Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

 p426  Domus

The Roman section only (pp426‑432),
unsigned, of an article on pp423‑432 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

DOMUS (οἶκος, οἰκία, and in old Greek δόμος), a house.

[. . .]

2. Roman. The houses of the Romans were poor and mean for many centuries after the foundation of the city. Till the war with Pyrrhus the houses were covered only with thatch or shingles (Plin. H. N. XVI.15), and were usually built of wood or unbaked bricks. It was not till the latter times 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 also to adorn them with columns, paintings, statues, and costly works of art.

M. Lepidus, who was consul B.C. 78, was the first who introduced Numidian marble into Rome for the purpose of paving the threshold of his house; 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 (Id. XXXVI.8.24 § 4). Lucullus especially surpassed all his contemporaries in the magnificence of his houses and the splendour of their decorations. Marble columns were first introduced into private houses by the orator L. Crassus, but they did not exceed twelve feet in height, and were only six in number (Id. XVII.1, XXXVI.3). He was soon outdone by M. Scaurus, who placed in his atrium columns of black marble, called Lucullean, thirty-eight feet high, and of such immense weight that the contractor of the sewers took security for any injury that might be done to the sewers in consequence of the columns being carried along the streets (Id. XXXVI.2).

The Romans were exceedingly partial to marble for the decoration of their houses. Mamurra, who was Caesar's praefectus fabrum in Gaul, set the example of lining his room with slabs of marbles (Id. XXXVI.7) Some idea may be formed of the size and magnificence of the houses of the Roman nobles during the later times of the republic by the price which they fetched. The consul Messalla bought the house of Autronius for 3700 sestertia (nearly 33,000 l.), and Cicero the house of Crassus, on the Palatine, for 3500 sestertia (nearly 31,000 l.) (Cic. ad Att. I.13, ad  p427 Fam. V.6). The house of P. Clodius, whom Milo killed, cost 14,800 sestertia (about 131,000 l.); and the Tusculan villa of Scaurus was fitted up with such magnificence, that when it was burnt by his slaves, he lost 100,000 sestertia, upwards of 885,000 l. (Plin. H. N. XXXVI.24). The house-rent, which persons in poor circumstances usually paid at Rome, was about 2000 sesterces, between 17 l. and 18 l. (Suet. Jul. 38). It was brought as a charge of extravagance against Caelius that he paid 30 sestertia (about 266 l.) for the rent of his house (Cic. pro Cael. 7).

Houses were originally only one story high; but as the value of ground increased in the city they were built several stories in height. In many houses each story was let out to separate tenants, the highest floors being usually inhabited by the poor (Cic. Agr. II.35; Hor. Ep. I.1.91; Juv. Sat. III.268, &c., X.17). To guard against danger from the extreme height of houses, Augustus restricted the height of all new houses which were built by the side of the public roads to seventy feet (Strab. V p235). Till the time of Nero, the streets in Rome were narrow and irregular, and bore traces of the haste and confusion with which the city was built after it had been burnt by the Gauls; but after the great fire in the time of that emperor, by which two-thirds of Rome was burnt to the ground, the city was built with great regularity. The streets were made straight and broad; the height of the houses was restricted, and a certain part of each was required to be built of Gabian or Alban stone, which was proof against fire (Tacit. Ann. XV.43; Suet. Ner. 36).

Our information respecting the form and arrangement of a Roman house is principally derived from the description of Vitruvius, and the remains of the houses which have been found at Pompeii. Many points, however, are still doubtful; but without entering into architectural details, we shall confine ourselves to those topics which serve to illustrate the classical writers. The chief rooms in the house of a respectable Roman, though differing of course in size and splendour according to the circumstances of the owner, appear to have been usually arranged in the same manner; while the others varied according to the taste and circumstances of the master.

The principal parts of a Roman house were the 1. Vestibulum, 2. Ostium, 3. Atrium or Cavum Aedium, 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 the 1. Cubicula, 2. Triclinia, 3. Oeci, 4. Exedrae, 5. Pinacoteca, 6. Bibliotheca, 7. Balineum, 8. Culina, 9. Coenacula, 10. Diaeta, 11. Salaria. We shall speak of each in order.

