-house for a single family, and the sunoikia,
which was adapted to hold several families--like the Roman insula. The distinction
is thus expressed by Aeschines (c. Timarch. 124): hopou men gar polloi misthosamenoi
mian oikesin dielomenoi echousi, sunoikian kaloumen, hopou d'heis enoikei, oikian.
The lodging-houses were let mostly to foreigners who came to Athens on business,
and especially to the metoikoi, whom the law did not allow to acquire real property,
and who therefore could not purchase houses of their own (Dem. pro Phorm. 6).
As they, with their families, formed a population of about 45,000, the number
of sunoikiai must have been considerable. Pasion, the banker, had a lodging-house
valued at 100 minas (Dem. c. Steph. i. 28). Xenophon recommended that the metoikoi
should be encouraged to invest their money in houses, and that leave should
be granted to the most respectable to build and become house proprietors (oikodomesamenois
enkektesthai, de Vectig. ii. 6). The isoteleis laboured under no such disability;
for Lysias and his brother Polemarchus, who belonged to that class, were the
owners of three houses.
The value of houses must have varied according to the size, the
build, the situation, and other circumstances. Those in the city were more valuable
than those in the Peiraeus or the country, caeteris paribus. Two counting-houses
are mentioned by Isaeus (de Hagn. her. 42) as yielding a return of rather more
than 8 1/2 per cent. interest on the purchase-money. But this probably was much
below the average. The summer season was the most profitable for the letting
of houses, when merchants and other visitors flocked to Athens. The rent was
commonly paid by the month. Lodging-houses were frequently taken on speculation
by persons called naukleroi or stathmouchoi (Ammon., Harpocrat., Phot., Hesych.
s. v.), who made a profit by underletting them, and sometimes for not very reputable
purposes (Isaeus, de Philoct. her. 19). Boeckh has given an account from the
ancient writers of the prices of houses at Athens, which seem to have been very
small. They varied from 3 minas to 120 minas, according to their size, situation,
and condition, from 30 to 50 minas being an ordinary price.
The earliest dwellings of the Latins on the Palatine hill were probably
mere huts of mud-daubed osiers, like the hut of Romulus, which was preserved
as a sacred relic for many centuries. After the burning of Rome by the Gauls,
the city was rebuilt in haste, with very narrow streets and on no regular plan
(Liv. v. 55). Even the houses of the richest citizens were small and of inexpensive
materials, such as unburnt brick, or the soft brown tufa which could be quarried
in nearly all the hills of Rome. No examples of fired bricks are known in Roman
buildings till the time of Julius Caesar; and the remarks of Vitruvius seem
to refer wholly to crude or sun-dried bricks, of which no examples in Rome have
survived to modern times. Down to the beginning of the last century of the republic,
Romans of rank continued to live in small houses. In B.C. 125 the censors censured
Lepidus, the augur, because he paid 6000 sesterces (about £50) for his houserent
(Vell. Pat. ii. 10), and Sulla, afterwards the dictator, when a young man, paid
only 3000 sesterces for his rooms on the ground-floor, while a freedman in the
upper part of the same house paid only 2000 sesterces (Plut. Sall. c. 1).
The earliest regulation we find respecting houses is a law of the
XII. Tables, that each building should be separated from another by a space
of 2 1/2 feet, called ambitus (Fest. pp. 5, 11, M.; Varr. L. L. v. 22; Isidor.
xv. 16, 12). But this enactment was disregarded, and was again enforced by Nero,
when he rebuilt the city (Tac. Ann. xv. 43). As the city increased in population,
the houses were raised in height. The immense size and population of Rome, says
Vitruvius (ii. 8, 17), make it necessary to have a vast number of habitations;
and as the area is not sufficient to contain them all on the ground-floor, the
nature of the case compels us to raise them in the air. The buildings thus referred
to are the Insulae, which must be carefully distinguished from the Domus. The
insula, in which the lower and middle classes lived, was a building of several
stories, let out in floors or separate rooms to different families or persons.
The domus or aedes privatae (Suet. Ner. 44), on the contrary, was a separate
house, in later times a palace, usually with only one story above the ground-floor,
the abode of the rich and great, and inhabited for the most part by a single
family; though, as in the case of the palazzi in modern Rome, parts of them,
especially at the back or top of the domus, were sometimes let out (Plaut. Trin.
i. 2, 157; Liv. xxxix. 14, 2; Suet. Ner. 44, Vitell. 7). In the general description
of a Roman house our remarks apply only to the domus, properly so called, as
the insula was built on an entirely different plan. But we must say a few words
on the insula.
The insula is defined by Festus to be a building not joined by common
walls with neighbouring houses, and surrounded by a street, so that it stood
like an island surrounded by rivers or the sea. It was thus, as has been said,
very much like one of the large hotels in modern cities, with one or more courts,
and bounded on all sides by streets, like the Louvre hotel at Paris. The ground-floor
was usually let out in shops (tabernae), and the upper stories in flats or separate
rooms, as in continental cities in the present day. Such an insula, containing
various tenements and shops, is the house of Pansa at Pompei. The number of
insulae at Rome naturally exceeded that of the domus ; and accordingly we find
in the Notitia, which was compiled between A.D. 334 and 357, that there were
at Rome 44,171 insulae and 1782 domus. To the same effect Suetonius, in describing
the fire at Rome under Nero, speaks of the immense number of insulae that were
burnt, in addition to the palaces (domus) of the nobles (Suet. Ner. 38). Other
writers, in like manner, distinguish between the insulae and domus (Sen. de
Benef. vi. 5, 5; Tac. Ann. xv. 43; Suet. Ner. 16; Cic. de Off. iii. 1. 6, 65).
Becker and some other writers erroneously suppose that a single floor or a separate
room in such a house was also called insula, but the proper name for such a
separate lodging was cenaculum. The insulae are first mentioned in B.C. 456
in connexion with the Lex Icilia de Aventino publicando, from which it appears
that each occupier had a story in absolute ownership, and could alienate and
transmit it, as is customary in modern Rome and other continental cities (Dionys.
x. 32; Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, ii. p. 301, Engl. Tr.). But it was apparently
more usual for an insula to have been built on speculation, and let by the proprietor
to different occupants (Plut. Crass. 2; Mart. iv. 37). Hence the stories or
separate rooms were called cenacula meritoria (Suet. Vit. 7; Juv. iii. 234;
Dig. 7, 1, 13, 8) or conducta (Dig. 19, 2, 30; cf. mutat cenacula, Hor. Ep.
i. 1, 91). Cicero had some shops, which he let (Cic. ad Att. xiv. 9; merces
insularum, ib. xv. 17). The rent (pensio, Juv. ix. 63) at Rome was considerable,
even for a miserable garret (Juv. iii. 166, 225; cf. Mart. iii. 30, 3). Poor
persons in the time of Julius Caesar appear to have paid 2000 sesterces (£17
or £18) as the usual rent (Suet. Caes. 38). Caelius was said to have paid 30,000
sesterces (about £266) for the rent of a third floor in the insula of P. Clodius,
though Cicero says the real rent was only one-third of this sum (Cic. Cael.
7, 17). Hence it was a profitable speculation to build or hire a whole insula,
and to sublet the cenacula to different tenants (Dig. 19, 2, 30). The insularii
were not the occupants of the insulae, but those who had charge of the insulae
and collected the rents. They were also called procuratores insularum (Dig.
1, 15, 4; 7, 8, 16; Petron. 95, 96; Becker-Goll, Gallus, i. p. 17). The insula
appears to have been named after the person to whom it belonged. Thus we find
in inscriptions the insula Arriana Polliana, the insula Sertoriana &c.
The upper stories and the separate rooms of the insula were, as
we have already said, called cenacula. This word properly signifies rooms to
dine in; but after it became the fashion to dine in the upper part of the house,
all the rooms above the ground-floor were called cenacula (Varr. L. L. v. 162).
Hence Festus says, cenacula dicuntur, ad quae scalis ascenditur. Jupiter humorously
describes his abode, in superiore qui habito cenaculo (Plaut. Amph. iii. 1,
3); Ennius speaks of cenacula maxima coeli (ap. Tertull. adv. Valent. 7); and
Prudentius (c. Symm. i. 580) of celsa cenacula. There were different flights
of stairs connecting the upper stories with the lower part of the house, as
we find to be the case in houses at Pompeii. Sometimes the stairs had no connexion
with the lower part of the house, but ascended at once from the street. (Liv.
xxxix. 14, 2; xxi. 62, 3; si cenaculum ex publico aditum habeat, Dig. 43, 17,
3, 7). As the different stories could not all be lighted from openings in the
roof, as in the domus, they had windows looking out into the street (Liv. i.
41, xxiv. 21; Prop. v. (iv.) 7, 15, seq.; Juv. vi. 31). They also had sometimes
balconies, supported by brackets, projecting into the street, from which an
occupant could shake hands with his next door or opposite neighbour (Mart. i.
86). These balconies were called maeniana, and the same name was also given
to the stories which projected over those below, as we see in some old houses
in England. (Fest. p. 134, 22, M.; Isidor. xv. 3, 11; Vitruv. v. 1, 2; Val.
Max. ix. 12, 7; Cic. Acad. iv. 2. 2, 70; Dig. 50, 16, 242.) Projecting stories
were forbidden in A.D. 368 to be erected in Rome (Amm. Marc. xxvii. 9, 8) on
account of the narrowness of the streets and were again forbidden by the emperors
Honorius and Theodosius, unless there was an open space in some cases of ten,
in others of fifteen feet, clear of any adjacent building (Cod. Just. 8, 10,
11). Such a projecting story is seen in some of the Pompeian houses.
We find mention of a house three stories high in B.C. 218 (Liv.
xxi. 62, 3); and Martial (i. 117, 7) considered the third story, where he lived,
as very high. If we were to estimate the height of the Roman houses by the way
in which they are spoken of by the ancient writers, we should probably assign
to them too many stories; for the houses, as Friedlander observes, probably
appeared higher than they really were in consequence of the narrowness of the
streets. We have no express mention of any houses more than four stories high.
In Juvenal's description of Rome (iii. 199 seq.) the dwellings of the poor are
in the fourth story, under the roofs, where the doves lay their eggs. In the
same satire he describes (iii. 269) the danger to which the passing traveller
was exposed from the potsherds thrown from the lofty house-tops ( tectis sublimibus
). So frequently were persons injured in this way that the praetor gave them
a right of action against the occupier. But from various circumstances we may
infer that some of the houses at Rome had a larger number of stories than are
expressly mentioned. Thus, as we shall presently see, Augustus limited the height
of houses to 70 feet, which implies that they had been built still higher, and
Cicero describes the houses as hoisted up and suspended in the air (Romam cenaculis
sublatam atque suspensam, Leg. Agr. ii. 35, 96). In like manner Tertullian (adv.
Valent c. 7) compares the Gnostic idea of several stages in heaven to an insula
called Felicula, which seems to have been celebrated for its numerous stories.
The houses let for hire were in Rome badly built by speculators.
The upper stories were of wood (tabulata, contignationes), and frequently fell
down, while their material made them more liable to fires, which were very frequent
in Rome. Many of the houses were propped up, and old cracks simply plastered
over (Juv. iii. 193 seq.). Catullus speaks ironically of the advantages of a
beggar, who had nothing to fear from the fire or fall of houses ( non incendia,
non graves ruinas, Catull. xxiii. 9); Strabo mentions both dangers, and the
fear of them drove timid persons out of Rome ( incendia, lapsus, Juv. i. 7;
cf: Sen. Ep. 91, 13; tanta altitude aedificiorum est, ut neque adversus ignem
praesidium nec ex ruinis ullum ullam in partem effugium sit, de Controv. ii.
9; Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 110). The returns from house property in Rome were large,
but people feared to invest in it on account of fires (Gell. xv. 1). The inundations
of the Tiber also caused the fall of houses (Tac. Ann. i. 76; Suet. Aug. 30).
To guard against these dangers, in the reign of Augustus the height
of new houses in streets was limited to seventy feet, by a Metropolitan Building
Act, as it would now be called (Strab. v. p. 235). Augustus recommended a work
on this subject by Rutilius, entitled De Modo Aedificiorum (Suet. Aug. 89).
