1. The Family
  2. Roman Names
  3. Marriage and Women
  4. Children and Education
  5. Slaves and Dependents
  6. The House and Furniture
  7. Dress and Ornaments
  8. Food and Meals
  9. Amusements
  10. Travel and Correspondence
  11. Sources of Income
  12. Farming and Country Life
  13. Town Life
  14. Funeral Customs
  15. The Roman Religion
  16. The Water Supply of Rome

The Private Life of the Romans
by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston
Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932)


Table of contents



REFERENCES: Marquardt, 213-250, 607-645; Pauly-Wissowa, under ātrium, compluvium, impluvium, Römisches Haus; Blümner, 7-160; Smith, Harper’s, Rich, Daremberg-Saglio, Walters, under domus, mūrus, tegula, and other Latin words in the text of this book; Baumeister, 631, 927-933, 1364-1384; Friedländer, II, 185-210; Sandys, Companion, 217-226; Cagnat-Chapot, I, 1-39, 275-299, II, 1-32, 426-438; Jones, 159-184; Mau-Kelsey, 245-354, 367-382, 456-484; Overbeck, 244-376, 520-540; Gusman, 253-316; McDaniel, 3-22; Fowler, 237-244; Showerman, 76-88. See, also, “The Form of the Early Etruscan and Roman House,” by Margaret Waites, in Classical Philology, 9, 113-133 (April, 1914).
     On Roman building materials and on Roman methods of building construction see Middleton, I, 1-83.

Domus (§186-187)

The Development of the House (§188-193)

The Vēstibulum (§194)

The Ōstium (§195)

The Ātrium (§196)

The Change in the Ātrium (§197-199)

The Ālae (§200)

The Tablīnum (§201)

The Peristylium (§202)

Private Rooms (§203-207)

The House of Pansa (§208-209)

The Walls (§210)

Pariēs Caementīcius (§211)

Wall Facings (§212)

Floors and Ceilings (§213)

Roofs (§214)

The Doors (§215-216)

The Windows (§217)

Heating (§218)

Water Supply (§219)

Decoration (§220-221)

Furniture (§222)

Principal Articles (§223)

The Couches (§224)

The Chairs (§225-226)

Tables (§227)

The Lamps (§228)

Chests and Cabinets (§229-230)

Other Articles (§231)

Īnsulae (§232)

The Street (§233)

   186. Domus. The house with which we are first concerned is the residence (domus) of the single household in the Italian town, as distinct from lodging houses or apartment houses (īnsulae) intended for the accommodation of several families, and the residence, moreover, of the well-to-do citizen, as opposed on the one hand to the mansion of the millionaire and on the other to the hovels of the very poor. Vitruvius (§ 187) says that the house should be suitable to the station of the owner, and that different styles of houses are appropriate in different parts of the world, according to the climate. At the same time it must be understood that the Roman house as we find it does not show as many distinct types as does the American house of the present time. The Roman was naturally conservative—he was particularly reluctant to introduce foreign ideas—and his house preserved in general certain main features essentially unchanged. The proportion of these might vary with the size and shape of the lot at the builder’s disposal, and the number of rooms added would depend upon the means and tastes of the owner, but the kernel, so to speak, was always the same.

   187. Our sources of information are unusually abundant. Vitruvius, an architect and engineer of the time of Caesar and Augustus, has left a work on building, giving in detail his own principles of construction; the works of many of the Roman writers contain either set descriptions of parts of houses or at least numerous hints and allusions that are collectively very helpful; and, finally, the ground plans of many houses have been uncovered in Rome and elsewhere, and in Pompeii we have even the walls of many houses left standing (§ 12). FIG. 76: A CINERARY URN IN THE SHAPE OF AN OVAL HUTThere are still, however, despite the fullness and authority of our sources, many things in regard to the arrangement and construction of the house that are uncertain and disputed (§ 15).

   188. The Development of the House. The primitive Roman house goes back to the simple farm life of early times, when all members of the household, father, mother, children, and dependents, lived in one large room together. In this room (ātrium) the meals were cooked, the table spread, all indoor work done, and the sacrifices offered to the Larēs (§ 490); at night a space was cleared in which to spread the hard beds or pallets. The primitive house had no chimney; the smoke escaped through a hole in the roof. There were no windows; all natural light came through the hole in the roof. There was but one door; the space opposite it seems to have been reserved as much as possible for the father and mother. Here was the hearth, where the mother prepared the meals, and near it stood the implements she used in spinning and weaving; here was the strong box (arca) in which the master kept his valuables, and here the bed was spread.

   189. The earliest house was a round or oval hut with thatched roof such as was reproduced in the traditional hut of Romulus (§ 214) on the Palatine.1 The round shape was retained in the form assigned to the Temple of Vesta, whose worship began at the hearth in such huts. The later huts were oval. Later still came a rectangular form. The outward appearance of such a hut is shown in the Etruscan cinerary urns, found in various places in Italy. The ground plan was a simple rectangle without partitions. This may be regarded as historically and architecturally the kernel of the Roman house. Its very name (ātrium), which originally denoted the whole house, was also preserved; it appears in the names of certain very ancient buildings in Rome used for religious purposes, the Ātrium Vestae, the Ātrium Lībertātis, etc. In later times, however, ātrium was applied to a single characteristic room of the house. The origin of the name ātrium is still a mystery, The funerary urn from Chiusi, often illustrated (Schreiber, LIII, Fig. 5; Baumeister, Fig. 146, etc.), has a square opening in the top. This has been taken to show that the early house of the rectangular type had such an opening in the middle of the roof for the escape of smoke. It has been shown, however, that this particular urn has lost the top-piece that completed its roof. Urns of this type have regularly one door, and occasionally windows.

   190. A feature of the later house, so commonly found in connection with the ātrium that one is tempted to suppose it an early addition, is the tablīnum, the wide recess opposite the entrance door. The origin of the tablīnum, and the uses to which it was put, alike in earlier and in later times, are still matters of dispute. It may have been intended at first for merely temporary purposes, being built of boards (tabulae), and having an outside door and no connection with the ātrium. It could not have been long, however, until the wall between was broken through. When this was once done and its convenience demonstrated, the partition wall was removed. Varro explained the tablīnum as having been a sort of balcony or porch, used as a dining-room in hot weather.