  1. Vestibulum. The vestibulum did not properly form part of the house, but was a vacant space before the door, forming a court, which was surrounded on three sides by the house, and was open on the fourth to the street. The two sides of the house joined the street, but the middle part of it, where the door was placed, was at some little distance from the street (Gell. XVI.5; Macrob. Sat. VI.8). Hence Plautus (Mostell. III.2.132) says, "Viden' vestibulum anae aedes hoc et ambulacrum quoiusmodi?"
  2. Ostium. The ostium, which is also called janua and fores, was the entrance to the house. The street-door admitted into a hall, to which the name of ostium was also given, and in which there was frequently a small room (cella) for the porter (janitor or ostiarius), and also for a dog which was usually kept in the hall to guard the house. A full account of this part of the house is given under Janua. Another door (janua interior) opposite the street door led into the atrium.
  3. Atrium or Cavum Aedium, as it is written by Varro and Vitruvius; Pliny writes it Cavaedium. Hirt, Müller (Etrusker, vol. I p255), Marini, and most modern writers, consider the Atrium and Cavum Aedium to be the same; but Newton, Stratico, and more recently Becker (Gallus, vol. I p77, &c.), maintain that they were distinct rooms. It is impossible to give a decisive opinion on the subject; but from the statements of Varro (De Ling. Lat. V.161, Müller) and Vitruvius (VI.3, 4, Bipont.), taken in connection with the fact that no houses in Pompeii which contain both an Atrium and Cavum Aedium, it is most probable that they were the same. The Atrium or Cavum Aedium was a large apartment 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 (Varro, l.c.; Festus, s.v. Impluvium), which was frequently ornamented with statues, columns, and other works of art (Cic. c. Verr. II.23, 56). The word impluvium, however, is also employed to denote the aperture in the roof (Ter. Eun. III.5.41). Schneider, in his commentary on Vitruvius, supposes cavum aedium to mean the whole of this apartment including the impluvium, while atrium signified only the covered part exclusive of the impluvium. Mazois, on the contrary, maintains that atrium is applied to the whole apartment, and cavum aedium only to the uncovered part. The breadth of the impluvium, according to Vitruvius (VI.4), 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 probably 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 the roof were supported by pillars, placed at the four angles of the impluvium.
    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 impluvium, so that the water fell outside the house instead of being carried into the impluvium.
    5. Testudinatum was roofed all over and had no compluvium.

    The atrium was the most important room in the house, and among the wealthy was fitted up with much splendour and magnificence (compare Hor.  p428 Carm. III.1.46). The marble columns of Scaurus already spoken of were placed in the atrium. The atrium appears originally to have been the only sitting-room in the house, and to have served also as a kitchen (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. I.726, III.353); and it probably continued to do so among the lower and middle classes. In the houses of the wealthy, however, it was distinct from the private apartments, and was used as a reception room, where the patron received his clients, and the great and noble the numerous visitors who were accustomed to call every morning to pay their respects or solicit favours (Hor. Ep. I.5.30; Juv. VII.791). Cicero frequently complains that he was not exempt from this annoyance, when he retired to his country-houses (Ad Att. II.14, V.2, &c.). But though the atrium does not appear to have been used by the wealthy as a sitting-room for the family, it still continued to be employed for many purposes which it had originally served. Thus the nuptial couch was placed in the atrium opposite the door (in aula, Hor. Ep. I.1.87; Ascon. in Cic. pro Mil. p43, Orelli), and also the instruments and materials for spinning and weaving, which were formerly carried on by the women of the family in this room (Ascon. l.c.). Here also the images of their ancestors were placed (Juv. VIII.19; Mart. II.90), and the focus or fire-place, which possessed a sacred character, being dedicated to the Lares of each family. [Focus.]

  4. Alae, wings, were small apartments or recesses on the left and right sides of the atrium (Vitruv. VI.4).
  5. Tablinum was in all probability a recess or room at the further end of the atrium opposite the door landing into the hall, and was regarded as part of the atrium. It contained the family records and archives (Vitruv. VI.4; Festus, s.v.; Plin. H. N. XXXV.2).