Vitruvius (ii. 8, 17) gives some of the provisions of this Act, e. g. that houses,
if several stories high, were to be built pilis lapideis, structuris testaceis,
parietibus caementitiis; that is, on stone piers, with walls of concrete and
burnt brick,--not of sun-dried clay, as had been the usual custom. It was not,
however, till the reign of Nero that a complete reform was effected in the arrangement
and construction of the houses and streets of Rome. Nero had a new and elaborate
Building Act drawn up, which required fireproof materials, such as peperino,
a hard volcanic stone, to be used for the external walls of houses. He also
enacted that each building should have separate walls, and a space (ambitus)
left open all round it. As a means of escape and assistance in the case of fire,
he also caused arcades or colonnades to be built at his own expense in front
of the insulae. (See p. 672 b.) It is not improbable that Nero, as Tacitus and
Suetonius seem to think, wilfully caused the great fire which destroyed so much
of Rome, in order that his new Act might come into immediate effect, and also
that he might lay out the streets on wider and straighter lines (Tac. Ann. xv.
43; Suet. Ner. 38). In Trajan's reign the limit of height for street houses
was fixed at sixty feet (Aur. Victor, Epit. 13). The emperors Antoninus and
Verus again made an ordinance about the space to be left round the insulae (Dig.
8, 2, 14).
We now turn to the history and construction of the domus, or mansion
of the great and wealthy. It was not till the last century of the republic,
when wealth had been acquired by conquests in the East, that houses of any splendour
began to be built; but it then became the fashion, not only to build houses
of an immense size, but to adorn them with marble columns, paintings, statues,
and costly works of art. They covered a large space, most of the rooms being
on the ground-floor. The spacious atria and peristylia, being open to the sky,
did not permit an upper story, which, if it existed, must have been confined
to the sides of the building, and could not have been very high, as otherwise
it would have darkened the atria and peristylia. These splendid mansions were
erected for the most part on the hills, and along the slopes of the Palatine,
on the side near the Forum, which was the favourite quarter for the Roman nobles.
In later times the various palaces of the emperors swallowed up almost the whole
of this favourite site, especially the palace of Caligula, which was built over
the place where Cicero, Clodius, Crassus, and other famous men once resided.
The house of the orator L. Crassus on the Palatine, built about
92 B.C., was the first which had marble columns,--namely, the six (or four)
columns of the atrium, 12 feet in height, which were of Hymettian marble. For
this Crassus was severely blamed; and the stern republican M. Brutus nicknamed
him the Palatine Venus (Plin. H. N. xxxvi.7, xvii. 2-6; Val. Max. ix. 1, 4).
This house was valued at 6,000,000 sesterces, about £62,000 (Val. Max. l. c.);
but Pliny says (xvii. 2) that it yielded in magnificence to the house of Q.
Catulus on the same hill, and was much inferior to that of C. Aquilius on the
Viminal. The house of Catulus had a fine colonnade (porticus), adorned with
the spoils of the Cimbric war. It was near the house of Cicero, as a portion
of the colonnade was destroyed when Clodius razed the house of Cicero (Val.
Max. vi. 3, 1; Cic. pro Dom. 43, 114; ad Att. iv. 2, 4, iv. 3, 2; ad Q. Fr.
iii. 1, 4, 14).
In 78 B.C. M. Lepidus, for the first time in Rome, used the rich
Numidian marble (mod. giallo antico) not only for columns, but even for the
thresholds of his doors (Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 48); but the fashion of building
magnificent houses increased so rapidly that the house of Lepidus, which, in
his consulship, was the first in Rome, was thirty-five years later eclipsed
by a hundred others (Plin. xxxvi. 109). Lucullus was especially celebrated for
the magnificence of his houses (Cic. de Off. i. 3. 9, 140). The Romans were
exceedingly partial to marble for the decoration of their houses. Pliny (H.
N. xxxvi. 48), quoting Cornelius Nepos, says that marble slabs were first used
for wall-linings by a knight named Mamurra, one of Caesar's prefects in Gaul:
in whose house were columns of Carystian (cipollino) and Luna marble. A further
advance in costly magnificence was made by the aedile M. Aemilius Scaurus in
the middle of the first century B.C. He purchased the above-named house of L.
Crassus and greatly enlarged it. He introduced as the supports of his atrium,
columns of the black Lucullean marble no less than 38 feet in height, the weight
of which was so great that he had to provide security for an indemnity in case
of injury that might be done to the main sewers, while these immense blocks
of marble were being brought along the streets (Plin. H. N. xxxvi.5 seq.). This
house was sold to Clodius for nearly 15 million sesterces, about £132,000; a
price, says Pliny, worthy of the madness of kings (Ascon. in Mil. p. 33, Or.;
Plin. H. N. xxxvi.115). This is the highest price recorded in the time of the
republic for a house. The consul Messalla bought the house of Autronius for
3,400,000 sesterces, about £29,000, and Cicero the house of Crassus (not L.
Crassus, the orator) for 3,500,000 sesterces, about £30,000 (Cic. ad Att. i.
1. 3, 6, with Tyrrell's note; ad Fam. v. 6). Cicero's house was on the lower
slope of the Palatine towards the Regia, the official residence of Julius Caesar
as Pontifex Maximus, whom Cicero calls his neighbour (ad Fam. v. 6; ad Att.
xiii. 45). It was originally built by M. Livius Drusus, from whom it passed
to Crassus, of whom Cicero bought it. It was destroyed by Clodius during Cicero's
exile, but was rebuilt at the public expense on his return (Vell. Pat. ii. 14;
Cic. pro Dom. 37). These houses will serve as samples of the value of the mansions
of the nobles during the republic. Sallust speaks of them like cities in size
(Cat. 12), and Seneca describes them in the same terms under the empire (Ep.
90, 43), when the imperial palaces, of which we shall speak further on, became
still more magnificent. Many of them, like the houses of Sallust and Maecenas,
described below, were surrounded by gardens. The rich noble, we are told, was
not content unless he had a rus in urbe (Mart. xii. 57, 21; cf. viii. 68, 2),
and the extensive pleasure-grounds are alluded to in other passages (cf. Mart.
xii. 50; Sen. Ep. 114, 9). The atria and peristylia, with the baths and other
public rooms described by Vitruvius, were magnificent, but the sleeping and
other private rooms were small and inconvenient, so that Martial, after describing
one of. these mansions, adds (xii. 50, 7): Atria longa patent. Sed nec cenantibus
usquam, Nec somno locus est. Quam bene non habitas!
In describing the domus properly so called, our chief authority
is Vitruvius, whose descriptions of the various parts are elucidated by the
existing remains of houses at Pompeii. There can be no doubt that the latter
are constructed upon the model of the houses at Rome; and not, as some have
supposed, borrowed from the Greeks. The municipal towns imitated in their buildings
those of Rome. The plan and arrangement of the Pompeian houses not only correspond
in general with the description of Vitruvius, but we find in them the atrium,
the alae, the tablinum, and the fauces, which are all characteristic of a Roman
house, and have no counterpart in a Greek house. Moreover, the Pompeian houses
resemble those in the Capitoline plan of Rome, made in the reign of Septimius
Severus, and the house of Livia on the Palatine. Still, it should be observed
that the Romans themselves derived all the later and ornamental additions to
their houses from the Greeks, as the names themselves show, their peristylia,
triclinia, oeci, exedrae, diaetae, pinacothecae, bibliothecae, &c. Moreover,
in the disposition and arrangement of the rooms, it should be remembered that
Vitruvius in his description of a Roman house, as of a Greek house, is giving
his own private views on the subject, and not simply describing the existing
methods of arrangement. His chapters on this subject are chiefly useful to the
modern student for the long list of names which he gives to the various parts
of the house, and his indications of the special uses of each part. Still the
chief rooms in the house of a wealthy Roman appear to have been arranged in
the same manner, while the others varied according to the taste and circumstances
of the owner.
According to Vitruvius, the principal parts of a Roman house were:
1. Vestibulum, 2. Ostium, 3. Atrium, 4. Alae, 5. Tablinum, 6. Fauces, 7. Peristylium.
The parts of a house which were considered of less importance, and of which
the arrangement differed in different houses, were: 1. Cubicula, 2. Triclinia,
3. Oeci, 4. Exedrae, 5. Pinacotheca, 6. Bibliotheca, 7 Balineum, 8. Culina,
9. Cenacula, 10. Lararium or Sacrarium, 11 Diaetae, 12. Solaria. We shall speak
of each in order.
But before doing so, it must be observed that the old Roman house
contained only one room, the atrium, to which all other rooms were subsequently
added, and that this was probably the name of the old Roman house. Thus we find
that there was in Rome a considerable number of old buildings of simple construction
bearing the name of atrium, such as the atrium Vestae, in which the Vestals
lived, the atrium sutorium, the atrium Libertatis, the atria Tiberina, atria
Licinia, atria auctionaria, and others. The atrium was probably derived from
the Etruscans, though we need not accept the etymology of Varro, that it came
from the Etruscan town of Atria or Adria. Some ancient writers, indeed, derive
it from the Latin word ater (Serv. ad Verg. Aen. i. 726; Isidor. Or. xv. 3,
4), an etymology accepted by many modern writers, and among others by Marquardt;
but the Etruscan origin is the more probable. Its earliest form is represented
in Etruscan cinerary urns, of which an example is given below, where we see
the opening in the roof, and the entrance door leading direct into the atrium.
This opening was intended to give light to the building, and as a vent for the
smoke, but as the atrium became enlarged, it took the form of the compluvium
or impluvium mentioned below. The roof was supported by four beams, crossing
each other at right angles, and sloping towards the roof in the centre. This
kind of roof, only found in later times in small houses, retained in memory
of its origin the name of Tuscan (Vitruv. vi. 3). The development of the atrium
is explained further on. We now follow the description of Vitruvius.
There has been much dispute respecting the exact signification of
this word, which has arisen from the different meanings attached to it at different
periods of history and in different kinds of houses. In the palaces of the nobles
the vestibulum was a vacant space before the house, forming a courtyard or entrance-court,
surrounded on three sides by the house, and open on the fourth to the street.
The two wings ran out beyond the facade of the building, and the door was in
the third side opposite the street. In some houses the projecting sides were
occupied by shops opening into the street. In the vestibulum the clients assembled,
till the door was opened, to pay their respects (salutatio) to the master of
the house, so that they might not be left standing either in the street or within
the house (Gell. xvi. 5.3, 8, vestibulum, quod est ante domum, Varr. L. L. vii.
81; Macrob. vi. 8, 5; Sen. ad Marc. 10, 1; Quintil. xi. 2, 20; Cic. Caec. 12,
35; Mil. 27, 75). Hence the vestibula regalia alta, or magnifica vestibula,
as Vitruvius calls them, were only required by the nobility on account of the
salutatio; and the ordinary citizens ( qui communi fortuna sunt ) had no occasion
for a vestibulum (Vitruv. vi. 8.1, 2). Accordingly, in the smaller houses in
Rome and the municipal towns, there was either no vestibulum, so that the door
opened straight upon the street, as in the Capitoline plan of Rome or the vestibulum
was simply indicated by the door standing back a few feet from the street, as
in many of the houses at Pompeii.
Sometimes there were steps from the street leading up to the vestibulum
(Sen. Ep. 84). In the houses of the nobility the vestibulum was adorned with
statues, arms, and other trophies (Plin. H. N. xxxv. 7; Liv. x. 7, xxii. 57;
Cic. Phil. ii. 2. 8, 68; Verg. Aen. ii. 504; Tibull. i. 1, 54; Ov. Trist. iii.
1, 33; Suet. Tib. 26, Ner. 38), sometimes with quadrigae (Juv. vii. 125; Sil.
Ital. vi. 434); and in the vestibulum before the Golden House of Nero there
was the colossal figure (see colossus)
of the emperor, 120 feet in height (Suet. Ner. 31). It was for the most part
uncovered (Plaut. Most. iii. 2, 132), but sometimes had a porticus or colonnade
(Suet. Ner. 16; Tac. Ann. xv. 43), and was adorned with trees or shrubs (Verg.
Georg. iv. 20). But as the influence of the nobility declined in the first century
of the Christian era, and the clients gradually disappeared, there was no longer
any occasion for a vestibulum in the houses of the nobles; and hence the exact
meaning of the word became a matter of dispute among antiquarians [p. 669] in
the time of the Antonines (Gell. xvi. 5.2, 8). Moreover, as the master of the
house no longer lived in the atrium, but in the peristylium and the adjoining
rooms, the atrium became the place of waiting for visitors, and is thus sometimes
apparently used as synonymous with vestibulum (Liv. v. 41, 2; Ov. Fast. vi.
297; Suet. Aug. 100).
Public buildings also had vestibula, as the curia or senate-house
(Liv. i. 48, ii. 48), and various temples (Liv. Ep. 86; Val. Max. i. 8.2, 11;
Tac. Hist. i. 86).
The ostium was the entrance to the house (Vitruv. ap. Serv. ad Verg.