   191. Later, the ātrium received its light from a central opening in the roof, the compluvium,2 which derived its name from the fact that rain, as well as air and light, could enter here. FIG. 78: PLAN OF A TYPICAL EARLY ROMAN HOUSEJust beneath this a basin, the impluvium, was hollowed out in the floor to catch the water for domestic purposes. As more space and privacy were demanded, the house was enlarged by small rooms opening out of the ātrium at the sides. The ātrium at the end next the tablīnum had the full width between the outside walls, and the additional spaces, or alcoves, one on each side, were called ālae. The appearance of such a house as seen from the entrance door must have been much like that of an Anglican or Roman Catholic church. The ātrium corresponded to the nave, the two ālae to the transepts, while the bay-like tablīnum resembled the chancel. So far as we know, the outside rooms received light only from the ātrium. From this ancient house we find preserved in its successors all that was opposite the entrance door, the ātrium with its ālae and tablīnum, the impluvium and compluvium. These are the characteristic features of the Roman house, and must be so regarded in the description which follows of later developments under foreign influence.

   192. The Greeks seem to have furnished the idea next adopted by the Romans, a court at the rear of the tablīnum, open to the sky, surrounded by rooms, and set with flowers, trees, and shrubs. FIG. 79: PLAN OF A GRECO-ROMAN HOUSE. The original house is combined with the peristyliumThe open space had columns around it and often a fountain in the middle (Fig. 79). This court was called the peristylium or peristylum. According to Vitruvius (§ 187) its breadth should exceed its depth by one-third, but we do not find these or any other proportions strictly observed in the houses that are known to us. Access to the peristylium from the ātrium could be had through the tablīnum, though this might be cut off from it by folding doors, and by a narrow passage (andrōn: Fig. 88) at one side. The latter would naturally be used by slaves and by others when they were not privileged to pass through the tablīnum (§201). Both passage and tablīnum might be closed on the side of the ātrium by portières. The arrangement of the various rooms around the peristylium seems to have varied with the notions of builder or owner; no one plan for them can be laid down. According to the means of the owner there were bedrooms, dining-rooms, libraries, drawing-rooms, kitchen, scullery, closets, private baths, together with the simple accommodations necessary for a varying number of slaves. But, whether these rooms were many or few, they all faced the court, receiving from it light and air, as did the rooms along the sides of the ātrium. There was often a garden behind the peristylium.

   193. The next change took place in the city and town house only, because it was due to conditions of town life that did not obtain in the country. In ancient as well as in modern times business was likely to spread from the center of the town into residence districts, and it often became desirable for the owner of a dwelling house to adapt it to the new conditions. This was easily done in the case of the Roman house on account of the arrangement of the rooms. Attention has already been called to the fact that the rooms all opened to the interior of the house, that few windows were placed in the outer walls, and that there was frequently only one door, and that in front. If the house faced a business street, it is evident that the owner could, without interfering with the privacy of his house or decreasing its light, build rooms in front of the ātrium for commercial purposes. He reserved, of course, a passageway to his own door, narrower or wider according to the circumstances. If the house occupied a corner, such rooms might be added on the side as well as in the front (Fig. 95), and, as they had no necessary connection with the interior, they might be rented as living-rooms, as separate rooms often are in our own cities. It is probable that rooms were first added in this way for business purposes by an owner who expected to carry on some enterprise of his own in them, but even men of good position and considerable means did not hesitate to add to their incomes by renting to others these disconnected parts of their houses. All the larger houses uncovered in Pompeii are arranged in this manner. One occupying a whole block and having rented rooms on three sides is described in § 208 (Fig. 95). Such a detached house was called an īnsula.

   194. The Vēstibulum. Having traced the development of the house as a whole and described briefly its permanent and characteristic parts, we may now examine these more closely and at the same time call attention to other parts introduced at a later period. FIG. 80: MOSAIC DOG FROM POMPEII. Now in the Museo Nazionale, NaplesIt will be convenient to begin with the front of the house. The city house was built on the street line. In the poorer houses the door opening into the ātrium was in the front wall, and was separated from the street only by the width of the threshold. In the better sort of houses those described in the last section, the separation of the ātrium from the street by the row of shops gave opportunity for arranging a more imposing entrance. Sometimes a part, at least, of this space was left as an open court, with a costly pavement running from the street to the door, the court was adorned with shrubs, flowers, statuary even, and trophies of war, if the owner was rich and a successful general. This courtyard was called the vēstibulum. The important point to notice is that it does not correspond at all to the part of a modern house called, after it, the vestibule. In this vēstibulum the clients gathered, before daybreak perhaps (§ 182), to wait for admission to the ātrium, and here the sportula (§ 182) was doled out to them. Here, too, was arranged the wedding procession (§ 86), and here was marshaled the train that escorted the boy to the Forum the day that he put away childish things (§§127-128). Even in the poorer houses the same name was given to the little space between the door and the inner edge of the sidewalk.

   195. The Ōstium. The entrance to the house was called the ōstium. This includes the doorway and the door itself, and the word is applied to either, though forēs and iānua are the more precise words for the door. In the poorer houses (§ 194) the ōstium was directly on the street, and there can be no doubt that it originally opened directly into the ātrium; in other words, the ancient ātrium was separated from the street only by its own wall. The refinement of later times led to the introduction of a hall or passageway between the vēstibulum and the ātrium, and the ōstium opened into this hall and gradually gave its name to it. FIG. 81: COMPLUVIUM IN A TUSCAN ATRIUMThe door was placed well back, leaving a broad threshold (līmen), which often had the word Salvē worked on it in mosaic. Sometimes over the door were words of good omen, Nihil intret malī, for example, or a charm against fire. In the houses where an ōstiārius or iānitor (§ 150) was kept on duty, his place was behind the door; sometimes he had here a small room. A dog was often kept chained inside the ōstium, or in default of one a picture of a dog was painted on the wall or worked in mosaic on the floor (Fig. 80) with the warning beneath it: Cavē canem! The hallway was closed on the side of the ātrium with a curtain (vēlum). Through this hallway persons in the ātrium could see passers-by in the street.

   196. The Ātrium. The ātrium (§§ 188-189) was the kernel of the Roman house. FIG. 82: SECTION OF A TUSCAN ATRIUMThe most conspicuous features of the ātrium were the compluvium and the impluvium (§ 191). The water collected in the latter was carried into cisterns; across the former a curtain could be drawn when the light was too intense, as across a photographer’s skylight nowadays. We find that the two words were carelessly used for each other by Roman writers (§ 191, note). So important was the compluvium to the ātrium that the ātrium was named from the manner in which the compluvium was constructed. Vitruvius tells us that there were four styles. The first was called the ātrium Tuscanicum. In this the roof was formed by two pairs of beams crossing each other at right angles; the inclosed space was left uncovered and thus formed the compluvium (Figs. 81, 82). FIG. 83: AN ATRIUM TETRASTYLON IN A HOUSE AT POMPEIIIt is evident that this mode of construction could not be used for rooms of large dimensions. The second was called ātrium tetrastylon. The beams were supported at their intersections by pillars or columns. The third, ātrium Corinthium, differed from the second only in having more than four supporting pillars. The fourth was called the ātrium displuviātumIn this the roof sloped toward the outer walls, and the water was carried off by gutters on the outside; the impluvium collected only so much water as actually fell into it from the heavens. We are told that there was another style of ātrium, the testūdinātum, which was covered all over and had neither impluvium nor compluvium. We do not know how this was lighted.