With the tablinum, the Roman house appears to have originally ceased; and the sleeping rooms were probably arranged on each side of the atrium. 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:—

  1. Fauces appear to have been passages, which passed from the atrium to the peristylium or interior of the house (Vitruv. VI.3).
  2. Peristylium was in its general form like the atrium, but it was one-third greater in breadth, measured transversely, than in length (Vitruv. VI.4). It was a court open to the sky in the middle; the open part, which was surrounded by columns, was larger than the impluvium in the atrium, and was frequently decorated with flowers and shrubs.

The arrangement of the rooms, 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 (Id. V.6; Plin. H. N. XXX.17). 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 προκοιτών (Plin. Ep. II.17).
  2. Triclinia, dining-rooms, are treated of in a separate article [Triclinium.]
  3. Oeci, from the Greek οἶκος, were spacious halls or saloons borrowed from the Greeks, and were frequently used as triclinia. 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:—
    1. The Tetrastyle, which needs no further description. Four columns supported the roof.
    2. The Corinthian, which possessed only one row of columns, supporting the architrave (epistylium), cornice (corona), and a vaulted roof.
    3. The Aegyptian, which was more splendid and more like a basilica than a Corinthian triclinium. In the Aegyptian 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.
    4. The Cyzicene (Κυζικηνοί) 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 connection with oeci quadrati, were rooms for conversation and the other purposes of society (Cic. de Nat. Deor. I.6, De Orat. III.5). 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; Balneae.)
  5. Pinacotheca, Bibliotheca, and Balineum [see Balneae], are treated of in separate articles.
  6. Culina, the kitchen. The food was originally cooked in the atrium, as has been already stated; 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, of which a ground plan is given below, a stove for stews and similar preparations was found, very much like the charcoal stoves used in the present day (see woodcut). Before it lie a knife, a strainer and a kind of frying-pan with four spherical cavities, as if it were meant to cook eggs.
[image ALT: A plan of missingALT.]

     p429  In this kitchen, as well as in many others at Pompeii, there are paintings of the Lares or domestic gods, under whose care the provisions and all the cooking utensils were placed.

  7. Coenacula properly signified rooms to dine in; but after it became the fashion to dine in the upper part of the house, the whole of the rooms above the ground-floor were called coenacula (Varr. de Ling. Lat. V.162, Müller), and hence Festus says, "Coenacula dicuntur, ad quae scalis ascenditur" (compare Dig. 9 tit. 3 s1). As the rooms on the ground-floor were of different heights and sometimes reached to the roof, all the rooms on the upper story could not be united with one another, and consequently different sets of stairs would be needed to connect them with the lower part of the house, as we find to be the case in houses at Pompeii. Sometimes the stairs had no connection with the lower part of the house, but ascended at once from the street (Liv. XXXIX.14).
  8. Diaeta was an apartment used for dining in, and for the other purposes of life (Plin. Ep. II.17; Suet. Claud. 10). It appears to have been smaller than the triclinium. Diaeta is also the name given by Pliny (Ep. VI.5) to rooms containing three or four bed-chambers (cubicula). Pleasure-houses or summer-houses are also called diaetae (Dig. 30 tit. 1 s.43; 7 tit. 1 s13 § 8).
  9. Solaria, properly places for basking in the sun, were terraces on the tops of houses (Plaut. Mil II.3.69, II.4.25; Suet. Ner. 16). In the time of Seneca the Romans formed artificial gardens on the tops of their houses, which contained even fruit-trees and fish-ponds (Sen. Ep. 122, Contr. Exc. V.5; Suet. Claud. 10).

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 grounds.

[image ALT: missingALT]

The next woodcut represents the atrium of what is usually called the house of Ceres. In the centre is the impluvium, and the passage at the further end is the ostium or entrance-hall. As there are no pillars around the impluvium, this atrium must belong to the kind called by Vitruvius the Tuscan.

[image ALT: missingALT]

[image ALT: missingALT]
The preceding account of the different rooms and especially of the arrangement of the atrium, tablinum, peristyle, &c., is best illustrated by the houses which have been disinterred at Pompeii. The ground-plan of two is accordingly subjoined. The first is the plan of a house, usually called 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. 1. The ostium or entrance hall, which is six feet wide and nearly thirty long. 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. 2. The atrium, which 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. 3. Chambers for the use of  p430 the family, or intended for the reception of guests, who were entitled to claim hospitality. When a house did not possess an hospitium, or rooms expressly for the reception of guests, they appear to have been lodged in rooms attached to the atrium. [Hospitium.] 4. A small room with a stair-case leading up to the upper rooms. 5. Alae. 6. The tablinum. 7. The fauces. 8. Peristyle, with Doric columns and garden in the centre. The large room on the right of the peristyle is the triclinium; beside it is the kitchen; and the smaller apartments are cubicula and other rooms for the use of the family.