Aen. vi. 43 ; Isidor. xv. 7), and is constantly used as synonymous with janua
and fores, the door. But ostium properly signified the small vacant space before
the janua, whence Plautus (Pers. v. 1, 6) says ante ostium et januam. Here stood
the antae, two posts or pillars flanking the doorway (Isidor. l. c.; Fest. p.
16, M.). On the threshold the word Salve was frequently wrought in mosaic, as
we see in the Pompeian houses; and over the threshold there sometimes hung a
cage containing a magpie (pica) or a parrot (psittacus), taught to greet those
who entered (Petron. 28; pica salutatrix, Mart. vii. 87, 6, xiv. 76; Pers. prol.
8). Over the door a few words of good omen were sometimes written, such as nihil
intret mali (Orelli-Henz. Inscr. 7287), or deprecatio incendiorum (Plin. H.
N. xxviii. 20). Sometimes the house was indicated by a sign over the door, as
in mediaeval times. Thus we are told that Augustus was born ad Capita Bubula
(Suet. Aug. 5), and Domitian ad Malum Punicum (Suet. Dom. 1). The street-door
itself is fully described under Janua
Whether the street-door opened into a hall, or direct into the atrium,
has been a subject of much dispute. Vitruvius mentions no entrance-hall in a
Roman house, and he seems to speak of the Greek entrance-hall (thuroreion) placed
between two doors as a peculiarity of a Greek house (Vitruv. vi. 10). But there
are reasons for believing there must have been an entrancehall in the palaces
of the nobility, as behind the door there was a small room (cella) for the house-porter
(ostiarius or janitor), and it is difficult to suppose that this was in the
atrium (Ov. Am. i. 6, 1; Suet. de Rhet. 3, Vitell. 16; Colum. i. praef. 10;
Petron. 28), especially as a dog was kept by his side, chained to the wall,
with a written warning Cave Canem (Suet. Vitell. 16; Plaut. Most. iii. 2, 169;
Sen. de Ir. iii. 37). Sometimes a dog was painted on the wall, or wrought in
mosaic on the pavement, as we find in the house of the Tragic poet at Pompeii.
At the end of the hall, which seems to have been called ostium, there was no
inner door, but the entrance to the atrium was closed by a curtain (velum),
which was drawn aside by the usher when he admitted strangers to an interview
(Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 5; Heliog. 14; Sen. Ep. 20; Plin. Ep. ii. 17). The entrance-hall
was small, so that a person in the atrium could look through it at persons walking
in the street (Suet. Cal. 41). The smallness of the hall explains, the passages
cited by Marquardt to prove that the street-door led directly into the atrium.
The first point to he determined in connexion with the atrium, upon
which the whole disposition of a Roman house depends, is, whether the atrium
and the cavum aedium (or cavaedium, as Pliny, Ep. ii. 17, 5, writes it) denote
two separate courts or one and the same. Some modern writers, notably Becker
in his Gallus, whom Burn has followed, maintain that they were distinct courts,
and accordingly place three courts in a Roman house,--first the atrium, then
the cavum aedium in the centre, and lastly the peristylium in the rear. But
this view cannot be maintained; it is rejected by the best modern authorities;
it is in direct opposition to the statements of Varro (L. L. v. 161) and Vitruvius
(vi. 3 and 8), who call sometimes the chief room of the house atrium and sometimes
cavum aedium; and it is contradicted by the fact, that no houses in Pompeii
have yet been discovered containing more than two courts,--namely, the atrium
and peristylium. We may therefore conclude that the atrium and the cavum aedium
denote the same room, the only difference perhaps being that cavum aedium indicated
originally the open part, and atrium the entire area; but in general the two
words are used as synonymous. The atrium or cavum aedium was a large room or
court roofed over, with the exception of an opening in the centre, called compluvium,
towards which the roof sloped so as to throw the rain-water into a cistern in
the floor, termed impluvium (Varr. l. c.; Fest. p. 108, M.; Liv. xliii. 13,
6; Plaut. Amph. v. 1, 56). The water from the impluvium flowed into a well (puteus)
under ground; for before the construction of the aqueducts the Romans were dependent
upon wells for their supply of water. The word impluvium, however, is sometimes
employed in a wider sense to denote the whole uncovered space in the atrium,
and therefore the opening in the top as well as the cistern at the bottom. (Cic.
Act. in Verr. i. 2. 3, 61, with the note of Pseudo-Ascon. p. 177, Or.; Serv.
ad Verg. Aen. ii. 512; per impluvium introspectant, Plant. Mil. ii. 2, 3, ii.
3, 16; Ter. Eun. iii. 5, 40). Compluvium in like manner is sometimes used in
the same wide signification as equivalent to impluvium (Suet. Aug. 92; Varr.
L. L. v. 125). The compluvium was sometimes covered with hangings, as a protection
against the sun (Ov. Met. x. 595 ; Plin. H. N. xix. 24, 25; Dig. 33, 7, 12,
20). The breadth of the impluvium, according to Vitruvius, was not less than
a quarter nor greater than a third of the breadth of the atrium; its length
was in the same proportion according to the length of the atrium.
Vitruvius (vi. 3) distinguishes five kinds of atria or cava aedium, which were
called by the following names:
(1) Tuscanicum. In this the roof was supported by four beams, crossing each
other at right angles, the included space forming the compluvium. This kind
of atrium was the most ancient of all, as it is more simple than the others,
and is not adapted for a very large building.
(2.) Tetrastylum. This was of the same form as the preceding, except that the
main beams of [p. 670] the roof were supported by pillars, placed at the four
angles of the impluvium. Such an arrangement would be necessary in a large atrium,
as the roof could not otherwise be well supported.
(3.) Corinthium was on the same principle as the tetrastyle, only that there
were a greater number of pillars around the impluvium, on which the beams of
the roof rested.
(4.) Displuviatum had its roof sloping the contrary way to the compluvium, so
that the water fell outside the house instead of being carried into the impluvium,
and was carried off by gutters.
(5.) Testudinatum was constructed in the same way as the displuviatum, but it
was roofed all over and had no compluvium. We are not informed, however, how
light was admitted into an atrium of this kind. This form went out of use: we
have no instances of it in the Pompeian houses.
The atrium, as we have already seen, was originally the only room
of the house, serving as sitting-room, bed-room, and kitchen, which it probably
continued to do among the lower classes even in later times (Serv. ad Verg.
Aen. i. 726, ix. 648; Varr. ap. Non. p. 83, s. v. cortes). Here was the focus,
or hearth, which served not only for cooking, but from its sacred character
was used also for the receptacle of the Lares or Penates, which were sometimes
kept in little cupboards near the hearth (Juxta focum Dii Penates positi fuerunt,
Schol. ad Hor. Epod. ii. 43; Plaut. Aul. ii. 18, 15; Tibull. i. 10, 20; Juv.
viii. 110; Petron. 29). The Lar or tutelary god of the house stood close to
the entrance behind the door leading into the atrium (Ov. Fast. i. 136 seq.);
and we find him so placed in some of the Pompeian houses. Near the sacred flame
the members of the family took the common meal (Serv. ll. cc.), and the same
custom continued in the country even in the time of Augustus (Hor. Sat. ii.
6, 65 seq.). In the atrium the master of the house kept his area or money-chest
(Serv. ll. cc.), which was fastened to the floor. Here stood the nuptial bed
(lectus genialis, Fest. p. 94, M.) against the back wall, opposite the entrance
to the atrium, whence it was also called lectus adversus (Prop. iv. (v.) 11,
85; Gell. xvi. 9; Ascon. in Mil. p. 43, Orelli). Here sat the mistress of the
house, spinning and weaving with her maids (Liv. i. 57, 9; Ascon. l. c.; Arnob.
ii. 67). Here all visits were paid, and the patron received his clients (Hor.
Ep. i. 5, 31, more patrio sedens in solio consulentibus responderem, Cic. Leg.
i. 3, 10). Here the corpse was placed before it was carried out to burial. Here,
in the alae (see below), were placed the waxen imagines of the ancestors of
But as wealth increased, and numerous clients came to wait upon
their patron, new rooms were built, and the atrium ceased to be the only room
for the family. A kitchen (culina; see p. 671 b) was made for cooking, the Lares
were placed in a special lararium; the meals were taken in the upper story,
hence called cenaculum (Varr. L. L v. 162); the master and mistress slept in
a separate cubiculum. As the atrium now became the reception room, it was fitted
up among the wealthy with much splendour and magnificence for the reception
of their clients. The opening in the roof was enlarged for the admission of
more light, and was supported by pillars frequently made of costly marble. Between
the pillars and along the walls statues and other works of art were placed (Cic.
Verr. i. 2. 3, 61; Apul. Met. ii. 4). In the middle of the impluvium was a marble
fountain, with jets of water, frequently adorned with reliefs, of which many
beautiful specimens have been found at Pompeii. Near the fountain, where the
hearth formerly stood, was a marble table, called cartibulum
(Varr. L. L. v. 125). The atrium, however, still continued, as in ancient times,
to be the chief room of the house, and it was not only the room for the reception
of guests, but its primitive character was preserved by its retaining the symbolical
nuptial couch (Hor. Ep. i. 1, 87), the imagines of the ancestors, and the instruments
for weaving and spinning. The ancient writers frequently contrast the simplicity
of the ancient with the splendour of the modern atrium.
The rooms which opened out of the atrium were lighted only through
the compluvium, as there were no windows, as a general rule, upon the ground-floor.
Wings, were two small quadrangular apartments or recesses on the left and right
sides of the atrium (Vitruv. vi. 4), but at its further end, and open to the
atrium, as we see in the Pompeian houses. Here the imagines were kept in the
houses of the nobles. But as the alae were really a part of the atrium, the
imagines were frequently described as standing in the atrium. (Juv. viii. 19
seq.; Plin. H. N. xxxv.6; Or. Fast. i. 591, Am. i. 8, 65; Mart. ii. 90, 6, v.
It was in all probability a recess or room at the further end of
the atrium opposite the door leading into the hall, and was regarded as part
of the atrium. It contained the family records and archives (Vitruv. vi. 4 and
8; Plin. H. N. xxxv.7). It appears from the houses of Pompeii to have been separated
not by a door, but simply by a curtain or velum, while it had a door at the
back leading into the peristylium. Marquardt supposes that the tablinum was
originally an alcove made of wood (whence its name) built at the back of the
atrium, in which meals were taken during the summer, and was afterwards joined
to the atrium by breaking through the walls of the latter (Varr. ap. Non., s.
With the tablinum, the Roman house appears to have originally ceased;
the sleeping rooms being arranged on the upper floor. But when the atrium and
its surrounding rooms were used for the reception of clients and other public
visitors, it became necessary to increase the size of the house; and the following
rooms were accordingly added:
It was a passage by the side of the tablinum, which passed from
the atrium to the peristylium or open court, as we see in the Pompeian houses.
We must not suppose, as Rich does, that the plural indicates two passages (Vitruv.
It was in its general form like the atrium, but it was one-third
greater in breadth, measured transversely, than in length (Vitruv. vi. 4); but
we do not find these proportions preserved in the Pompeian houses. It was a
court open to the sky in the middle; the open part, which was surrounded by
columns, had a fountain in the centre, and was planted with flowers, shrubs,
and trees forming a viridarium. The atrium and peristylium were the two important
parts of a Roman house; the former, during the last century of the republic
and under the empire, being the public reception room, and the latter the inner
or private court-yard, which gave access to the private rooms, such as the oeci
or saloons, the triclinia or dining-rooms, the baths, and the other rooms described
below. The peristylium having never been used, like the atrium, as a place in
which the family lived, the opening to the sky was much larger than the compluvium
in the atrium, and the columns which surrounded it more numerous. Thus, in the
house of the Faun at Pompeii, there were forty-four Doric columns in the peristylium.
It was ornamented in much the same way as the atrium; and consequently it is
sometimes difficult to determine whether the description of this ornamentation
applies to the atrium or the peristylium. But the large. marble fountain, with
the steps leading down to it, on which the waters splashed (Sen. Ep. 86, 6;
in peristylio saliente aqua, Suet. Aug. 82), and the numerous shrubs and trees,
of which the ancient writers frequently speak, belong properly to the peristylium.
Hence we may safely assign to the peristylium the descriptions of Horace (Ep.
i. 10, 22): nempe inter varias nutritur silva columnas, and (Carm. iii. 10,
5) nemus inter pulchra saturn tecta, and of Tibullus (iii. 3, 15), et nemora
in domibus sacros imitantia lucos. (Cf. Juv. iv. 7; Plin. H. N. xvii. 4; Sen.