   197. The Change in the Ātrium. The ātrium as it was in the early days of the Republic has been described in §§ 188-189. FIG. 84: A SMALL HOUSE AT POMPEIIThe simplicity and purity of the family life of that period lent a dignity to the one-room house that the vast palaces of the late Republic and Empire failed utterly to inherit. By Cicero’s time the ātrium had ceased to be the center of domestic life; it had become a state apartment used only for display. We do not know the successive steps in the process of change. Probably the rooms along the sides of the ātrium (§ 191) were first used as bedrooms, for the sake of greater privacy. The necessity of a detached room for the cooking, and then of a dining-room, must have been felt as soon as the peristylium was adopted (it may well be that this court was originally a kitchen garden). Then other rooms were added about the peristylium, and these were made sleeping apartments for the sake of still greater privacy. FIG. 85: PLANS OF THREE ROMAN HOUSES AT ROME. From the Marble Plan, now in the Antiquarium at RomeFinally these rooms were needed for other purposes (§ 192) and the sleeping rooms were moved again, this time to an upper story. When this second story was added we do not know, but it presupposes the small and costly lots of a city. Even unpretentious houses in Pompeii have in them the remains of staircases (Fig. 84).

   198. The ātrium was now fitted up with all the splendor and magnificence that the owner’s means would permit. The opening in the roof was enlarged to admit more light, and the supporting pillars (§ 196) were made of marble or costly woods. Between these pillars, and along the walls, statues and other works of art were placed. The impluvium became a marble basin, with a fountain in the center, and was often richly carved or adorned with figures in relief. The floors were mosaic, the walls painted in brilliant colors or paneled with marbles of many hues, and the ceilings were covered with ivory and gold. In such an ātrium (Fig. 86) the host greeted his guests (§ 106), the patron, in the days of the Empire, received his clients (§ 182), the husband welcomed his wife (§ 89), and here the master’s body lay in state when the pride of life was over.

   199. Still, some memorials of the older day were left in even the most imposing ātrium. The altar to the Larēs and Penātes sometimes remained near the place where the hearth had been, though the regular sacrifices were made in a special chapel in the peristylium. In even the grandest houses the implements for spinning (§§ 86, 105) were kept in the place where the matron had once sat among her slave women, as Livy tells us in the story of Lucretia. The cabinets retained the masks of simpler and, perhaps, stronger men (§ 107), and the marriage couch stood opposite the ōstium (hence its other name, lectus adversus), where it had been placed on the wedding night (§ 89), though no one slept in the ātrium. In the country much of the old-time use of the ātrium survived even in the days of Augustus, and the poor, of course, had never changed their style of living. What use was made of the small rooms along the sides of the ātrium, after they had ceased to be bedchambers, we do not know; they served, perhaps, as conversation rooms, private parlors, and drawing-rooms.

FIG. 87

   200. The Ālae. The manner in which the ālae, or wings, were formed has been explained (§ 191); they were simply the rectangular recesses left on the right and left of the ātrium when the smaller rooms on those sides were walled off. It must be remembered that they were entirely open to the ātrium and formed a part of it. In them were kept the imāginēs (the wax busts of those ancestors who had held curule offices), arranged in cabinets in such a way that, by the help of cords running from one to another and of inscriptions under each of them, the relations of the men to one another could be made clear and their great deeds kept in mind. Even when Roman writers or those of modern times speak of the imāginēs as in the ātrium, it is the ālae that are intended

   201. The Tablīnum. The possible origin of the tablīnum has already been explained (§ 190). Its name has been derived from the material (tabulae, “planks”) of the “lean-to,” from which, perhaps, it developed. Others think that the room received its name from the fact that in it the master kept his account books (tabulae) as well as all his business and private papers. This is unlikely, for the name was probably fixed before the time when the room was used for this purpose. He kept here also the money chest or strong box (arca), which in the olden time had been chained to the floor of the ātrium, and made the room in fact his office or study. By its position it commanded the whole house, as the rooms could be entered only from the ātrium or peristylium, and the tablīnum was right between them. The master could secure entire privacy by closing the folding doors which cut off the peristylium, the private court, or by pulling the curtains across the opening into the ātrium, the great hall. On the other hand, if the tablīnum was left open, the guest entering the ōstium must have had a charming vista, commanding at a glance all the public and semi-public parts of the house (Fig. 86). Even when the tablīnum was closed, there was free passage from the front of the house to the rear through the short corridor (§ 192) by the side of the tablīnum.

   202. The Peristylium. The peristylium, or peristylum, was adopted, as we have seen (§ 192), from the Greeks, but despite the way in which the Roman clung to the customs of his fathers it was not long in becoming the more important of the two main sections of the house. FIG. 90: THE ROOF OF A PERISTYLIUMWe must think of a spacious court (Fig. 89) open to the sky, but surrounded by rooms, all facing it and having doors and latticed windows opening upon it. All these rooms had covered porches on the side next the court (Fig. 89). These porches, forming an unbroken colonnade on the four sides, were strictly the peristyle, though the name came to be used of this whole section of the house, including court, colonnade, and surrounding rooms. The court was much more open to the sun than the ātrium was; all sorts of rare and beautiful plants and flowers flourished in this spacious court, protected by the walls from cold winds. The peristylium was often laid out as a small formal garden, having neat geometrical beds edged with bricks. Careful excavation at Pompeii has even given an idea of the planting of the shrubs and flowers. Fountains and statuary adorned these little gardens; the colonnade furnished cool or sunny promenades, no matter what the time of day or the season of the year. Since the Romans loved the open air and the charms of nature, it is no wonder that they soon made the peristyle the center of their domestic life in all the houses of the better class, and reserved the ātrium for the more formal functions which their political and public position demanded (§ 199). It must be remembered that there was often a garden behind the peristyle, and there was also very commonly a direct connection between the peristyle and the street.