The next woodcut

[image ALT: missingALT]

contains the ground-plan of an insula, which was properly a house not joined to the neighbouring houses by a common wall (Festus, s.v.). An insula, however, generally contained several separate houses, or at least separate apartments or shops, which were let to different families; and hence the term domus under the emperors appears to be applied to the house where one family lived, whether it were an insula or not, and insula to any hired lodgings. This insula contains a house, 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 peristyle, 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. Peristyle. D. Ala to the peristyle. C. Cubicula by the side of the peristyle. K. Triclinium. L. Oecus, and by its side there is a passage leading from the peristyle 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 staircase, 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 beside 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.

Having given a general description of the rooms of a Roman house, it remains to speak of the (1) floors, (2) walls, (3) ceilings, (4) windows, and (5) the mode of warming the rooms. For the doors see Janua.

  1. The floor (solum) of a room was seldom boarded, though this appears to have been sometimes done (strata solo tabulata, Stat. Silv. I.5.57). It was generally covered with stone or marble, or mosaics. The common floors were paved with  p431 pieces of bricks, tiles, stones, &c., forming a kind of composition called ruderatio (Vitruv. VII.1). Another kind of pavement was that called opus Signinum, which was a kind of plaster made of tiles beaten to powder and tempered with mortar. It derived its name from Signia, a town of Italy, celebrated for its tiles (Plin. H. N. XXXV.46). Sometimes pieces of marble were imbedded in a composition ground, which appear to have formed the floors called by Pliny barbarica or subtegulanea, and which probably gave the idea of mosaics. As these floors were beaten down (pavita) with rammers (fistucae), the word pavimentum became the general name for a floor. The kind of pavement called scalpturatum was first introduced in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus after the beginning of the third Punic war, but became quite common in Rome before the beginning of the Cimbric war (Id. XXXVI.61). Mosaics, called by Pliny lithostrota (λιθόστρωτα), though this word has a more extensive meaning, first came into use in Sulla's time, who made one in the temple of Fortune at Praeneste (Id. XXXVI.64). Mosaic work was afterwards called Musivum opus (Spartian. Pescen. Nig. 6; Trebell. Pollio, Trigin. Tyrann. 24; Augustin. De Civitate Dei, XVI.8). The floors of the houses at Pompeii are frequently composed of mosaics, which are usually formed of black frets on a white ground, or white ones on a black ground, though some of them are in coloured marbles. The materials of which they are generally formed are small pieces of red and white marble and red tile, set in a very fine cement and laid upon a deep bed of mortar, which served as a base. The three examples here given, which are taken from houses at Pompeii, will convey a general idea of their form and appearance.
[image ALT: missingALT]
[image ALT: missingALT]
[image ALT: missingALT]

    Mosaic pavements, however, have been discovered at Pompeii, which represent figures and scenes of actual life, and are in reality pictures in mosaic. One of the most beautiful of these is given in its original colours in Gell's Pompeiana, 2nd series, plate XIV. It is composed of very fine pieces of glass, and represents the choragus, or master of the chorus, instructing the actors in their parts. A still more extraordinary mosaic painting was discovered in Pompeii in 1831; it is supposed to represent the battle of Issus (Museo Borbonico, VIII t. 36‑45).

  2. The inner walls (parietes) of private rooms were frequently lined with slabs of marble (Plin. H. N. XXXVI.7), but were more usually covered by paintings, which in the time of Augustus were made upon the walls themselves. The prevalence of this practice is attested not only by Pliny (H. N. XXXV.37), but also by the circumstance that even the small houses in Pompeii have paintings upon their walls. The following woodcut, which represents the side of a wall at Pompeii, is one of the simplest but most common kind. The compartments are usually filled with figures.
[image ALT: missingALT]
[image ALT: missingALT]

    A room in the Roman house in Spoleto (Umbria) sometimes called the House of Vespasia Polla.

