Ancient Roman domus

Ancient Roman domus

Wealthy citizens in ancient Rome owned large houses with varied layouts of several rooms.

History

Keywords

dwelling, lifestyle, building, edifice, architecture, Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum, antiquity, villa, atrium, kitchen, house, furniture, mozaik, shop, street, history, decoration

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Questions

  • How many storeys did the houses of wealthy Roman citizens usually consist of?
  • What are rural houses in Ancient Rome called?
  • What was the majority of furniture in ancient Roman houses made of?
  • What was the central part of ancient Roman houses?
  • What is not true for the houses of wealthy citizens of ancient Rome?
  • Is it true that windows were not glazed in ancient Rome?
  • Which of these could not be found in ancient Roman pantries?
  • Where were clothes stored in ancient Roman houses?
  • Besides the reception area, what was the other venue of important discussions in Roman houses?
  • What were the toilets in ancient Roman houses called?
  • Which room was called the Culina?
  • How many times a day did Romans usually eat?
  • Which was the main meal in ancient Rome?
  • In what posture did Romans usually eat their meals?
  • What is the main difference between the design of bedrooms ancient Greek and Roman houses?
  • What are pictures or patterns created from tiny pieces of stone or pebbles called?
  • Where was rainwater falling through the open roof of the atrium collected?
  • In which room did Romans usually keep family archives and display the pictures of their ancestors?
  • What was used to heat the floors and walls in ancient Rome?
  • What was under the floor of rooms in ancient Roman baths?
  • Which of these could not be found in ancient Roman pantries?
  • What did people not store in their clay pots in ancient Rome?
  • What was the typical, vase-shaped pot used for storage in the Antique world called?
  • What furniture was not typically found in houses of ancient Rome?
  • Which statement is not true for the hortus?
  • Is it true that there were several entrances with different functions on ancient Roman houses?
  • Which of these was not a central part of Roman houses?
  • Is it true that the layout of ancient Roman houses was more varied than those of ancient Greek ones?
  • What were the roofs of houses covered with in ancient Rome?
  • Which ‘room’ was called the Atrium?

Scenes

Roman domus

Roman dwellings

An important branch of ancient Roman architecture was the constructing of domus and villas. Houses of wealthy citizens of ancient Rome were more varied and more comfortable than similar works of Greek architecture. Much of what is known about the Roman Domus comes from excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The domus of city-dwelling citizens and rural villas of aristocrats were spacious buildings consisting of one or two storeys and several rooms. The walls were built from bricks and covered with plaster. The roofs, open above the yards, were covered with tiles. Houses had several entrances, with different functions. There were several paned windows on the walls.
The most important rooms were arranged in a symmetrical fashion. The axis of Roman houses consisted of the entrance gate (or ostium), the front yard (or atrium) and the backyard (or hortus). Bedrooms were usually arranged around the yards.

Cutaway

  • first floor
  • entrance gate (ostium)
  • shop (taberna)
  • courtyard (atrium)
  • rainwater pool (impluvium)
  • bedroom (cubiculum)
  • living room (tablinum)
  • toilet (latrina)
  • backyard, garden (hortus)
  • kitchen (culina)
  • dining room (triclinium)
  • study (tablinum)

Structure of Roman houses

Kitchen, dining room, feasts

As in Ancient Greece, the kitchen was an important part of houses in Ancient Rome. The kitchen usually opened from the street. Its furniture included ovens and ‘stoves,’ and amphorae and clay pots to store raw materials. Other kitchen tools were hung on the walls or placed on shelves.

The dining room (triclinium) was not only a place for eating, guests were often entertained here and it was the place of many important discussions.
Romans usually ate three times a day and dinner was the largest and most important meal of the day. Wealthier Romans employed a slave to work as a cook. The decoration of dishes was just as important as the special ingredients. Meals were consumed leaning on a couch, resting on their elbow.

Living rooms and the backyard (garden)

Living rooms were usually organised around the inner yards. Slaves’ rooms were on the second floor, if there was one. Several aspects were considered for the layout of the rooms, there were rooms for days and nights, for summer and winter. Unlike the Greeks, Romans did not separate the rooms of men and women

The furniture and decoration of the rooms was usually simple, only wealthy people had their rooms decorated with statues and paintings. Mosaic floors were not uncommon. Rooms were heated by an underfloor heating system using hot air, the hypocaustum. Light entered the rooms through windows facing the yards and the streets.

There was also a backyard, which was usually a small garden (hortus), decorated with a fountain and artificial lake and with evergreen plants. It was surrounded by ornamented, carved columns. The hortus was a place for relaxation for Roman citizens tired of social life and taking part of the political life.

The atrium and the tablinum

The atrium was the central, uncovered, rectangular front yard in Roman houses. A narrow and relatively long passage lead from he entrance gate to the atrium. Rainwater falling from the roofs was collected in a pool (impluvium).

There were several guest rooms, slaves' rooms and storage rooms around the atrium. Guests were often received in the atrium, which was the place of many important discussions and decisions.

The atrium was connected to the backyard though the tablinum. It was one of the most important rooms of the house, serving as a reception area. It was a large colonnaded hall that was also used for keeping the family archives and displaying pictures of their ancestors. On its two sides, further reception rooms and galleries were located.

Walk

  • first floor
  • entrance gate (ostium)
  • shop (taberna)
  • rainwater pool (impluvium)
  • bedroom (cubiculum)
  • living room (tablinum)
  • toilet (latrina)
  • kitchen (culina)
  • dining room (triclinium)
  • study (tablinum)
  • mosaic
  • fresco
  • oven

Animation

  • first floor
  • entrance gate (ostium)
  • shop (taberna)
  • courtyard (atrium)
  • rainwater pool (impluvium)
  • bedroom (cubiculum)
  • living room (tablinum)
  • toilet (latrina)
  • backyard, garden (hortus)
  • kitchen (culina)
  • dining room (triclinium)
  • study (tablinum)

Narration

The houses of the wealthy citizens of ancient Rome were more varied and more comfortable than similar works of Greek architecture. The domus of city-dwelling citizens and the rural villas of aristocrats were spacious buildings consisting of one or two storeys and a number of rooms. The walls were built of bricks and covered with plaster. The roofs, open above the yards, were covered with tiles. There were paned windows.

The houses had several entrances with different functions. The axis of Roman houses consisted of the entrance gate (or ostium), the front yard (or atrium) and the backyard (or hortus). The most important rooms were arranged symmetrically. These included the kitchen and the dining room. The latter was not only used for eating, but also for entertaining guests. Bedrooms were usually arranged around the yards. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans did not separate men's and women's rooms. If there was a second storey, the slaves' quarters were located there.

A narrow passage led from the entrance gate to the uncovered, rectangular front yard, the atrium. Rainwater falling from the roofs was collected in a pool (or impluvium). The next room after the atrium was the tablinum, used as a reception room. It also connected the atrium to the backyard, or hortus. The hortus was a small garden surrounded by a colonnade, decorated with a fountain, artificial lake and evergreen plants and used by the family to relax.
Ancient Roman houses seemed perfectly designed for families and served as models for the architecture of later ages.

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