   203. Private Rooms. The rooms surrounding the peristylium varied so much with the means and tastes of the owners of the houses that we can hardly do more than give a list of those most frequently mentioned in literature. It is important to remember that in the town house all these rooms received their light by day from the peristylium (§ 192). First in importance comes the kitchen (culīna), placed on the side of the peristylium opposite the tablīnum. It was supplied with an open fireplace for roasting and boiling, and with a stove (Fig. 91) not unlike the charcoal stoves still used in Europe. This was regularly of masonry, built against the wall, with a place for fuel beneath it, but there were occasional portable stoves. Kitchen utensils have been found at Pompeii. The spoons, pots and pans, kettles and pails, are graceful in form and often of beautiful workmanship (Fig. 92). There are interesting pastry molds. Trivets held the pots and pans above the glowing charcoal on the top of the stove. Some pots stood on legs. The shrine of the household gods sometimes followed the hearth into the kitchen from its old place in the ātrium. Near the kitchen was the bakery, if the mansion required one, supplied with an oven. Near it, too, was the bathhouse with the necessary closet (lātrīna), in order that kitchen and bathhouse might use the same sewer connection. If the house had a stable, it was also put near the kitchen, as nowadays in Latin countries.

   204. The dining-room (trīclīnium) may be mentioned next. It was not necessarily closely connected with the kitchen, because, as in the Old South, FIG. 93: A BEDROOM. Drawing from the Vatican Manuscript of Vergilthe numbers of slaves made its position of little importance so far as convenience was concerned. It was customary to have several trīclīnia for use at different seasons of the year, in order that one room might be warmed by the sun in winter, and another might in summer escape its rays. Vitruvius thought the length of the trīclīnium should be twice its breadth, but the ruins show no fixed proportions. The Romans were so fond of air and sky that the peristylium, or part of it, must often have served as a dining-room. An outdoor dining-room is found in the so-called House of Sallust at Pompeii. Horace has a charming picture of a master, attended by a single slave, dining under an arbor.

   205. The sleeping rooms (cubicula) were not considered so important by the Romans as by us, for the reason, probably, that they were used merely to sleep in and not for living-rooms as well. They were very small, and their furniture was scant (Fig. 93), even in the best houses. Some of these seem to have had anterooms in connection with the cubicula, which were probably occupied by attendants (§ 150). FIG. 94: A SACRARIUM IN POMPEIIEven in the ordinary houses there was often a recess for the bed. Some of the bedrooms seem to have been used merely for the midday siesta (§ 122); these were naturally situated in the coolest part of the peristylium; they were called cubicula diurna. The others were called by way of distinction cubicula nocturna or dormītōria, and were placed so far as possible on the west side of the court in order that they might receive the morning sun. It should be remembered that, finally, in the best houses bedrooms were preferably in the second story of the peristyle (§ 197).

   206. A library (bibliothēca) had its place in the house of every Roman of education. Collections of books were large as well as numerous, and were made then, as now, even by persons who cared nothing about their contents. The books, or rolls, which will be described later, were kept in cases or cabinets around the walls. In one library discovered in Herculaneum an additional rectangular case occupied the middle of the room. It was customary to decorate the room with statues of Minerva and the Muses, and also with the busts and portraits of distinguished men of letters. Vitruvius recommends an eastern aspect for the bibliothēca, probably to guard against dampness.

   207. Besides these rooms, which must have been found in all good houses, there were others of less importance, some of which were so rare that we scarcely know their uses. The sacrārium was a private chapel (Fig. 94) in which the images of the gods were kept, acts of worship performed, and sacrifices offered. The oecī were halls or saloons, corresponding perhaps to our parlors and drawing-rooms, and probably used occasionally as banquet halls. The exedrae were rooms supplied with permanent seats; they seem to have been used for lectures and various entertainments. The sōlārium was a place in which to bask in the sun, sometimes a terrace, often the flat part of the roof, which was then covered with earth and laid out like a garden and made beautiful with flowers and shrubs. Besides these there were, of course, sculleries, pantries, and storerooms. The slaves had to have their quarters (cellae servōrum), in which they were packed as closely as possible. Cellars under the houses seem to have been rare, though some have been found at Pompeii.

   208. The House of Pansa. Finally, we may describe a house that actually existed, taking as an illustration one that must have belonged to a wealthy and influential man, the so-called House of Pansa at Pompeii (Figs. 95, 96). The house occupied an entire block; it faced a little east of south. Most of the rooms on the front and sides were rented out for shops or stores or apartments; in the rear was a garden. The rooms that did not belong to the house proper are shaded in the plan given. The vēstibulum, marked 1 in the plan, is the open space between two of the shops (§§ 193-194). Behind it are the ōstium (1'), with a figure of a dog (§ 195) in mosaic, opening into the ātrium (2, 2). The ātrium had three rooms on each side, the ālae (2', 2') in the regular place, the impluvium (3) in the middle, the tablīnum (4) opposite the ōstium, and the passage on the eastern side (5). The ātrium is of the Tuscanicum style (§ 196), and is paved with concrete; the tablīnum and the passage have mosaic floors. From these, steps lead down into the peristylium, which is lower than the ātrium, measures 65 by 50 feet, and is surrounded by a colonnade with sixteen pillars in all.

FIG. 96

There are two rooms on the side next the ātrium. One of these (6) has been called the bibliothēca (§ 206), because a manuscript was found in it, but its purpose is uncertain; the other (6') as possibly a dining-room. The peristylium has two projections (7', 7'), much like the ālae, which have been called exedrae (§ 207); it will be noticed that one of these has the convenience of an exit (§ 202) to the street. The rooms on the west and the small room on the east cannot be definitely named. The large room on the east (T) is the main dining room (§ 204); the remains of the dining couches are marked on the plan. The kitchen is at the northwest corner (13) with the stable (14) next to it (§ 203, at the end); off the kitchen is a paved yard (15) with a gateway from the street by which a cart could enter. East of the kitchen and yard is a narrow passage connecting the peristylium with the garden (§ 202). East of this are two rooms, the larger of which (9) is one of the most imposing rooms of the house, 33 by 24 feet in size, with a large window guarded by a low balustrade, and opening into the garden. This was probably an oecus (§ 207). In the center of the peristylium is a basin about two feet deep, the rim of which was once decorated with figures of water plants and fish. Along the whole north end of the house ran a long veranda (16, 16), overlooking the garden (11, 11) in which was a sort of summer house (12). The house had an upper story, but the stairs leading to it are in the rented rooms, suggesting that the upper floor was not occupied by Pansa’s family.