    The general appearance of the walls may be seen from the woodcuts given above. Subjects of all kinds were chosen for painting on the walls, as may be seen by a reference to the Museo Borbonico, Gell, Mazois, &c. (compare Vitruv. VII.5). The colours seem usually to have been laid upon a dry ground, but were sometimes placed upon it wet, as in the modern fresco painting (colores udo tectorio inducere, Vitruv. VII.3). The walls also appear to have been sometimes ornamented with raised figures, or a species of bas-relief (typos in tectorio atrioli includere, Cic. ad Att. 1.10), and sometimes with mosaics (Plin. H. N. XXXVI.64).  p432 

  3. The ceilings seem originally to have been left uncovered, the beams which supported the roof or the upper story being visible. Afterwards planks were placed across these beams at certain intervals, leaving hollow spaces, called lacunaria or laquearia, which were frequently covered with gold and ivory, and sometimes with paintings (Hor. Carm. II.18; Plin. H. N. XXXIII.18; Sen. Ep. 90; Suet. Ner. 31). There was an arched ceiling in common use, called Camara, which is described in a separate article.
  4. The Roman houses had few windows (fenestrae). The principal apartments, the atrium, peristyle, &c., were lighted, as we have seen, from above, and the cubicula and other small rooms generally derived their light from them, and not from windows looking into the street. The rooms only on the upper story seem to have been usually lighted by windows (Juv. III.270). Very few houses in Pompeii have windows on the ground-floor opening into the street, though 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 have 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 represents part of the wall, with apertures for 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.
[image ALT: missingALT]

    The windows appear originally to have been merely openings in the wall, closed by means of shutters, which frequently had two leaves (bifores fenestrae, Ovid, Pont. III.3.5), whence Ovid (Amor. I.5.3) says,

    "Pars adaperta fuit, pars altera clausa fenestrae."

    They are for this reason said to be joined, when they are shut (Hor. Carm. II.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 (Plaut. Mil. II.4.25;º Varro, Re Rust. III.7).

    Afterwards, however, windows were made of a transparent stone, called lapis specularis (mica), which was first found in Hispania Citerior, and afterwards in Cyprus, Cappadocia, Sicily, and Africa; but the best came from Spain and Cappadocia. It was easily split into the thinnest laminae, but no pieces had been discovered, says Pliny, above five feet long (Plin. H. N. XXXVI.45). Windows made of this stone were called specularia (Sen. Ep. 90; Plin. Ep. II.17; Mart. VIII.14). Windows made of glass (vitrum) are first mentioned by Lactantius (De Opif. Dei, 8),​a but the discoveries at Pompeii prove that glass was used for windows under the early emperors, as frames of glass and glass windows have been found in several of the houses.

  5. The rooms were heated in winter in different ways; but the Romans had no stoves like ours. 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. Ep. II.17; Dig. 8 tit. 2 s17). The rooms were sometimes heated by hot air, which was introduced by means of pipes from a furnace below (Plin. Ep. II.17; Sen. Ep. 90), but more frequently by portable furnaces or braziers (foculi), in which coal or charcoal was burnt (see woodcut, p190). The caminus was also a kind of stove, in which wood appears to have been usually burnt, and probably only differed from the foculus in being larger and fixed to one place (Suet. Vitell. 8; Hor. Sat. I.5.81). It has been a subject of much dispute among modern writers, whether the Romans had chimneys for carrying off the smoke. 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; Hor. l.c.; Voss, ad Virg. Georg. II.242); but chimneys do not appear to have been entirely unknown to the ancients, as some are said to have been found in the ruins of ancient buildings (Becker, Gallus, vol. I p102).

(Winkelmann, Schriften über die Herkulanischen Entdeckungen; Hirt, Geschichte der Baukunst; Mazois, Les Ruines de Pompéi, part II, Le Palais de Scaurus; Gell, Pompeiana; Pompeii, Lond. 12mo. 1832; Becker, Gallus; Schneider, ad Vitruv.)

Thayer's Note:

a Glass windows are also mentioned, along with a kind of window-grout, in Hist. Aug., Firm. 3.2, written in the mid‑5c (although presenting itself as written in the early part of the 3c, not much later than Lactantius). A fair amount of window glass has been found in different parts of the Roman world.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 17 Nov 13