Controv. v. 5.) Between the columns of the peristylium statues were placed (
in silva sub divo, Cic. Verr. i. 1. 9, 51), and vases filled with flowers (Dig.
33, 7, 26).
The arrangement of the rooms leading out of the peristylium, which
are next to be noticed, varied, as has been remarked, according to the taste
and circumstances of the owner. It is therefore impossible to assign to them
any regular place in the house.
1. Cubicula, bed-chambers, appear to have been usually small. There
were separate cubicula for the day and night (cubicula diurna et nocturna, Plin.
Ep. i. 3); the latter were also called dormitoria, and were mostly on the upper
floor (Id. v. 6, 21; Plin. H. N. xxx.52; Sidon. Apoll. Ep. ii. 2).Vitruvius
(vi. 7) recommends that they should face the east for the benefit of the rising
sun. They sometimes had a small ante-room, which was called by the Greek name
of prokoiton, in which the cubicularius or valet probably slept. (Plin. Ep.
ii. 17, 23.) In some of the Pompeian houses we find a recess in which the bed
was placed. This recess was called zotheca or zothecula, and was used by Pliny
in his villa in the day-time as well as the night (Plin. Ep. ii. 17, 21, v.
6, 38; Sidon. Apoll Ep. viii. 16, ix. 11). Statues also were placed in this
recess, as we learn from inscriptions (Orelli, 1368, 2006).
2. Ttriclina, dining-rooms, are treated of in a separate article (see
3. Oeci, from the Greek oikos, were spacious halls or saloons borrowed
from the Greeks, and were frequently used as triclinia (Cf. Plin. H. N. xxxvi.
184). They were to have the same proportions as triclinia, but were to be more
spacious on account of having columns, which triclinia had not (Vitruv. vi.
5). Vitruvius mentions four kinds of oeci:
(i.) The Tetrastyle, which needs no further description. Four columns
supported the roof.
(ii.) The Corinthian, which possessed only one row of columns, supporting
the architrave, (epistylium), cornice (corona), and a vaulted roof.
(iii.) The Egyptian, which was more splendid and more like a basilica
than a Corinthian triclinium. In the Egyptian oecus, the pillars supported a
gallery with paved floor, which formed a walk round the apartment; and upon
these pillars others were placed, a fourth part less in height than the lower,
which surrounded the roof. Between the upper columns windows were inserted.
(iv.) The Cyzicene (Kuzikenoi) appears in the time of Vitruvius to
have been seldom used in Italy. These oeci were meant for summer use looking
to the north, and, if possible, facing gardens, to which they opened by folding-doors.
Pliny had oeci of this kind in his villa.
4. Exedrae, which appear to have been in form much the same as the
oeci, for Vitruvius (vi. 5) speaks of the exedrae in connexion with oeci quadrati,
were rooms for conversation and the other purposes of society. (Cic. de Nat.
Deor. i. 6, 15; de Orat. iii. 5, 17.) They served the same purposes as the exedrae
in the Thermae and Gymnasia, which were semicircular rooms with seats for philosophers
and others to converse in. (Vitruv. v. 11, vii. 9).
5, 6, 7. Pinacotheca,
Bibliotheca, and Balineum (Balneae
=baths), are treated of in separate articles.
8. Culina, the kitchen. The food was originally cooked in the atrium
but the progress of refinement afterwards led to the use of another part of
the house for this purpose. In the kitchen of Pansa's house (see image in the
URL below), a stove for stews and similar preparations was found, very much
like the charcoal stoves used in the present day. Before it lie a knife, a strainer,
and a kind of frying-pan with four spherical cavities, as if it were meant to
In this kitchen, as well as in many others at Pompeii, there are
paintings of the Lares and Penates, to whom the hearth in the atrium was sacred,
and under whose care the kitchen was also placed. (Serv. ad Verg. Aen. ii. 469;
Arnob. ii. 67.) In the country the meals were taken in the kitchen, as they
were in ancient times in the atrium (Colum. i. 6; Varr. R. R. i. 13). The kitchen
was in the back part of the house, and in connexion with it was the pistrinum
or bake-house, where bread was baked at home (Varr. ap. Non. p. 55, 18; Lucil.
ap. Non. p. 217, 20); but after B.C. 171 there were public bake-houses in Rome
(Plin. H. N. xviii,107). In the houses of the wealthy, as may be supposed, the
kitchens were often of great size (Sen. Ep. 114, cf. 64). In Pompeii have been
found sinks of kitchens, called confluvia (Varr. ap. Non. p. 544, 20) or coquinae
In close and inconvenient proximity to the kitchen was the latrina
(contraction of lavatrina, Varr. L. L. v. 118), or privy, in order that a common
drain might carry off the contents of both to the cloaca or public sewer (Varr.
l. c.; Colum. x. 85; cf. Plant. Curc. iv. 4, 24; Suet. Tib. 58; Apul. Met. i.
c. 17, p. 15; on the Spongia mentioned by Sen. Ep. 70, 20, cf. Mart. xii. 48,
7). In many of the Pompeian houses we find the latrina contiguous to the kitchen,
as is shown in the annexed cut from the house of Sallust. On the right are two
small arches, which are the kitchen stove. On the left is an arched recess,
which is the latrina, originally closed by a wooden door, of which the marks
of the hinges may still be seen; and at the bottom is the mouth of the pipe
supplying the place with water.
9. Cenacula, or rooms in the upper stories.
(=worship place, chapel) or Sacrarium
(=a place in which sacred things were deposited and kept). The Lares or Penates
were originally placed near the hearth of the house in the atrium but when the
latter became only a reception room, they were removed to a special chapel,
called Lararium (Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 29, 31; Vopisc. Florian. 4; Capitol. Anton.
Phil. 3) or Sacrarium (Cic. ad Fam. xiii. 2; Cic. Verr iv. 2, 4), in which statues
of other divinities were also placed. Such a chapel is found in the peristylium
of many of the Pompeian houses.
11. Dieta does not denote any particular kind of room, but is a word
borrowed from the Greek (diaita) to signify a room used for any of the purposes
of life (Plin. Ep. ii. 17, 12 vii. 5, 1 ; Stat. Silv. ii. 2, 83). Each diaeta
was sometimes called by a name, as the one belonging to Claudius (Suet. Claud.
10). Thus it denotes also a bed-chamber (Plin. Ep. vi. 16, 14), a dining-room
(Sidon. Apoll. Ep. ii. 2), a summer-house or a room in a garden (Plin. Ep. ii.
17, 20; Dig. 7, 1, 66, 1). It is also the collective name of a set of chambers,
Thus Pliny speaks (v. 6, 31) of two diaetae, in one of which were four bed-chambers,
and in another three.
12. Solarium literally a place for basking in the sun, denotes a terrace
on the flat roof of a house, frequently used by the Romans, as is still the
case in Italy and the East (Isidor. xv. 3, 12; Dig. 8, 2, 17; Plant. Mil. Glor.
ii. 3, 69, ii. 4, 25; Suet. Claud. 10; Macrob. ii. 4, 14). In the time of the
emperors, these solaria on the tops of houses were turned into gardens, which
contained even fruit-trees and fish-ponds (Sen. Ep. 122; Contr. Exc. v. 5).
Somewhat similar were the solaria built by Nero on the colonnades in front of
the insulae and domus (Suet. Ner. 16; Tac. Ann. xv. 43). Sometimes the solaria
were covered by a roof (tectum solarium, Orelli, Inscr 2417).
Some other parts of a Roman house require a brief mention:
1. Cellae servorum, familiares or Familiaricae, the small bed-rooms
of the slaves, were usually situated in the upper story, as in the house of
Pansa at Pompeii, or in the back of the house, with the exception of the cella
of the house-porter, which was naturally close to the front door. (Colum. i.
6 ; Cic. Phil. ii. 2. 7, 67; Hor. Sat. i. 8, 8; Vitruv. vi. 7; Plin. Ep. ii.
also denoted the store-room, of which there were several, bearing various names,
according to their contents.
3. Cellars underground and vaulted are rarely mentioned ( hypogea concamerationes-que,
Vitruv. vi. (8) 11; constructum sub terris aedificium, Isidor. xvi. 3), though
several have been found at Pompeii.
Though no Etruscan houses are extant, we obtain a good idea of their
form and general disposition from their tombs, as there can be no doubt that
their cemeteries were often intentional representations of their cities, and
the separate tombs of their houses. The arrangement of the latter throws light
upon that of the Roman house, the original form of which was borrowed from the
Etruscans. Thus in the cemetery of Cervetri, the ancient Agylla or Caere, the
tombs have a large central chamber, representing the atrium, with others of
smaller size opening out of it, lighted by windows in the wall of the rock,
as they could of course have no opening or compluvium in the roof. The ceilings
of all the chambers have the usual beams and rafters hewn in the rock. The smaller
rooms round the atrium were triclinia, for each has a bench of rock round three
of its sides, on which the dead had been deposited, reclining as at a banquet.
The following plan of one of these tombs shows a clear resemblance to an ancient
We find a similar arrangement in the tombs at Chiusi, the ancient
Clusium, where the passage leads into the principal chamber or atrium, out of
which open several smaller chambers or triclinia.
Existing remains of Roman houses.
The oldest remains of a house in Rome are those of the Regia, which,
according to Dio Cassius (xliii. 42), was the residence of the Pontifex Maximus,
and was on the site of the house occupied by Numa. The Regia stood at the S.E.
limits of the Forum, close by the Temple of Vesta, adjoining the House of the
Vestal Virgins (Dio Cass. xliv. 17; Gell. iv. 6; Cic. ad Att. x. 3). The existing
remains are of several dates: the oldest walls are of the softest tufa, and
belong probably to a structure many centuries earlier than the Christian era
; next comes a part built of hard blocks of peperino (lapis Albanus). A later
part of the house is built of concrete faced with burnt bricks, and has columns
of the hard travertine thickly coated with stucco, and painted in brilliant
tints of blue and red. This is probably part of the rebuilding carried out by
Domitius Calvinus after his victories in Spain, c. 35 B.C. Another portion of
the same or an adjoining building was built of solid blocks of white marble.
This also may be part of Calvinus's work. There are many reasons for believing
that the Consular Fasti (now in the Capitoline Museum) were engraved on the
solid marble walls of one of these rooms in the Regia (see Bull. Inst. Arch.
Rom. 1886, p. 99). This interesting building exists only in a very fragmentary
state, and its complete plan cannot be made out. The rooms are small, and the
atrium also appears to have been of very limited extent. The mosaic pavements
and painted decorations belong to the alterations made in the time of Augustus.
One of the best preserved houses in Rome is also of special interest
from its early date. This is the small dwelling usually known as the House of
Livia (see image in the URL below) or of Gemanicus, which is built in a hollow
in the N.W. part of the Palatine hill. That it is probably not later in date
than the time of Augustus is shown by the construction of its walls, which are
formed of concrete faced with very neat opus reticulatum of tufa, no brick being
used. The figure on the next page shows its plan, which, owing to the irregularity
of the site, is at two different levels: the small rooms grouped round the staircase
F being at a much higher level than the larger rooms by the atrium; the stairs
D lead from the atrium up to the higher floor behind. The main entrance is at
B, approached down a short flight of steps. C C are pedestals for a statue and
an altar: E E are bedrooms; G is a narrow crypto-porticus, which branches out
of H, another dark passage, forming hidden communications with different buildings
on this part of the Palatine. A is a third vaulted passage which leads to Caligula's
palace: this is possibly the path by which Caligula's murderers escaped when
they hid themselves in the house of Germanicus (Joseph. Ant. Jud. xix. 1, 2;
Suet. Calig. 58).
The paintings in the principal rooms of this house are among the
finest examples of Roman wall decoration that still exist (see Renier, Les Peintures
du Palatin). The most remarkable (in the tablinum) is a scene of the liberation
of lo by Hermes, who approaches stealthily to kill Argus, who is watching her.
In composition, colour, and in delicacy of touch, this is a work of much beauty.
As the names of the figures were painted under each in Greek, it appears probable
that it is the work of a Greek artist: only one name (EPMEX) is now legible.
On the same wall is a street scene, with lofty houses several stories high,
and fanciful balconies and porticoes. In the triclinium are some very clever
paintings of bowls of fruit, in which grapes and apples are seen through the
transparent glass of which the bowls are made.
The floors are formed of marble mosaic in simple geometrical patterns,
very neatly fitted together, with much smaller tesserae than were used under
the later empire.
On the upper floor a long passage, approached by the staircase D,
divides the house into two parts. J K L M seem to be small bath-rooms. N N are
shops with no communication with the house, facing a public street, O O. At
P are remains of a very ancient tufa building. Q is a piscina, which seems partly
to have supplied the house with water. A number of inscribed lead pipes were
found, but these were of later date than the house itself: water was laid on
to the upper as well as to the ground floors.