   209. Of the rooms facing the street it will be noticed that one, lightly shaded in the plan, is connected with the ātrium; it was probably used for some business conducted by Pansa himself (§ 193, at the end), possibly with a slave (§ 144) or a freedman (§ 175) in immediate charge of it. Of the others the suites on the east side (A, B) seem to have been rented out as living apartments. The others were shops and stores. The four connected rooms on the west, near the front, seem to have been a large bakery; the room marked C was the salesroom, with a large room opening off it containing three stone mills (§ 418),3 troughs for kneading the dough, a water tap with sink, and an oven in a recess. The uses of the others are uncertain. The section plan (Fig. 96) represents the appearance of the house if all were cut away on one side of a line drawn from front to rear through the middle of the house. It is, of course, largely conjectural, but it gives a clear idea of the general way in which the dividing walls and roof must have been arranged.

   210. The Walls. The materials of which the walls (parietēs) were composed varied with the time, the place, and the cost of transportation. FIG. 99: OPUS QUADRATUM. This is a section of the Servian WallStone and unburned brick (laterēs crūdī) were the earliest materials used in Italy, as almost everywhere else, timber being employed for merely temporary structures, as in the addition (§ 190) from which the tablīnum, perhaps, developed. For private houses in early times and for public buildings in all times, walls of dressed stone (opus quadrātum) were laid in regular courses, precisely as in modern times (Fig. 99). As the tufa, the volcanic stone first easily available in Latium, was dull and unattractive in color, over the wall was spread, for decorative purposes, a coating of fine marble stucco which gave it a finish of dazzling white. For less pretentious houses, not for public buildings, sun-dried bricks (the adobe of our southwestern states) were largely used until the beginning of the first century B.C. FIG. 100: OPUS RETICULATUM AT OSTIAThese, too, were covered with stucco, for protection against the weather as well as for decoration, but even the hard stucco has not preserved walls of this perishable material to our times. In classical times a new material had come into use, better than either brick or stone, cheaper, more durable, more easily worked and transported, which was employed almost exclusively for private houses, and very generally for public buildings. Walls constructed in the new way (opus caementīcium) are variously called “rubble-work” or “concrete” in our books of reference, but neither term is quite accurate; the opus caementīcium was not laid in courses, as is our rubble-work, while on the other hand larger stones were used in it than in the concrete of which walls for buildings are now constructed.

   211. Pariēs Caementīcius. The materials of the pariēs caementīcius varied with the place. FIG. 101: METHOD OF CASTING CONCRETE WALLSAt Rome lime and volcanic ashes (lapis Puteolānus) were used with pieces of stone as large as or larger than the fist. Brickbats sometimes took the place of stone, and sand (§ 146) that of the volcanic ashes; potsherds crushed fine were better than the sand. The harder the stones the better the concrete; the best concrete was made with pieces of lava, the material with which the roads were generally paved. The method of forming the concrete walls was the same as that of modern times. The method employed by the Romans will be easily understood by examining Figure 101. First, upright posts, about 5 by 6 inches thick, and from 10 to 15 feet in height, were fixed about 3 feet apart along the line of both faces of the projected wall. Outside these were nailed, horizontally, boards 10 or 12 inches wide. Into the intermediate space the semi-fluid concrete was poured, receiving the imprint of posts and boards. FIG. 102: WALL FACINGSWhen the concrete had hardened, the framework was removed and raised; thus the work was continued until the wall had reached the required height. Walls made in this way varied in thickness from a seven-inch partition wall in an ordinary house to the eighteen-foot walls of the Pantheon of Agrippa. They were far more durable than stone walls, which might be removed stone by stone with little more labor than was required to put them together; the concrete wall was a single slab of stone throughout its whole extent, and large parts of it might be cut away without in the slightest degree diminishing the strength of the rest.

   212. Wall Facings. Impervious to the weather though these walls were, they were usually faced with stone or kiln-burned bricks (laterēs coctī). The stone employed was commonly the soft tufa, not nearly so well adapted to stand the weather as the concrete itself. FIG. 103: BRICKS FOR FACING WALLThe earliest fashion was to take bits of stone having one smooth face but of no regular size or shape and arrange them, with the smooth faces against the framework, as fast as the concrete was poured in; when the framework was removed, the wall presented the appearance shown at A (Fig. 102). Such a wall was called opus incertum. In later times the tufa was used in small blocks having the smooth face square and of a uniform size. A wall so faced looked as if covered with a net (B in Fig. 102) and was therefore called opus rēticulātum (Fig. 100). A corner section is shown at C (Fig. 102). In either case the exterior face of the wall was usually covered with a fine limestone or marble stucco, which gave a hard finish, smooth and white. The burned bricks were triangular in shape, but their arrangement and appearance can be more easily understood from the illustration (Fig. 103). It must be noticed that there were no walls made of laterēs coctī alone; even the thin partition walls had a core of concrete.

   213. Floors and Ceilings. In the poorer houses the floor (solum) of the first story was made by smoothing the ground between the walls, covering it thickly with small pieces of stone, bricks, tile, and potsherds, and pounding all down solidly and smoothly with a heavy rammer (fistūca). Such a floor was called pavīmentum, but the name came gradually to be used of floors of all kinds. In houses of a better sort the floor was made of stone slabs fitted smoothly together. The more pretentious houses had concrete floors made as has been described. Floors of upper stories were sometimes made of wood, but concrete was used here, too, poured over a temporary flooring of wood. Such a floor was very heavy, and required strong walls to support it; examples are preserved of floors with a thickness of eighteen inches and a span of twenty feet. A floor of this kind made a perfect ceiling for the room below, requiring only a finish of stucco. Other ceilings were made much as they are now: laths were nailed on the stringers or rafters and covered with mortar and stucco.

   214. Roofs. The construction of the roofs (tēcta) differed very little from the modern method, as may readily be seen in Figures 81 and 82. FIG. 105: TILE ROOFRoofs varied as much as ours do in shape; some were flat, others sloped in two directions, others in four. In the most ancient times the covering was a thatch of straw, as in the so-called hut of Romulus (casa Rōmulī) on the Palatine Hill, preserved even under the Empire as a relic of the past (see note, page 134). Shingles followed the straw, only to give place, in turn, to tiles. These were at first flat, like our shingles, but were later made with a flange on each side in such a way that the lower part of one would slip into the upper part of the one below it on the roof. The tiles (tēgulae) were laid side by side and the flanges covered by other tiles, called imbricēs (Fig. 105), inverted over them. Gutters also of tile ran along the eaves to conduct the water into cisterns, if it was needed for domestic use. The appearance of the completed roof is shown in Figure 90.

   215. The Doors. The Roman doorway, like our own, had four parts: the threshold (līmen), the two jambs (postēs), and the lintel (līmen superum). FIG. 106: DOOR OF A ROMAN HOUSEThe lintel was always of a single piece of stone and peculiarly massive. The doors were exactly like those of modern times, except in the matter of hinges, for, though the Romans had hinges like ours, they did not use them on their doors. The door-support was really a cylinder of hard wood, a little longer than the door and of a diameter a little greater than the thickness of the door, terminating above and below in pivots. These pivots turned in sockets made to receive them in the threshold and the lintel. To this cylinder the door was mortised, so that the combined weight of cylinder and door came upon the lower pivot. Figure 106 makes this clear, and reminds one of an old-fashioned homemade gate. The Roman comedies are full of references to the creaking of the front doors of houses.

