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3 Tutorials that teach The Roman House
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The Roman House

The Roman House

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will discuss the importance of the home in Roman culture.

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Tutorial

An overview of the design elements of Roman houses and villas.

Video Transcription

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Hello. I'd like to welcome you to today's episode of "Exploring Art History with Ian." My name is Ian McConnell. Today's lesson is about the Roman house.

As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you are ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the role of the peristyle garden and atrium in a Roman house, and describe the types of decoration that were common in Roman houses and villas.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson.

First key term is atrium. An open-roofed court in the center of an ancient Roman house.

Second key term is domus, an ancient Roman house, usually for the wealthy.

Third key term is Lares and-- are key terms, I guess, together, Lares and Penates. Minor deities associated with the home in ancient Rome.

Fourth key term, peristyle garden. A garden located near a columned porch in a Roman house.

Continuing, key terms the next key term is cubicula. Square-shaped rooms in a Roman house.

And impluvium. A rectangular basin for collecting rain water, usually located in the middle of an atrium.

And the big idea for today, so the domus and villa are the first examples of domestic houses that considered architectural design and stylistic concerns in their construction.

And there are key, or, required artwork today. Those are listed in purple.

All right. Let's take a look at our timeline for today. There's our handy-dandy timeline.

Now, the architecture-related artwork that we're looking at for today ranges from third century BC to the first century AD.

Still looking at the Italian peninsula, here in dark green. Zooming in here's Rome as a reference, and Pompeii was an ancient city where two of the homes are located. And they're called villas, which were vacation homes.

So why do we care about the Roman house? Good question. Well, the Roman house is really the first example of domestic architecture that considered the design, architectural design and stylistic concerns, in their construction. These larger homes were located in the city. The larger homes that were in the city were for the wealthy people, where most people lived in apartments or country homes if they could afford it.

They're also focused indoors. There's an inward focus of the home. And this is due to the attempts to keep out the noise and dirt of the city. So what you'll see is that the exteriors are very plain, where the interior's where the action is.

So the primary areas in the interior of the home were central courtyards like the peristyle garden. Garden surrounded by peristyle columns, or a peristyle colonnade. And the atrium, which was a small room that was reserved for family rituals, and we'll look at this in a moment.

This is an example of a peristyle garden in the House of the Vettii in Pompeii, Italy, and it was rebuilt after its initial destruction. Now, this is where the entertainment of guests would typically take place. The home was built on an axial plan, with the entrance opening into the atrium. Again, we'll look at this in a moment. Which in turn led past a pool into the peristyle courtyard. Bedrooms, the dining room, and other ancillary rooms were positioned on the edges of the house. And like other homes of this type, the design was rather open. In addition to small windows, this openness helped in regulating the mild temperatures. Homes like this weren't typically very furnished, due to space. Beatification came in the form of gardens, and the murals, statues, or mosaics and other decorations that reflected the owner's tastes and their awareness of styles and trends. Again, this is in Pompeii, Italy.

Now while the garden served to entertain, the atrium was an important formal room of the house and really the center of the family's domestic life. And this is an example of the reconstructed atrium from the House of the Vettii. It was a religious area where rituals associated with family cult took place. Ancestry was an important aspect of the Roman religion, and ancestral portraits comprise the family shrines, where offerings were made to the deities of house.

Now, wall paintings were an important part of the decorative program for a home. In the first style, wall paintings were painted depictions of mosaics or simulated masonry. Shaped colored stone was very expensive. After all, it was all done by hand. So paintings would imitate the effect. And it was a popular style for around 200 years, from the third century BC to the first century AD, or, excuse me, first century BC. 200 years.

Now, the second style of wall painting was much more elaborate. It depicted rather complicated scenes in open space. This openness of space and simulated architecture like marble columns helped to create a sense of openness in the tiny rooms. The murals may also have been indicative of the function of the room. So this mural depicts a Dionysiac, after the Greek god Dionysus or his Roman equivalent Bacchus. It's a mystery festival of some sort. The room itself may have been used as a gathering place for a cult dedicated to the god Bacchus, who was an important god in the city of Pompeii.

Well, that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the role of the peristyle garden and atrium in the Roman house? Can you describe the types of decoration that were common in Roman houses and villas?

And once again, the big idea for today is that the domus and villa are the first examples of domestic houses that considered architectural design and stylistic concerns in their construction.

There you go. Thank you for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Citations

Peristyle Garden; Creative Commons via I, Sailko http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ricostruzione_del_giardino_della_casa_dei_vetii_di_pompei_%28mostra_al_giardino_di_boboli,_2007%29_04.JPG Image of Impluvium in Reconstruction of the House of the Vettii, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pompeje_dom_perystyl.jpg Herculaneum Wall; Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Herculaneum_Wall_1.Style.jpg Image of Dionysiac Mystery Festival Wall Paintings, Pompeii, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Villa-of-the-mysteries-dionysian-fresco-long-shot.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Atrium

    An open-roofed court in the center of an ancient Roman house.

  • Domus

    An ancient Roman house, usually for the wealthy.

  • Lares and Penates

    Minor deities associated with the home in ancient Rome.

  • Peristyle Garden

    A garden located near a columned porch in a Roman house.

  • Cubicula

    Square-shaped rooms in a Roman house.

  • Impluvium

    A rectangular basin for collecting rainwater, usually located in the middle of an atrium.