As seems to have been usually the case in Roman houses till the
reign of Augustus, the only method of heating was by charcoal braziers (foculi).
In the tablinum a small recess is provided for the foculus or caminus. The use
of hypocausts for private houses was a later introduction, and the very complete
system of heating rooms, which provided not only for hot air under the hypocaust
floors, but also wall-linings of flue-tiles all over the internal wall-surface
of a room, did not come into ceneral use till about the end of the second century
A.D. In the third century especially the rapidly-growing effeminacy of the Romans
led them to provide in the most elaborate manner for the heating of their houses;
and the contrast is very great between the shut-in, highly-heated apartments
of the later empire, as compared with the half open-air life and scanty warming
of the earlier houses. In the above figured plan the tablinum and its alae are
open on one side to the only partially roofed atrium; an arrangement fitted
only for a hardy race, such as the Romans once were. The later houses, with
their glazed and curtained windows, hollow floors, and walls radiating heat
from their whole surface, must have had an atmosphere very like that of a modern
hot-house. For details of the construction of hypocausts and the arrangement
of flue-lined walls, the reader is referred to the article Balneae.
Owing to the fact that no Roman house now exists with walls perfect
up to the roof, it had for long been a matter of doubt how the hot air and smoke
from the hypocausts escaped after passing through the flue-tiles which lined
the walls. An explanation of this has now been furnished by an extremely interesting
mosaic picture found in 1878 at Oued-Atmenia in Algeria. This most valuable
picture is a perspective view of a very large country mansion, built by a wealthy
Roman named Pompeianus, who was Proconsul of Africa under Honorius. The mosaic
itself formed part of the pavement of the house which it represents. The building
is one of immense extent, and varies from four to six stories in height. The
ground-floor has only a few plain rectangular windows, fitted with strong iron
gratings. In the upper stories the windows, partly arched and partly square-headed,
are placed at frequent intervals. The long line of the main block is broken
by t c lofty tower-like structures. The central and most important part of the
house has a low-pitched roof covered with red tiles, from the ridge of which,
at four different points, chimney stacks project, just as they would in a modern
house. What appears to be a conical smoke-cowl is set over each chimney. This
unique mosaic gives a clear notion of the external appearance of one of the
large mansions of the later empire, such as could never be gained from an examination
of any of the very imperfect existing remains of Roman dwellings. numerous though
they are, from which little more than the plan of the ground-floor can usually
be gathered. And here it may be remarked that most writers on the subject of
Roman houses appear to have ignored the fact that it was usually, if not invariably,
the custom to build with an upper story, and hence it is obviously a mistake
in examining the existing remains of any house to expect to find the whole accommodation
of the dwelling provided on the ground-floor. It appears probable that in nearly
all cases the best bedrooms were placed upstairs, where there was ample space
for rooms of a good size, and yet it is usual to describe small cell-like rooms
on the ground-floor as being the chief sleeping apartments of the family, in
spite of] their obvious drawbacks from damp and want of light. In Italy especially
ground-floor bedrooms are far from being healthy.
In 1874 remains of a very interesting house of the time of Augustus
were found on the Esquiline hill, not far from the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore:
from its position on the line of the Servian wall and agger, it has been called
the House of Maecenas, who lived in that quarter, where he converted the public
burial-ground into a large park (Hor. Sat. i. 8, 14; horti Maecenatiani, Suet.
Tib. 15). This palace of Maecenas from its lofty position on the Esquiline is
called by Horace (Epod. 9, 3) alta domus, and is probably alluded to in another
passage ( molem propinquam nubibus arduis, Hor. Carm. iii. 29, 10); and on account
of its healthy situation Augustus slept there when he was ill (Suet. Aug. 72).
Tiberius took up his residence there. These gardens were of great extent, and
were united by Nero with his palace on the Palatine hill (Tac. Ann. xv. 39;
Suet. Ner. 31), and it was from one of the towers of Maecenas, which commanded
an extensive view, that he surveyed the conflagration of Rome (Suet. Ner. 38;
cf. Burn, Rome, 227). One fine room of this house, still well preserved, is
of especial interest; this appears to have been a sort of greenhouse for plants
and flowers: it is a large vaulted chamber, with a semicircular apse at one
end; all round the walls are tiers of high steps once lined with marble, intended
to form stands for rows of flower-pots; arranged exactly as in a modern conservatory.
Prof. Mohr has pointed out that the cultivation of shrubs and flowers in this
way was largely practised by the Romans. On each side of the hall are six recesses,
decorated with paintings of garden scenes, with fountains among the flowers,
treated in a skilfully deceptive way, so as to look as if each recess were a
window opening on to a real garden. The light was admitted only through openings
in the barrel vault of the hall, on which were paintings of similar floral subjects;
a remarkable example of the theatrical scene-painter's style of decoration which
was popular among the Romans.
The House of Sallust, the historian, was one of the finest houses
in Rome. It had, like the house of Maecenas, extensive gardens, whence the residence
was frequently called the Horti Sallustiani. It was built by Sallust with the
riches obtained in his government of Numidia (Pseud.-Cic. Respons. in Sall.
17, 19); and after the death of his heir, Sallustius Crisp us, in the reign
of Tiberius, it appears to have passed into the hands of the emperor, as it
is subsequently mentioned as an imperial palace, and the residence of several
of the emperors. So large were the gardens, that the Emperor Aurelian, who preferred
living there to the Palatine, erected in them a colonnade, 1000 paces long,in
which he took horse exercise. Part of this house still exists in the narrow
valley between the Pincian and Quirinal hills, near the Porta Collina in the
Servian wall. (Tac. Ann. xiii. 47; Hist. iii. 82; Plin. H. N. vii. § 75; Dio
Cass. lxvi. 10; Vopisc. Aurel. 49; Procop. Bell. Vand. i. 2.)
The position of this house (see image in the URL below) is peculiar:
part of it stands on the lower ground at the foot of a cliff of the Quirinal,
and part on the top of the cliff; so that the floor of the third story of the
lower part was level with the ground-floor of the rest. The figure shows the
plan of the existing remains, which will be soon destroyed by the filling up
of the valley, where the building stands, to make new boulevards: a most serious
loss. The circular part A is a lofty domed hall: B B is a balcony-like gallery,
supported on corbels, which runs round the outside of the main building, at
a height of about forty feet above the ground: C is a fine vaulted room, with
two stories over it: D D is a retaining wall, built against the scarped face
of the cliff to keep the crumbling tufa rock from decay: E E are rooms in four
or five stories, some with concrete and others with wooden floors: F are winding
marble-lined stairs, with mosaic landings, which led to the top of the house
and the rooms on the higher level of the hill. This part is still about seventy
feet high. G is another marble-lined staircase. A great part of the house is
still unexcavated. The date of the existing portion is of the first century
A.D., and is evidently part of additions made by the early emperors. In the
sixteenth century an immense quantity of valuable marbles, including magnificent
columns of Oriental alabaster and Numidian giallo antico, were found in the
ruins of Sallust's house, and used to decorate several of the churches of Rome...
Some very splendidly decorated houses have recently, during the
formation of the new Tiber embankment, been discovered and then-destroyed, along
the line of the Farnesina gardens, by the right bank of the river. These were
very richly ornamented with paintings, and especially with stucco reliefs of
extraordinary beauty, evidently dating from the middle or early part of the
first century A.D. Many of these were almost of pure Greek style, free from
any of the usual Roman coarseness of detail or clumsiness of form. The reliefs
were executed rapidly by the artist in the quick-setting wet stucco, which he
applied in lumps to the previously prepared flat [p. 676] surface, and then,
before the stucco had time to harden, he modelled the figures into shape with
his fingers and thumb, assisted by a few simple wooden modelling tools. The
decision and rapid skill shown in this manipulation are very remarkable; and
an amount of life and vigour appears in these hastily executed reliefs, which
could hardly have been equalled by the slow process of chiselling a hard substance.
Many of the scenes represented are Dionysiac, fauns playing on the double pipes,
nymphs dancing with timbrels and other musical instruments, and sportive genii
bearing the thyrsus or bunches of grapes. Some figures of winged Victories are
marvels of delicate beauty, lightly poised on large wings, with drapery flowing
behind them in graceful curving folds. The modelling of the nude limbs of the
fauns is perfect for its skilful suggestion of the play of muscles under a supple
skin, and is quite free from the anatomical exaggerations of the late Attic
School of Sculpture, which the Romans seem specially to have admired.
The Tiber banks opposite the Campus Martius formed a favourite site
for the houses of wealthy Romans: some of these are shown on fragments of the
Capitoline marble plan of Rome (see image in the URL below); most of them have
stairs leading down to the water's edge. The accompanying figure shows another
fragment of this celebrated plan, which was made in the reign of Severus to
decorate the end wall of the Templum Sacrae Urbis by the Forum. This shows us
a common type of street house in Rome, such as belonged to men of moderate means.
On this fragment are engraved the plans of three houses in a row, almost identical
in arrangement. (1) is the entrance passage, with two shops (2) on each side.
(3) is a small Tuscan atrium, as Vitruvius calls it, being without columns:
(4) is the passage leading into (5) the peristylium, round which are four small
rooms (6), one at each corner.
Some interesting examples of houses not owned by private persons,
but used by corporate bodies, have been found during the last few years. The
chief of these is the Atrium Vestae or House of the Six Vestal Virgins, which
was exposed to view in 1883-4.
The plan above (see image in the URL below), reproduced from Middleton's
Ancient Rome in 1885, shows the position of the house, near the circular Temple
of Vesta, and close to the northern angle of the Palatine, where the immense
substructures of Caligula's palace still exist. The rooms are arranged round
a long open peristylium or cloister; not unlike the plan of a mediaeval monastery.
At one end is the tablinum, with three small chambers on each side ; probably
each of the six vestals had one of these. On the N.E. side of the tablinum is
a large hall, with recesses for statues, and on the other side is a bath-room,
and near it a kitchen, a baker's oven with a corn-mill, and other domestic offices.
On both the long sides of the peristylium is a number of very handsome rooms,
decorated in a very costly and elaborate manner: in all cases there was at least
one upper story. On the verge of the N.E. side of the house is a row of shops:
at this place the remains of the Regia are indicated on the plan. In the centre
of the peristylium was what seems to have been a series of flower-beds, in the
shape of a circle within an octagon: traces of the low brick kerbs which separated
these beds are still easily distinguishable. On the S.W. side a great part of
the upper story still exists. here, as in the previously mentioned houses of
Livia and Sallust, the building is set against the side of a slope, so that
in one part an upper story has its floor level with the higher ground. In this
case a considerable part of the lower slopes of the Palatine has been cut away
to make a site for the Vestals' house, probably at the time of its enlargement
under Hadrian, to whose period most of the existing structure belongs. The upper
rooms consist chiefly of bedrooms and small bath-rooms, mostly with marble wall-linings
and mosaic floors. Part of this upper story was rebuilt in the reign of Severus,
after a destructive fire in the time of Commodus in 191 A.D.; and these later
rooms have a very luxurious system of warming, both with hypocausts and wall-linings
of flue-tiles. The stairs which led to a still higher floor still partly exist,
so the whole amount of accommodation must have been very large, as befitted
the dignified state of a Vestal's life. The internal decorations were very magnificent;
in some of the rooms both walls and floors were covered with the rich coloured
marbles from Africa and Greece. In one of the six small rooms by the tablinum
a very curious precaution has been taken to keep the floor dry. Halves of large
amphorae are set close together all over the area of the room: over them concrete
was laid, and finally the marble paving-slabs were bedded in cement on the concrete.
The hollows formed by the half amphorae would prevent the damp from rising.
In some cases the rooms had moulded skirtings and cornices made of very hard
and brilliant marbles, such as rosso antico, the cost of which must have been
enormous. In some rooms niches for statues and other parts of the wall-surface
were encrusted with gorgeous jewellike glass mosaics, and ceilings and vaults
were richly decorated with painting of the most glowing tints. As might be expected,
the dwelling of this wealthy and highly honoured corporation of Vestals far
exceeded in splendour even the richest houses at Pompeii. See the separate works
on the Atrium Vestae published by Comm. Lanciani, Rome, 1884, and by Prof. Jordan,
A corporate dwelling of a very different class is the Barrack (excubitoria)
of the Seventh Cohort of the Roman Vigiles, discovered in 1867 near the Church
of S. Crisogono in Trastevere. This is a handsome house of the second century
A.D.; with a large mosaic-paved atrium or cloister, round which are arranged
rooms in two or three stories. The decorations are partly of moulded terra-cotta,
painted with brilliant colours, and partly of the usual marble linings in very
thin slabs. The barracks of other cohorts of these Vigiles, who combined the
offices of policemen, firemen, and lamplighters, have been found in many other
quarters of Rome, but none so well preserved as the residence of the Seventh
Another corporate or, as it might be called, monastic establishment
was recently excavated a short distance outside the Porta Portuensis of Rome:
this was the residence of the Collegium of the Fratres Arvales, one of the most
dignified of the priestly Collegia of Rome; but its remains were too scanty
for the whole plan to be distinguishable.