   216. The outer door of the house was properly called iānua, an inner door ōstium, but the two words carne to be used indiscriminately, and the latter was even applied to the whole entrance (§ 195). Double doors were called forēs; the back door, opening into a garden (§ 208) or into a peristylium from the rear or from a side street, was called postīcum. The doors opened inward; those in the outer wall were supplied with slide-bolts (pessulī) and bars (serae). Locks and keys by which the doors could be fastened from without were not unknown, but were very heavy and clumsy. FIG. 107: WINDOW OF A ROMAN HOUSEIn the interiors of private houses doors were less common than now, as the Romans preferred portières (vēla, aulaea.)

   217. The Windows. In the principal rooms of a private house the windows (fenestrae) opened on the peristylium, as has been seen, and it may be set down as a rule that in private houses rooms situated on the first floor and used for domestic purposes did not often have windows opening on the street. In the upper floors there were outside windows in such apartments as had no outlook on the peristylium, as in those above the rented rooms in the House of Pansa (§ 208) and in īnsulae (§ 232) in general. Country houses might have outside windows in the first story. Some windows were provided with shutters, which were made to slide from side to side in a framework on the outside of the wall. These shutters (foriculae, valvae) were sometimes in two parts moving in opposite directions; when closed they were said to be iūnctae. Other windows were latticed; others again, were covered with a fine network to keep out mice and other objectionable animals. Glass was known to the Romans of the Empire, but was too expensive for general use in windows. Talc and other translucent materials were also employed in window frames as a protection against cold, but only in very rare instances.

   218. Heating. Even in the mild climate of Italy the houses must often have been too cold for comfort. On merely chilly days the occupants probably contented themselves with moving into rooms warmed by the direct rays of the sun (§ 204), or with wearing wraps or heavier clothing. In the more severe weather of actual winter they used foculī, charcoal stoves or braziers of the sort still used in the countries of southern Europe. These were merely metal boxes (Fig. 108) in which hot coals could be put, with legs to keep the floors from injury and handles by which they could be carried from room to room. The wealthy sometimes had furnaces resembling ours under their houses; in such cases, the heat was carried to the rooms by tile pipes, The partitions and floors then were generally hollow, and the hot air circulated through them, warming the rooms without being admitted directly to them (§ 368). These furnaces had chimneys, but furnaces were seldom used in private houses in Italy. Remains of such heating arrangements are found more commonly in the northern provinces, particularly in Britain, where the furnace-heated house seems to have been common in the Roman period.

   219. Water Supply.4 All the important towns of Italy and many cities throughout the Roman world had abundant supplies of water brought by aqueducts from hills, sometimes at a considerable distance. The aqueducts of the Romans were among their most stupendous and most successful works of engineering. The first great aqueduct (aqua) at Rome (see Fig. 2) was built in 312 B.C. by the famous censor Appius Claudius. Three more were built during the Republic and at least seven under the Empire, so that ancient Rome was at last supplied by eleven or more aqueducts. Modern Rome is well supplied by four, which are the sources and occasionally the channels of as many of the ancient ones. Mains were laid down the middle of the streets, and from these the water was piped into the houses. There was often a tank in the upper part of the house from which the water was distributed as needed. It was not usually carried into many of the rooms, but there was always a fountain in the peristylium and its garden (§ 202), and a jet in the bathhouse and in the closet. The bathhouse had a separate heating apparatus of its own, which kept the room or rooms at the desired temperature and furnished hot water as required. The poor must have carried the water for household use from the public fountains in the streets.

     The necessity for drains and sewers was recognized in very early times, the oldest at Rome dating traditionally from the time of the kings. Some of the ancient drains, among them the famous Cloaca Maxima, were in use until recent years.

FIG. 109
These frescoes are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, set up as they were in the villa.

   220. Decoration. Houses were small and simple with little decoration until the last century of the Republic. The outside of the house was usually left severely plain; the walls were merely covered with stucco, as we have seen (§ 212). The interior was decorated to suit the tastes and means of the owner; not even the poorer houses lacked charming effects. At first the stucco-finished walls were merely marked off into rectangular panels (abacī), which were painted in deep, rich colors; reds and yellows predominated. Then in the middle of these panels simple centerpieces were painted, and the whole was surrounded with the most brilliant arabesques. Then came elaborate pictures, figures, interiors, landscapes, etc., of large size and most skillfully executed, all painted directly upon the wall, as in some of our public buildings today. A little later the walls began to be covered with panels of thin slabs of marble with a baseboard and cornice. Beautiful effects were produced by combining marbles of different tints, since the Romans ransacked the world for striking colors. Later still came raised figures of stucco work, enriched with gold and colors, and mosaic work, chiefly of minute pieces of colored glass, which had a jewel-like effect.

FIG. 110

   221. The doors and doorways gave opportunities for treatment equally artistic. The doors were richly paneled and carved, or were plated with bronze, or made of solid bronze. The threshold was often of mosaic (see the example from Pompeii in Figure 126). The postēs were sheathed with marble usually carved in elaborate designs, as in the one shown in part here in Figure 110. The floors were covered with marble tiles arranged in geometrical figures with contrasting colors, much as they are now in public buildings, or with mosaic pictures only less beautiful than those upon the walls. The most famous of these, “Darius at the Battle of Issus,”5 measures sixteen feet by eight, but despite its size has no less than one hundred fifty separate pieces to each square inch. The ceilings were often barrel-vaulted and painted in brilliant colors, or were divided into panels (lacūs, lacūnae), deeply sunk, by heavy intersecting beams of wood or marble, and then decorated in the most elaborate manner with raised stucco work, or gold or ivory, or with bronze plates heavily gilded.6

   222. Furniture. Our knowledge of Roman furniture is largely indirect, because only such articles have come down to us as were made of stone or metal. Fortunately the secondary sources are abundant and good. Many articles are incidentally described in works of literature, many are shown in the wall paintings mentioned above (§ 220), and some have been restored from casts taken in the hardened ashes of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In general we may say that the Romans had very few articles of furniture in their houses, and that they cared less for comfort, not to say luxurious ease, than they did for costly materials, fine workmanship, and artistic forms. The mansions on the Palatine were enriched with all the spoils of Greece and Asia, but it may be doubted whether there were many comfortable beds within the walls of Rome.

   223. Principal Articles. Many of the most common and useful articles of modern furniture were entirely unknown to the Romans. No mirrors hung on their walls. They had no desks or writing tables, no dressers or chiffoniers, no glass-doored cabinets for the display of bric-a-brac, tableware, or books, no mantels, no hat-racks even. The principal articles found in even the best houses were couches or beds, chairs, tables and lamps. If to these we add chests or wooden cabinets with doors, an occasional brazier (§ 218), and still rarer, a water-clock, we shall have everything that can be called furniture, except tableware and kitchen utensils. Still it must not be thought that their rooms presented a desolate or dreary appearance. When one considers the decorations (§§ 220, 221), the stately pomp of the ātrium (§ 198), and the rare beauty of the peristylium (§ 202), it is evident that a very few articles of real artistic excellence were more in keeping with the Roman house than would have been the litter and jumble that we sometimes have in our rooms.

   224. The Couches. The couch (lectus, lectulus) was found everywhere in the Roman house, as a sofa by day, a bed by night. FIG. 112: A LECTUS. From a relief in the British Museum, LondonIn its simplest form it consisted of a frame of wood with straps across the top on which was laid a mattress. At one end there was an arm, as in the case of our sofas; sometimes there was an arm at each end, and a back besides. The back seems to have been a Roman addition to the ordinary form of the ancient couch. The couch was always provided with pillows and rugs or coverlets. The mattress was originally stuffed with straw, but this gave place to wool and even feathers. In some of the bedrooms of Pompeii the frame seems to have been lacking; in such cases the mattress was laid on a support built up from the floor. The couches used for beds seem to have been larger than those used as sofas, and they were so high that stools (Fig. 112) or even steps were necessary accompaniments. As a sofa the lectus was used in the library for reading and writing; the student supported himself on his left arm and held the book or writing with the right hand. In the dining-room it had a permanent place, as will be described later. Its honorary position in the great hall has already been mentioned (§ 199). It will be seen that the lectus could be made highly ornamental. The legs and arms were carved or made of costly woods, or inlaid or plated with tortoise-shell, ivory, or the precious metals. We read even of frames of solid silver. The coverings were often made of the finest fabrics, dyed in the most brilliant colors, and worked with figures of gold.

   225. The Chairs. The primitive form of seat (sedīle) among the Romans, as elsewhere, was the stool or bench with four perpendicular legs and no back. FIG. 114: THE SELLA. From a Pompeian frescoThe remarkable fact is that it did not give place to something better as soon as means permitted. The stool (sella) was the ordinary seat for one person (Fig. 114), used by men and women resting or working, and by children and slaves at their meals as well. FIG. 115: THE SOLIUM. Drawing from the Vatican Manuscript of VergilThe bench (subsellium) differed from the stool only in accommodating more than one person. It was used by senators in the cūria, by jurors in the courts, and by boys in the school (§ 120), as well as in private houses. A special form of the sella was the famous curule chair (sella curūlis), having curved legs of ivory (Fig. 113). The curule chair folded up like our camp-stools for convenience of carriage and had straps across the top to support the cushion which formed the seat.

   226. The first improvement upon the sella was the solium, a stiff, straight, high-backed chair with solid arms; it looked as if cut from a single block of wood (Fig. 115), and was so high that a footstool was as necessary with it as with a bed (§ 224). Poets represented gods and kings as seated in such a chair, and it was kept in the ātrium for the use of the patron when he received his clients (§§ 182, 198). Lastly, we find the cathedra (Fig. 116), a chair without arms, but with a curved back sometimes fixed at an easy angle (cathedra supīna), the only approximation to a comfortable seat that the Romans knew. It was at first used by women only as it was regarded too luxurious for men, but finally came into general use. Its employment by teachers in the Schools of Rhetoric (§ 115) gave rise to the expression ex cathedrā, applied to authoritative utterances of every kind, and its use by bishops explains our word “cathedral.” Neither the solium nor the cathedra was upholstered, but cushions and coverings were used with them both as with the lectī, and they afforded like opportunities for skillful workmanship and lavish decoration.

   227. Tables. The table (mēnsa) was the most important article of furniture in the Roman house, whether we consider its manifold uses, or the prices often paid for certain kinds. Tables varied in form and construction as much as our own, many of which are copied directly from Roman models. All sorts of materials were used for their supports and tops: stone wood, solid or veneered, the precious metals, probably in thin plates only. The most costly, so far as we know, were the round tables made from cross sections of the citrus tree. The wood was beautifully marked and single pieces could be had from three to four feet in diameter. Cicero paid $20,000 for such a table, Asinius Pollio $44,000 for another, King Juba $52,000 for a third; the family of the Cethegi possessed one valued at $60,000. Special names were given to tables of certain forms. The monopodium was a table or stand with but one support, used especially to hold a lamp (§ 228) or toilet articles. The abacus was a table with a rectangular top having a raised rim; it was used for plates and dishes, in the place of the modern sideboard. The delphica (sc. mēnsa) had three legs. Tables were frequently made with adjustable legs, so that the height might be altered. On the other hand the permanent tables in the trīclīnia (§ 204) were often of solid masonry or concrete built up from the floor; they had tops of polished stone or mosaic. The table gave a better opportunity than even the couch or chair for artistic workmanship, especially in the matter of carving and inlaying the legs and top.

FIG. 118

   228. The Lamps. The Roman lamp (lucerna) was essentially simple enough, merely a vessel that would hold olive oil or melted grease with threads twisted loosely together for a wick or wicks, drawn out through one or more holes in the cover or top (Fig. 118). Usually there was a special hole through which the lamp was filled. The light thus furnished must have been very uncertain and dim. There was no glass to keep the flame steady; there was never a chimney or central draft. As works of art, however, lamps were often exceedingly beautiful. Even those of the cheapest material were frequently of graceful form and proportions, while to those of costly material the skill of the artist in many cases must have given a value far above that of the rare stones or precious metals of which they were made.

     Some of these lamps (Fig. 118) were intended to be carried in the hand, as shown by the handles, others to be suspended from the ceiling by chains. FIG. 119: BASE FOR A LAMPOthers were kept on tables expressly made for them, as the monopodia (§ 227) commonly used in the bedrooms, or the tripod shown in Figure 119. For lighting the public rooms there were, besides these, tall stands, like those of our “floor lamps,” an example of which may be seen in Figure 120. On some of these, several lamps were placed or hung at a time. Some stands were adjustable in height. The name of the lamp-stands (candēlābra) shows that they were originally intended to hold wax or tallow candles (candēlae), FIG. 120: A CANDELABRUMand the fact that these candles were supplanted in the houses of the rich by the smoking and ill-smelling lamp is good proof that the Romans were not skilled in the art of candle-making. Finally, it may be noticed that a supply of torches (facēs) of dry, inflammable wood, often soaked in oil or smeared with pitch, was kept near the outer door for use upon the streets, because the streets were not lighted at night (§§ 151, 233).