Within the last few years a number of streets and houses have been
discovered at the mouth of the Tiber, at Ostia: these in plan much resembled
the Pompeian houses, but were much more richly decorated with costly foreign
marbles, most of which would pass Ostia on their way to Rome, where they were
unladen on a long wharf called the Marmoratum.
Of the imperial palaces of Rome, which at last covered the whole
site of the primitive Roma Quadrata, the earliest was the house of Augustus
(Domus Augustana), which was built on the S.W. edge of the Palatine, overlooking
the Circus Maximus. He at first occupied, on the Palatine, the house of Hortensius,
a dwelling conspicuous neither for size nor splendour; and when it was struck
by lightning, he consecrated the spot to a temple of Apollo, and bought some
neighbouring buildings, where he built a house for himself.
The house of Tiberius (Domus Tiberiana) on the Palatine is mentioned
as distinct from that of Augustus, though it adjoined it, the palace of Augustus
being more conspicuous towards the forum, while that of Tiberius formed the
back front. Its situation is indicated by the descriptions of the ancient writers,
that Otho descended through the back of the palace of Tiberius into the Velabrum
(Tac. Hist. i. 27; Suet. Oth. 6; Pint. Galb. 24), and that Vitellius surveyed
from it the conflagration of the Capitol (Suet. Vitell. 6). During the reign
of Augustus Tiberius lived first in the house of Pompey in the Carinae, and
afterwards in that of Maecenas on the Esquiline (Suet. Tib. 15); but when he
became emperor, he probably resided in this house on the Palatine till he withdrew
to Capreae. In later times this palace was the residence of Antoninus Pius and
Marcus Aurelius, and a library was established there (Capitol. Ant. Pius, 10,
Ant. Phil. 6, Ver. 2; Gell. xiii. 19; Vopisc. Prob. 2). The palaces of Augustus
and Tiberius were destroyed in the fire of Nero; but they were rebuilt, as they
are mentioned as separate buildings in the Notitia; and Josephus tells us that
the different parts of the complex of buildings forming the imperial palace
were named after their respective founders (Ant. xix. 1,15).
The palace of Augustus was excavated in 1775, and drawings (see
image in the URL below) made of it by Guattani, who published them in his Monumenti
Antichi di Roma, 1785; the whole was soon covered in again, and no part is now
visible. That part of the woodcut on the next page, which represents the palace
of Augustus, is taken from Guattani's plan.
This palace, which was of very modest size, had a number of small
rooms in two stories grouped round one peristyle: its comparative simplicity
must have formed a striking contrast to the stately splendour of the public
halls, libraries, and temples in the adjoining Area Apollinis, all built by
Augustus, and adorned by him with countless works of art of every kind. (Prop.
iii. 29; for other authorities, see Dict. Gr. & Rom. Geogr. ii. p. 805.) Nevertheless,
though the palace of Augustus was small, yet it appears to have been designed
with great taste, and decorated with considerable richness in its mixture of
white and coloured marbles. That it was a very carefully designed architectural
composition is shown even by the bare plan, with its series of domed and vaulted
halls, and small apse-like recesses arranged with some complication and much
The Flavian Palace, which is shown on the same woodcut, was built
by Domitian, adjoining the Area of Apollo and the Palace of Augustus on the
N.W. side. (Plut. Popl. 15; Mart. viii. 36; Stat. Silv. iii. 4, 47, iv. 2.)
Extensive remains of this building still exist, and are among the most conspicuous
of the imperial palaces on the Palatine. It was a very different building from
that of Augustus; being not so much a place of residence as a magnificent series
of state apartments intended for public use. Hence Nerva had the words Aedes
publicae inscribed on it. (Plin. Panegyr. 47.) At one end is a very splendid
throne-room, with a lararium or imperial chapel on one side, and a basilica
for judicial business on the other. At the other end of the peristyle is the
triclinium for state banquets; and beyond it a series of stately halls, which
may possibly be libraries (bibliothecae), and an Academia for recitations and
other literary purposes. A sort of Nymphaeum, or room containing a fountain,
with flowers, plants, and statues of nymphs and river-gods, was placed at one
side of the triclinium, if not on both, so that the murmur and coolness of the
water and the scent of the flowers might refresh the wine-heated guests. The
whole of this magnificent palace was adorned with the greatest richness, both
of design and materials, with floors, wall-linings, and columns of Oriental
marbles, alabaster, and red and green porphyry. Even the rows of colossal statues,
which decorated the throne-room, were made of the very refractory basalts and
porphyry from the quarries of Egypt, at a cost of an almost incredible amount
of labour: remains of these were found early in the last century. The position
of the Flavian palace is remarkable: it is built on an immense artificial platform
which bridges over a deep valley or depression in the summit of the Palatine.
Remains of a lofty building of republican date still exist deep
below the floor-level of the so-called libraries; and a small house of early
imperial date, richly decorated with marbles and paintings, can still be seen
buried under the great peristyle. In many parts of the palace traces are distinctly
visible of restorations made by Severus after the great fire in the reign of
Commodus (191 A.D.), which devastated a large portion of the imperial palaces:
the cracked and partly calcined marbles which suffered in the fire were broken
up, and used to make concrete for the new walls of Severus; and thus, in many
places, the somewhat curious sight is to be seen of concrete made of the most
costly Oriental marbles and porphyries. (Dio Cass. lxxii. 24; Herodian. i. 14;
Spartian. Sept. Sev. 19, 24.) Spartianus (l. c.) says that Septimius Severus
made the Septizonium an atrium to the palace, so that it should be the first
object to strike the eyes of those coming from Africa, his native country. Considerable
remains of this Septizonium existed till near the end of the 16th century, when
Pope Sixtus V. caused the pillars to be carried off to the Vatican.
The enormous palace of Caligula occupied the northern corner of
the Palatine hill, and the adjoining slopes as far as the Forum, covering the
ground once occupied by the houses of Clodius, Cicero, and other wealthy Romans
(Dio Cass. lix. 28; Suet. Cal. 22; Plin. H. N. xxxvi.111). The equally large
palace of Severus occupied the opposite end of the Palatine. They are both remarkable
for the gigantic substructures on which they stand, constructed so as to form
at the foot of the hill a basement for state rooms on a level with the highest
part of the ground, or, in other words, at both places the Palatine itself was
enlarged by the construction of an artificial hill of massive concrete walls
and vaults. On one side Severus used the very stately palace of Hadrian as a
sort of platform on which to extend his new palace at the higher level; and
so we see the rough concrete walls of Severus' substructure cutting through
and rendering useless the richly ornamented halls of Hadrian. The enormous height
of the palace of Severus must have made it one of the most imposing of all the
buildings of Rome: its southern part, which stood at the foot of the Palatine
hill, not only equalled the hill in height, but towered high above its summit.
In costliness of material, though not in delicacy of design, this palace more
than equalled the buildings of the earlier emperors, with the exception of that
which Nero built. Some additions and improvements were made to the palace of
Septimius Severus by Heliogabalus and Alexander Severus. (Lamprid. Hel. 3, 8,
24; Alex. Sev. 24, 25.)
The Golden House (Domus
Aurea) of Nero, which covered part of the Palatine and Esquiline hills and
the great valley between them, must have been a building of the most marvellous
splendour and extent. It was nearly a mile in length, and included large gardens
and parks for wild animals, all surrounded by a triple porticus or colonnade
of marble. The interior was decorated in the most lavish way, with gold, ivory,
and jewels. (Tac. Ann. xv. 42; Suet. Ner. 31; Mart. Spect. 2.) Some rooms, according
to Suetonius, were entirely plated with gold, and studded with precious stones
and pearls. The supper-rooms were vaulted with ivory panels (lacunaria), from
openings in which flowers and perfumes were scattered on the guests. An enormous
number of works of art of every class collected from Greek cities were brought
to adorn the palace, and others were made by Nero's orders, such as the bronze
colossal statue of himself, 120 feet high, the work of the Greek sculptor Zenodorus,
and a painted portrait on canvas of the same ridiculous size. The destruction
of the Golden House and the restoration of most of its site to public uses were
among the most popular acts of the Flavian emperors. Both the Colosseum and
the great Thermae of Titus stand on part of the site of Nero's palace, of which
a small portion was used, after being stripped of its rich marble linings, to
form the substructures of part of the Thermae of Titus. This is almost the only
part which now exists: remains of a large peristyle, and the lofty rooms round
it, are still fairly well preserved: the vaults are richly decorated with stucco
reliefs and paintings, which are rapidly perishing. It was the discovery of
these elaborate ornaments early in the sixteenth century which gave so great
an impulse to the growing love for classical methods of decoration. Raphael
and his pupils with great skill copied the stucco-work, and painted arabesques
in the Vatican palace, in the Villa Madama, and in a large number of other buildings.
Owing to these magnificent rooms having been used as the substructures of the
baths of Titus, most writers on the subject have described the paintings as
being part of the work of Titus. Both these valuable illustrated works, which
give much that is now lost, really deal with the Golden House, not with the
Thermae. Though the walls of these two structures are mixed in a somewhat complicated
way, it is very easy to distinguish one from the other. Titus's walls are of
plain brick-faced concrete, without any stucco covering, while Nero's are in
all cases either coated with painted stucco, or with the cement backing of the
missing marble lining. Even where the stucco has in some places fallen off Nero's
walls, clear evidence as to its former existence is given by the marble plugs
with which the wall-surface was studded to form a key for the plastering.
Pompeian Houses. Though of course less magnificent than the palaces
of Rome, the houses of Pompeii, from their exceptionally perfect state of preservation,
are of special value as examples of Roman domestic architecture, and have the
advantage of being in most cases of known date. Few are older than the Christian
era, and none of course are later than 79 A.D., when the city was overwhelmed
by the eruption of Vesuvius. The existing remains show us, as a rule, only the
ground-floor of each house; and it should be remembered that a number of the
best rooms--especially, there is reason to believe, the bedrooms and the women's
apartments--were on the upper floors. The presence of stairs in apparently all
the houses proves that one-storied buildings were practically unknown in Pompeii:
the few fragments of the upper story which have been found standing show that,
in some cases at least, the upper part of the house was partly constructed of
wood, and was arranged so as to project beyond the line of the lower story,
very like the half-timbered houses of England or France in the fifteenth and
In one respect the Pompeian arrangement resembled that of mediaeval
and modern Italy: that is, the street front on the ground-floor, even of large
and handsome houses, was usually occupied by a row of shops. In some cases these
shops have no doorway or passage communicating with the main house, and were
probably rented by the owner to independent tradesmen ; in others the shops
could be entered from the house, and in these cases we may suppose that the
shops were managed by the slaves or clients of the house-owner, who perhaps
in this way made a profit out of the produce of his country estate.
The accompanying plan (see image in the URL below) shows a small
shop, to which is joined the residence of its owner, forming a small block independent
of the adjoining larger house. (1) An open archway, in which a wooden shop-front
was fitted; the threshold of this opening is rebated to receive the wooden partition,
part of which was hinged so as to form a narrow door: the upper part would be
closed at night by flap-shutters hinged at the top, an arrangement very like
that of a modern Oriental bazaar. This method of constructing shop-fronts was
very common, not only in Pompeii, but in Rome and elsewhere. The presence of
a shop appears always to be indicated by this long grooved sill, with marks
of the hinged door on one side. A large number of examples still exist in Rome.
The L-shaped counter (2) is formed of concrete and brick stuccoed: in it are
inserted a row of amphorae, apparently for the reception of hot food or drink
of some kind. At one end is a charcoal stove (3); 5, 5 are the dining-room and
store-room of the shopkeeper; 4 is the staircase leading to the sleeping apartments.
The whole forms a complete house of the smallest type.
In the next cut (see image in the URL below) a similar shop has
more extensive private accommodation connected with it. It has a separate passage
from the street into the private part, which leads into a very small atrium,
supported on four columns, two engaged in the wall; out of the atrium open a
closet-like kitchen and a small dining-room. A very narrow staircase leads to
the upper floor.