   229. Chests and Cabinets. Every house was supplied with chests (arcae) of various sizes for the purpose of storing clothes and other articles not always in use, and for the safe keeping of papers, money, and jewelry. The material was usually wood; the arcae were often bound with iron and ornamented with hinges and locks of bronze. The smaller arcae, used for jewel cases, were often made of silver or even of gold. Of most importance, perhaps, was the strong box, kept in the tablīum (§ 201), in which the pater familiās stored his ready money. It was made as strong as possible so that it could not easily be opened by force, and was so large and heavy that it could not be carried away entire. As an additional precaution it was sometimes chained to the floor. Often, too, it was richly carved and mounted, as is seen in the illustration in Figure 121.

   230. The cabinets (armāria) were designed for similar purposes and made of similar materials. They were often divided into compartments and were always supplied with hinges and locks. Two of the most important uses of these cabinets have been mentioned already: in the library (§ 206) they preserved books against mice and men, and in the ālae (§ 200) they held the imāginēs, or death masks of wax. FIG. 122: A ROMAN SUNDIALIt must be noticed that the armāria lacked the convenient glass doors of the cabinets or cases that we use for books and similar things, but they were as well adapted to decorative purposes as the other articles of furniture that have been mentioned.

   231. Other Articles. The heating stove, or brazier, has already been described (§ 218). It was at best a poor substitute for the poorest modern stove. The place of our clock was taken in the peristylium or garden by the sundial (sōlārium), such as is often seen nowadays in our parks and gardens; this measured the hours of the day by the shadow of a stick or pin. It was introduced into Rome from Greece in 268 B.C. About a century later the water-clock (clepsydra) was also borrowed from the Greeks. This was more useful because it marked the hours of the night as well as of the day and could be used in the house. It consisted essentially of a vessel filled at a regular time with water, which was allowed to escape from it at a fixed rate, the changing level marking the hours on a scale. As the length of the Roman hours varied with the season of the year and the flow of the water with the temperature, the apparatus was far from accurate. Shakespeare’s reference in Julius Caesar (II, i, 192) to the striking of the clock is an anachronism.

   232. Īnsulae. Before the end of the Republic, in Rome and other cities only the wealthy could afford to live in private houses. By far the greater part of the city population lived in apartment buildings and tenement houses. These were called īnsulae, a name originally applied to city blocks. They were sometimes six or seven stories high. Augustus limited their height to seventy feet; Nero, after the great fire of his reign, set a limit of sixty feet. They were frequently built poorly and cheaply for speculative purposes; and Juvenal speaks of the great danger of fire and collapse. Except for the lack of glass in the windows they must have looked rather like modern buildings of the sort. Outside rooms were lighted by windows (§ 217). There were sometimes balconies (§ 233) overhanging the street. These, like the windows, could be closed by wooden shutters. The inner rooms were lighted by courts if, indeed, they were lighted at all.

     The īnsulae were sometimes divided into apartments of several rooms, but were frequently let by single rooms. At Ostia remains of īnsulae have been found in which each of the upper apartments has its own stairway. The ground floors were regularly occupied by shops. The superintendent of the building, who looked after it and collected the rents, was a slave of the owner and was called the īnsulārius.

FIG. 124
This picture shows stepping-stones such as are mentioned on
page 175.

   233. The Street. It is evident from what has been said that a street in a residence quarter of an ordinary Roman town must have been plain and monotonous in appearance. The houses were all of practically one style, they were finished alike in stucco (§ 210), the windows were few and mainly in the upper stories, there were no lawns or gardens facing the streets; there was, in short, nothing to lend variety or to please the eye, except, perhaps, the decorations of the vēstibula (§ 194), or the occasional balcony (maeniānum, see § 232), or a public fountain.

     In the shopping streets the open fronts of the small shops, as well as the balconies and windows above them, gave color and variety during the day; the shops, however, were closed and blank at night. In Pompeii some streets show colonnades extending along the fronts of the buildings. These offered shade and shelter to the shopper and the passerby; walls thus protected were sometimes adorned with paintings. Such advertisements as notices of elections and announcements of gladiatorial fights (
§ 361) were very often painted on the walls. FIG. 125: A STREET SCENE. From a fresco in a villa at Boscoreale, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkIn the city streets the rows of tall apartment buildings would seem much like such buildings in the same cities today. The galleries and balconies were full of life in warm weather. There were often flowerpots or window boxes in upper windows.

     In Rome most of the streets were narrow and crooked (
§ 382). Juvenal, in his third satire, gives a vivid description of the discomfort and even danger involved in threading one’s way through the crowd. Conditions were worse at night because of the lack of any system of street lighting (§ 151). The street itself was paved (§ 385), and was supplied with a footway on either side raised from twelve to eighteen inches above the carriageway. The inconvenience of crossing from the one to the other was relieved at Pompeii by stepping-stones (§ 386), of the same height, firmly fixed at suitable distances from one another across the carriageway. These stepping-stones were placed at convenient intervals on each street, not merely at the intersections. They were usually oval in shape, had flat tops, and measured about three feet by eighteen inches; the longer axis was parallel with the walk. The spaces between them were often cut into deep ruts by the wheels of the vehicles, the distance between the ruts showing that the wheels were about three feet apart. The arrangement of the stepping-stones is shown clearly in Figure 124.

FIG. 126
A border mosaic with tragic masks, fruits, flowers, and garlands.
From the Museo Nazionale, Naples.

1 The hut of Romulus, now standing on the Palatine, is a modern reconstruction, based on the round hut-shaped urns found in Latin graves (Fig. 76).

2 The opening in the roof is called the impluvium in Plautus, and by later writers when they refer to a certain ancient religious usage (e.g., Aulus Gellius 10.15.8). Hence it is probable that the terms were interchanged later.

3 The Romans had no public mills distinct from bakeries; each baker was also a miller. (See
§ 283 and Figure 166.)

4 For a fuller discussion see
Chapter XVI.

5 See Baumeister, “Mosaik,” Fig. 1000; Overbeck, between pages 612 and 613; Mau-Kelsey, Fig. 137.

6 The magnificence of some of the great houses at Rome, even in Republican times, may be inferred from the prices paid for them.
Cicero paid about $140,000, the consul Messala the same price, Clodius $600,000, the highest price known to us. All these were on the Palatine Hill, where ground, too, was expensive.


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