A third variety (see image in the URL below) was evidently the property
of a richer tradesman: in this case the front door is in the middle of the facade;
the passage from the street has a small kitchen and other offices on one side
and the shop on the other, forming a wider frontage. Behind is a Tuscan atrium,
occupying the whole width of the house, and behind it are two private rooms,
probably dining-room and parlour. The stairs are placed in an angle of the atrium.
Next we come (see image in the URL below) to a class of small houses
with no shop attached: in one of these (see cut opposite) the whole width of
the house, a space of 38 feet, is occupied by the dining-room and entrance-hall,
from which it is separated by two wide open archways. Part of the dining-room
was without a roof, forming a sort of atrium; the pavement of this open part
has a long gutter to catch the rain-water, which was stored in an underground
cistern, and drawn out through a well-mouth (puteal) at one end. The triclinium,
or triple bench for the diners, still exists under the covered portion of the
room: it is made of rubble stonework covered with stucco. Behind the dining-room
are a small kitchen and a lararium, with an altar in front of a recess in which
a goddess holding a cornucopia is painted. Next comes a small room, probably
a cella for a slave, and by the side of it the staircase to the bedrooms above.
In the larger houses the atrium is a very important feature, on
which the chief architectural beauty of the building depends. It is usually
supported by Corinthian columns formed of concrete and brick, coated with brilliant
painted stucco: marble, except in thin slabs for pavements or wall-linings,
is rare in Pompeii; and even in the best houses display is made at the least
possible cost,--a striking contrast to the lavish expenditure on the rich houses
of Rome or even of Ostia. Shams of every kind were specially popular at Pompeii.
The central paved space under the open part (impluvium) of the atritun is usually
of marble, either in thin slabs or in mosaic; a fountain is a very common ornament,
and flower-pots seem often to have been ranged round it.
The two woodcuts annexed represent two atria of houses at Pompeii.
The first is the atrium of what is usually called the House of the Quaestor.
The view is taken near the entrance-hall facing the tablinum, through which
the columns of the peristyle and the garden are seen. This atrium, which is
a specimen of what Vitruvius calls the Corinthian, is surrounded by various
rooms, and is beautifully painted with arabesque designs upon red and yellow
The next woodcut represents the atrium (see image in the URL below)
of what is usually called the House of Ceres. In the centre is the impluvium;
and as there are no pillars around the impluvium, this atrium must belong to
the kind called by Vitruvius the Tuscan.
The three following plans (see images in the URL below) are good
typical examples of the best class of houses in Pompeii. The first is popularly
known as the House of the Tragic Poet.
Like most of the other houses at Pompeii, it had no vestibulum according
to the meaning which we have attached to the word. The ostium or entrance-hall,
which is six feet wide, is nearly thirty long,--a length occasioned by the shops
on each side. Near the street door there is a figure of a large fierce dog worked
in mosaic on the pavement, and beneath it is written Cave Canem. The two large
rooms on each side of the vestibule appear from the large openings in front
of them to have been shops; they communicate with the entrance-hall, and were
therefore probably occupied by the master of the house. The atrium is about
twenty-eight feet in length and twenty in breadth; its impluvium is near the
centre of the room, and its floor is paved with white tesserae, spotted with
black. On the left-hand corner of the atrium is a small room (marked 1 in plan),
perhaps the cella of the ostiarius, with a stair-case leading to the upper rooms.
On each side of the atrium are chambers for the use of the family, or intended
for the reception of guests, who were entitled to claim hospitality. When a
house did not possess a hospitium, or rooms expressly for the reception of guests,
they appear to have been lodged in rooms attached to the atrium. At the further
end of the atrium is the tablinum, with the fauces or passage at the side, leading
into the peristylium, with Doric columns and garden (viridarium). The large
room on the right of the peristyle is the triclinium; beside it is the kitchen,
with a latrina.
The second cut contains the ground-plan of an insula surrounded
by shops, which belonged to the owner and were let out by him. The house itself,
which is usually called the House of Pansa, evidently belonged to one of the
principal men of Pompeii. Including the garden, which is a third of the whole
length, it is about. 300 feet long and 100 wide.
A. Ostium, or entrance-hall, paved with mosaic. B. Tuscan atrium. I.
Impluvium. C. Chambers on each side of the atrium, probably for the reception
of guests. D. Ala. E. Tablinum, which is open to the peristylium, so that the
whole length of the house could be seen at once; but as there is a passage (fauces),
F, beside it, the tablinum might probably be closed at the pleasure of the owner.
C. Chambers by the fauces and tablinum, of which the use is uncertain. G. Peristylium.
D. Recesses in the peristylium. C. Cubicula by the side of the peristylium.
K. Triclinium. L. Oecus, and by its side there is a passage leading from the
peristylium to the garden. M. Back door (posticum ostium) to the street. N.
Culina. H. Servants' hall, with a back door to the street. P. Portico of two
stories, which proves that the house had an upper floor. The site of the stair-case,
however, is unknown, though it is thought there is some indication of one in
the passage, M. Q. The garden. R. Reservoir for supplying a tank, S.
The preceding rooms belonged exclusively to Pansa's house; but there
were a good many apartments besides in the insula, which were not in his occupation.
a. Six shops let out to tenants. Those on the right and left hand corners were
bakers' shops, which contained mills, ovens, &c., at b. The one on the right
appears to have been a large establishment, as it contains many rooms. c. Two
houses of a very mean class, having formerly an upper story. On the other side
are two houses much larger, d. Mr. Fergusson observes that architectural effect
has been carefully studied in the design [p. 683] of Pansa's house, a vista
nearly 300 feet in length being obtained from the outer door to the garden wall,
varied by a pleasing play of light and shade, and displaying a gradually increasing
degree of spaciousness and architectural richness as we advance. All these points
must have been productive of the most pleasing effect when complete, and of
more beauty than has been attained in almost any modern building of like dimensions.
The third plan is that of one of the most elaborately decorated
houses, usually (though without any real reason) called the House of Sallust,
which is remarkable for its very complete separation into two parts; one of
which is carefully cut off from the more public rooms, and is supposed by many
writers to be a venereum, or women's division of the house. But the division
of a house into men's and women's apartments is quite foreign to the Romans;
and though the Pompeians may have borrowed in this instance the Greek arrangement,
yet it is better to conclude with Overbeck, that these were really the apartments
devoted to the private use of the family. From the irregular nature of the ground,
situated between two streets, as seen in the plan opposite, the private rooms
could not be placed beyond the atrium and around the peristylium, which is here
wanting, the usual position of the peristylium being occupied by the porticus
A row of shops occupies the main street fronts In the usual way: between two
of these a wide passage leads into a large and handsome Tuscan atrium,
round which the rooms of the more public part of the house are ranged: behind
is a small garden, in one corner of which is a miniature summer-house, with
three marble seats, and a fountain by it. The side of the house which fronts
on to this little garden has an open loggia or portions built along it. The
private apartments are approached from the main atrium by a narrow door guarded
by a small porter's cell. This, the only means of access, leads into a Corinthian
peristylium, with a very small room cut out of each angle, and one larger apartment
at one side. The bedrooms seem all to have been upstairs, and the fact that
the same complete division of the two parts was kept up in the upper story is
shown by the existence of a separate staircase in each portion of the house.
A picture on the wall of the peristylium opposite the entrance, representing
the fate of Actaeon when he surprised Diana, may have been intended as a warning
to unauthorized visitors, supposing these apartments to be a venereum.
These are fairly typical examples of the arrangement of Pompeian
houses, though there is an immense number of variations. In the main these first-century
examples of Roman dwellings have a great deal in common with the house which
Vitruvius describes, and show that his example as an architect was very largely
followed for some years. In later times, however, the Roman houses were designed
on a very different plan, less uniform in type, and with rooms much less open
to the air.
Roman houses in Britain and Gal.
A very large number of important Roman houses has been discovered
in England and France, but most of these have been country villas, not town
houses like those at Pompeii. At Silchester, however, one of the chief Roman
towns in Britain, some remains of street houses have been exposed, of various
dates from the first to the third century, showing a succession of alterations
and rebuildings. In its original form one of these houses was very similar to
some of the Pompeian dwellings: see Archaeologia, xlvi. p. 332. But in most
cases the existing remains in England, being those of country houses and of
later date than the buildings of Pompeii, have no resemblance to them in plan.
More ample space, and a much colder and wetter climate, led the
Romans to adopt here a very different system of house-building from that which
suited them in their earlier and hardier days in a mild climate like that of
Italy. Thus we find that the later Romano-British or Gaulish houses had no group
of rooms with wide arches opening on to a roofless atrium, but instead of this
the rooms are commonly ranged in a long straggling line, with a passage along
one side. In many cases a peristylium is used, but the rooms only open on to
it by small carefully closed doors or well-glazed windows. The large villas
at Lydney, Woodchester, Chedworth, and many other places have an extensive cloister
or peristylium, round all four sides of which the rooms are arranged very like
the plan of a mediaeval monastery: in none of these is there any atrium. In
other cases, as at Cromhall in Gloucestershire, the rooms are ranged in L form,
with one long passage running the whole length of the building: in other cases
the rooms are all set in one line I and have a similar passage from end to end.
This seemingly inconvenient system of house-plan was largely used in England
down to quite recent times; as, for example, in Hampton Court Palace. The villa
at Witcomb in Gloucestershire was a very large and handsome building, arranged
in the form of an H, with an octagonal hall projecting from the centre of the
One peculiarity of the British houses is the extreme frequency of
rooms with semicircular apses at one end, especially in cases where there is
a hypocaust floor. The warming of Romano-British houses was very completely
provided for; a very large proportion of the rooms have hypocausts, and many
also have wall-linings of flue-tiles. Moreover the use of glazed windows seems
to have been universal in Roman Britain; fragments of windows are nearly.always
found during excavations in the site of a house. Glass of several kinds occurs:
rough-cast plate, ground plate, and crown glass are all common. Even in Pompeii
remains of glass windows have been found, though they were apparently much less
Construction of Roman houses.
The wall of a house was called paries in contradistinction to maurus,
the wall of a city. The manner in which the walls were built varied according
to the date and the locality. In Italy, during the Republican period in Rome,
Pompeii, and other places, some easily-worked stone, such as tufa or peperino
(lapis Albanus), was used, in large squared blocks (opus quadratum) for the
best houses, unburnt brick being the usual material for ordinary dwellings.
In the time of Augustus concrete began to be the chief building material, faced
at first with small squares of stone, about four inches by four inches on the
face (opus reticulatum); then triangular kiln-baked bricks came into use, first
employed together with the opus reticulatum, and then alone. In all cases, however,
in Central and Southern Italy the main bulk of the wall was of concrete, and
the brick only formed a thin facing. In other countries, however, where a fine
natural cement like the pozzolana (pulvis puteolanus) of Italy was not to be
found, a different method of construction was used. In Gaul and Britain houses
were mostly built of rubble stonework, thickly bedded in hard mortar, with lacing
courses of large square tiles (tegulae bipedales) built in at intervals of three
or four feet; a method of building which still survives in some flint districts,
like parts of Sussex.
The inner walls of the rooms were originally simply whitewashed
(dealbati) and subsequently covered with a white cement or stucco (opus albarium),
the workers of which were called tectores albarii, or albarii simply. (Vitruv.
v. 10, 3, vi. 10, 3; Pallad. i. 14; Plin. H. N. xxxv. 194, xxxvi. 183; Cod.
Theod. xiii. 4, 2; Orelli, Inscr. 4142.) The plain surface of the walls was
broken by quad-rangular panels, called abaci (Plin. f. N. xxxiii. § 159; xxxv.
§ § 3, 32; Vitruv. vii. 3, 10). In the second century B.C., the practice was
introduced from Greece of painting these panels with an endless variety of figures,
landscapes, buildings, gardens, &c., of which we have numerous examples in the
existing remains of houses in Rome and Pompeii. So general was the practice
that even the smallest houses in Pompeii have paintings on their walls, of which
a general idea may be formed from the annexed cut. The way in which these paintings
were executed is described under Pictura.
In addition to painting, other methods of decoration were used:
in Rome especially the chief way of ornamenting the rooms of the best houses
was by lining the walls with slabs of sawn marble, moulded into a skirting below
and a cornice above. Mamurra, one of Caesar's prefects in Gaul, was the first,
as we have already said, who lined the walls of his rooms with marble slabs
(Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 48). Great magnificence of effect was produced by the skilful
admixture of marbles of different rich colours, the moulded part being usually
of a deeper tint than the flat surfaces. In the most careful work these marble
linings were fastened to the walls by bronze clamps, but more often the slabs
were simply attached by a thick bedding of cement behind them. (Sen. Ep. 86,4;
Dig. 19, 1, 17.3; Isidor. xix. 13)
Another very rich method of decoration was the application of stucco
reliefs enriched with gold and colours. The discovery of fine examples of these
in a house near the Tiber has been mentioned above.
A third system, applied also to vaults, was to encrust the walls with mosaics,
chiefly made of glass tesserae of the most brilliant jewel-like colours.
The crypto-porticus, which leads from the Palace of Caligula to
the Flavian Palace, had the lower part of its walls lined with Oriental marbles,
the upper part and vault was covered with sparkling glass mosaics, and the branch
passage which leads to the supposed house of Livia was covered with very beautiful
and delicately modelled stucco reliefs, gilt and coloured. The splendour of
the state rooms may perhaps be guessed from the costly decorations of this long
and half-subterranean passage. On the whole, splendour of effect, rather than
refinement of design, was the chief characteristic of Roman house-decoration,
and after the first century A.D. beauty of design and delicacy of workmanship
were less valued than costly richness of material.
The roofs (tecta) of Roman houses were in the oldest times covered
with straw, of which a memorial was preserved in the casa Romuli even in imperial
times (Vitruv. ii. 1). Next came the use of shingles for the roofing of houses,
which continued down to the time of the war with Pyrrhus (Plin. H. N. xvi.36).
Subsequently clay tiles, called tegulae and imbrices, superseded the shingles
(Plaut. Mil. Glor. ii. 6, 24; Most. i. 2, 28; Isidor. xix. 10, 15; Plin. H.
The roofs of houses were sometimes flat, but they were also gabled
(pectenata) like modern houses. These were of two kinds, the tecta pectenata,
sloping two ways, and the tecta testudinata, sloping four ways. Both kinds of
roofs were displuviata, that is, sloping towards the street, and the houses
had around them, according to a law of the XII. Tables, an ambitus, or vacant
space of 21 feet, to receive the rain water running off the roofs. The projecting
eaves of roofs were called suggrundae (Varr. R. i. iii. 3, 5; Vitruv. x. 21;
Dig. 9, 3, 5,6). The gabled roofs rose to a point called fastigium (Cic. ad
Qu. Fr. iii. 1, 4,14), though this word was strictly applied to the triangular
pediment (see fastigium
=aetoma), which was only allowed in the temples of the gods and other public
The roofs were usually of simple construction, with principal rafters
framed with tie-beam and king post. The roof-covering was often very ,carefully
fitted so as to exclude wet. The tegulae, with a flange on each side, were nailed
with bronze or large iron nails, and the joints were covered by specially moulded
joint-tiles (imbrices), the ends of which at the eaves were hidden by ornamental
terra-cotta antefixa, which formed a sort of cresting all along the eaves. The
eaves-course of tiles was often worked into the form of the cymatium or top
wave-moulding of the cornice, and all along it pierced lions' heads were moulded
to form escapes for the rain-water. In other cases less ornamental roofs were
covered with doubly-curved pantiles, exactly like those still used in Rome and
some parts of England. For the most magnificent buildings, such as some of the
imperial palaces, the roofs were covered with tiles made of white marble, or
even with bronze tiles plated with gold. For further details, see Tegula
In places where brick-earth was scarce or bad, and laminated stone
plentiful, as in Oxford-shire and Gloucestershire, the Romans roofed their buildings
with roughly-dressed tiles made of such stone as the so-called Stonesfield slate.
Traces of Roman workings of the quarries of this stone at Kineton Thorns in
Gloucestershire have been recently found, and extensive remains of the long
barracks where the quarrymen were housed, forming a sort of quadrangle about
300 feet square. These slates were dressed in a lozenge form, and fixed by one
large iron nail at the top corner, which of course was hidden by the lap of
the next row of slates above. Clay tiles of many other forms were used; and
local materials were nearly always utilized for roofing, as for all other purposes,
by the practical and ingenious Roman builders.
The floor (solum) of a room was seldom boarded (strata solo tabulata,
Stat. Silv. i. 5, 57), except in the upper stories. The floor on the ground-floor
was usually of stone, and, in the case of common houses, consisted of small
pieces of stone, brick, tiles, &c. (ruderatio, opus ruderatum), beaten down
(pavita) with a rammer (fistuca), whence the word pavimentum became the general
name for a floor (Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 185 seq.; Vitruv. vii. 1). Sometimes the
floors were paved with thin slabs of richly-coloured marbles, brought from Northern
Africa, Arabia, or Greece (Fest. p. 242, M. ; Tibull. iii. 3, 16; Sen. Ep. 86,
6; Pallad. i. 9), and still more frequently with mosaics (opus musivum). For
a fuller account of the different kinds of floors, see Pavimentum
(=edaphos, dapedon =flooring) and Musicus
In Rome and other parts of Italy, owing to the wonderful strength
of the pozzolana, the upper floors of houses were very frequently made of concrete
cast in one great slab on temporary boarding, fixed at the required level. This
set into one compact mass, like a piece of solid stone. Examples in Rome are
to be seen where the upper floor had a span of twenty feet, and simply consisted
of one slab of concrete about fourteen inches thick. On this, mosaic and other
paving was laid, as on the ground-floors. For the peculiar construction of the
hollow hypocaust floors, see Balneae
(=loutron, bath). In other cases in Rome, and nearly always in Britain, the
upper floors were of wood: projecting stone corbels were built to carry the
plates for joists on which floor boards were nailed, just as in many modern
buildings. Vitruvius (vii. 1) also mentions mosaics being laid on the wooden
doors of upper stories, as is the custom in modern Rome; but this appears not
to have been done where there was a strong cement with which upper floors could
be made of unsupported concrete.
Ceilings were very commonly semicircular or barrel vaults (camarae),
decorated with stucco reliefs, mosaics, or painting. The extrados of the vault
was filled in level with concrete to form the floor above. Wooden ceilings and
flat concrete ceilings were decorated in the same way. One common method of
ceiling decoration, applied both to brick and concrete or to wooden ceilings,
was to divide the whole area into a number of deeply-sunk panels, like pits
or lakes (lacus, lacunae), whence they were called lacunaria or laquearia (Vitruv.
vii. 2; Cic. Tusc. v. 2. 1, 62; Hor. Carm. ii. 18, 2). These were richly ornamented,
either by stucco reliefs gilt and coloured, or, in the case of wooden ceilings,
by inlaid work of ivory, ebony, or other precious materials, as well as by paintings.
In a few cases the coffers were covered with enriched bronze plates, thickly
gilt (Plin. H. N. xxxiii. 57, xxxv. 124; Hor. Carm. 1. c.; Verg. Aen. i. 726;
Sen. Ep. 90, 42). The artists who executed this work were called laquearii (Cod.
Theod. xiii. 4, 2). The design of these coffered ceilings was derived from the
marble ceilings of the peristyles of Greek temples, such as the Parthenon.
The Roman houses had few windows (fenestrae). The atrium and peristylium
were lighted, as we have seen, from above, and the smaller rooms leading out
of them generally derived their light from them, and not from windows looking
into the street. The rooms only on the upper stories (cenacula) seem to have
been usually lighted by windows, and looked out upon the street, as well as
the inner courts. Hence they are frequently mentioned by the ancient writers
(Liv. i. 41, xxiv. 21; Hor. Carm. i. 25; Prop. iv. (v.), 7, 16; Juv. iii. 270;
Mart. i. 86, xi. 19; Plin. H. N. xix. 59). in Pompeii, in like manner, the ground-floor
rooms were mostly lighted from the inner courts, so that few lower windows opened
on the street. There is an exception to this in the House of the Tragic Poet,
which has six windows on the ground-floor. Even in this case, however, the windows
are not near the ground as in a modern house, but are six feet six inches above
the foot-pavement, which is raised one foot seven inches above the centre of
the street. The windows are small, being hardly three feet by two; and at the
side there is a wooden frame, in which the window or shutter might be moved
backwards or forwards. The lower part of the wall is occupied by a row of red
panels four feet and a half high. The following woodcut reprer sents part of
the wall, with the apertures fo-windows above it, as it appears from the street.
The tiling upon the wall is modern, and is only placed there to preserve it
from the weather.
The windows appear originally to have been merely small openings
in the wall, closed by means of shutters, which frequently had two leaves (bifores
fenestrae, Ow. Pont. iii. 3, 5), whence Ovid (Amor. i. 5, 3) says, Pars adaperta
fuit, pars alters clausa fenestrae.
They are for this reason said to be joined (junctae fenestrae),
when they are shut. (Hor. Carm. i. 25.) Windows were also sometimes covered
by a kind of lattice or trellis work (clathri), and sometimes by network, to
prevent serpents and other noxious reptiles from getting in (Plant. Mil. Glor.
ii. 4, 25; Varr. R. R. iii. 7). The transennae were a kind of lattice-work of
the same kind (Cic. de Or. i. 3. 5, 162).
There has been much discussion whether glass (=vitrum,
hyalos)windows were known to the ancients; but in the excavations at Pompeii
many fragments of flat glass have been discovered, and in the tepidarium of
the public baths a bronze lattice was found with some of the panes still inserted
in the frame. Besides glass, other transparent substances were also used, such
as talc, the lapis specularis of Pliny (H. N. xxxvi.163), and windows made of
it were called specularia (Sen. Ep. 90, 25; Plin. I. N. xix. 64, Ep. ii. 17;
Mart. viii. 14; Juv. iv. 21), though some modern writers think that specularia
also denoted glass windows. The best pieces of this transparent highly laminated
substance came from Spain and Cappadocia, but it was also brought from North
Africa, Cyprus, and Sicily. Pliny mentions pieces as large as five feet long
(Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 160 seq.). From an expression in Philo (Leg. ad Caium, 45)
it appears that the palace of Caligula had glass windows; and glass windows
are expressly mentioned by Lactantius (de Opif. dei, 8).
The subject of doors, with their locks and keys, is discussed under
(=door) and Clavis
(=key). It is only necessary to mention here that many of the rooms in Roman
houses had no doors, but only curtains, vela, aulaea, centones (Sen. Ep. 80;
Plin. Ep. ii. 17; Petron. 7; Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 4, Heliog. 14). Hence among
the slaves in the imperial household we find mention of velarii. Sometimes,
when there were doors, curtains were also drawn across them (Suet. Claud. 10;
Tac. Ann. xiii, 5; Sidon. Apoll. Ep. iv. 24; Mart. xi. 45).
7. The heating of Houses.
The rooms were heated in winter in different ways. The cubicula,
triclinia, and other rooms, which were intended for winter use, were built in
that part of the house upon which the sun shone most; and in the mild climate
of Italy this frequently enabled them to dispense with any artificial mode of
warming the rooms. Rooms exposed to the sun in this way were sometimes called
heliocamini (Plin. p. ii. 17, 20 ; Dig. 8, 2, 17). The rooms were sometimes
heated by hot air, which was introduced by means of pipes from a furnace below
(Plin. Ep. ii. 17, v. 6, 24; Sen. Ep. 90), but more frequently in earlier times
by portable furnaces or braziers (foculi), in which charcoal was burnt. The
caminus, however, was a fixed stove, in which wood appears to have been usually
burnt (Suet. Vitell. 8; Hor. Sat. i. 5, 81; Ep. i. 11, 19; Cic. ad Pam. vii.
1. 0; Sid. Apoll. Ep. ii. 2). It has been a subject of much dispute among modern
writers, whether the Romans had chimneys for carrying off the smoke, except
in the baths and kitchens. From many passages in ancient writers, it certainly
appears that rooms usually had no chimneys, but that the smoke escaped through
the windows, doors, and openings in the roof (Vitruv. vii. 3, 4; vii. 4, 4);
but chimneys do not appear to have been entirely unknown to the ancients, as
some have been found in the ruins of ancient buildings, and it is impossible
to believe that, among a luxurious people like the Romans in imperial times,
they were unacquainted with the use of chimneys. The passage of Horace ( lacrimoso
non sine fumo, Sat. i. 5, 80), which has been quoted in proof that there were
no chimneys, proves nothing, as damp wood would cause smoke, even if there had
been chimneys. On the heating of houses.
8. The water supply.
The water supply of a good Roman house was very complete in towns
the main usually ran under the pavement in the middle of the street, and from
it rising mains branched off to the houses right and left, and often were carried
to the upper stories, where a cistern supplied the fountain-jets (salientes)
and other purposes below. For further details on the water-supply, see Aquaeductus(=Hydragogeio,
Hyponomos, water-conduit) .
This text is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited June 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin)
- Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)