In Latin there are two words to call houses:
Casa-ae: “ shack”
Domus-i (or domus-us): “house”.
Casa-ae : this word has been used to designate the
most ancient kind of houses in Rome. They were
simple shacks. They were rounds, made of logs with a
thatched roof. We haven't got any example of this kind
of houses, but we have got vases, funeral urns with its
shape and some foundations in the Palatine Hill.
this word is used to designate the tipycal
According to its characteristics they are classed in three
• Domus: (Stately home):a single-family house.
• Insula: apartment blocks .
• Villa: house in the country to rest: urbana villa, or more
usually a farmstead attached to an estate, complete with
accommodations for the owner should he choose to visit:
Virtual Roman House
DOWNLOAD THE VIDEO Roman House.avi
WATCH ON YOUTUBE Roman House.avi
( Stately Home )
It is the Roman typical house, occupied in general by an
It is orientated towards the interior. The air and the light
penetrate through both central areas which other rooms
are grouped around: the atrium and the peristylum.
It lacks exterior sight because the exterior windows are
rare and slightly spacious.
It has got usually an only floor.
The diverse spaces are destined for an only use.
The atrium originally was the bedroom of the mother of the family in an old Latin
household. A further symbol connected with the atrium was the hearth, symbolism
of homeliness, was situated in the atrium, the centre of the house and domestic life
(the word atrium comes from the latin word “ater”: black, because of the smoke
caused by the hearth there situated). The impluvium was the shallow pool sunk
into floor to catch the rainwater Also it contained the little chapel to the ancestral
spirits (lararium), the household safe (arca) and sometimes a bust of the master of
The family shrine to the household gods is
located in a small alcove just off the
atrium. The Lares are the gods that
protect the family.
The peristylium ,the innerest room of the house, was in effect the garden of the
house, usually surrounded by columns supporting the roof.
Arund this space were opened the most important rooms of the house, the
exedra, spacious room opened to the portico, the dinning room, triclinium and
Small statues and other ornamental artwork or outdoor furniture would adorn
the space which, on sunny days, would be used as an outside dining area.
Vestibulum, fauces and
A Roman house did not open directly onto the road, but
into a small passage way, the vestibulum, the corridor
which led from the main door onwards into the atrium
was called the fauces.
Aside from the main door, there was a servants
entrance, the posticum, usually positioned at the side of
the house. It was used slaves, servants, humble visitors
or sometimes even by the master of the house, who
sought to leave the house unnoticed by the prying eyes
of onlookers in the main street.
The triclinium was the Roman dining room. With
the introduction of the Greek practice of reclining
when eating, the triclinium was set aside as a
In fact, in many houses once would find several
triclinia, rooms designated as dining areas,
allowing the family a choice of which room to eat in
on any particular day.
A fresco painting of a triclinium, from Pompeii ( now in the Naples Archaeological Museum
Not all Roman homes had bathrooms. Many Romans
simply went to public baths. This was a popular activity
even for Romans with bathrooms, because it gave them a
chance to socialize. The rich, who could afford bathrooms,
could have sinks with both hot and cold running water and
toilets to carry away their waste, though the toilet was
usually located in the kitchen where other waste could be
dumped in it. The bathroom might also have a pool or
basin for bathing in.
A hypocaust is an ancient Roman system of central
heating. Hypocausts were used for heating public baths
and private houses. The floor was raised above the ground
by pillars, and spaces were left inside the walls so that hot
air and smoke from the furnace (praefurnium) would pass
through these enclosed areas, thereby heating but not
polluting the interior of the room. It is calculated that the
temperature obtained in the housings was not more than
30 degrees. Ceramic box tiles (tubuli) were placed inside
the walls to both remove the hot burned air, and also to
heat the walls.
The tablinum was the large reception room of the house. It was situated between the
atrium and the peristylium. The tablinum generally had no wall separating it from the
atrium at all and little if any walls dividing it from the peristylium. It was only
separated from the atrium by a curtain which could easily be drawn back and toward
the peristylium it was separated by a wooden screen or wide doors. Hence if the
doors/screens and curtains of the tablinum were all opened to increase ventilation
during a hot day, one could see from the atrium through the tablinum into the
peristylium. In the early days, the tablinum would have acted as the study of the
head of the family, the paterfamilias.
The culina or kitchen was usually small, dark,
and poorly ventilated, relegated to an obscure
corner of the house. Wealthy matronae did not
prepare meals; that was the job of their
numerous household slaves, so it did not matter
if the room was hot and smoky. Baking was
done in ovens, whose tops were utilized to keep
The cubiculum was the bedroom of the Roman house.
Those bedrooms situated around the atrium tended to be smaller
than those round the peristylium. To the Romans these rooms were
apparently of less importance than the other rooms of the house.
Sometimes in front of the bedroom there was a small antechamber,
the procoeton, where a personal servant would sleep.
Domestic interiors were claustrophobic - windowless and dark - so the Romans used painted
decoration to visually open up and lighten their living spaces. The fresco is a painting realized on a
surface covered with a thin and soft layer of plaster, in which lime is applied and when the last layer
is still humid, one works on her, therefrom his name.
Unfortunately, the Roman painting has suffered irreparable hurts in most cases and only Pompeii
constitutes an exception.
Mosaic is the art of creating a pattern or picture with small pieces of
colored glass, stone or other material, known as tessellae. The Romans
were especially fond of using this art for flooring.
Though mosaics could be spectacular, furniture, even in the homes
of the rich, tended to be basic. Stools were common as opposed to
chairs and reclining couches were used. Beds were simple affairs
with 'springs' being provided by leather straps that criss-crossed a
bed frame. Besides the beds to sleep, other furniture existed, as
tables, seats with arms and without arms, with back or without it.
The furniture was completed with cupboards and safes, the lights or
chandeliers that they were hanging from the walls or were put on a
tripod. Also there could be stoves or braziers.
The taberna could be a room in the Roman house which surrounded the atrium, but which
had its own entrance from the outside and didn't lead into the interior of the house. These
little rooms hence could be used as shops. Usually there was a brick counter to display
goods by the entrance. Inside there usually one or more back rooms. There normally was
a floor added, cutting the tall room in half to create two low floors, the upper floor being
called the pergula. These cramped flats housed the very poor, perhaps a poor client
family loyal to the family who inhabited the house.
An insulae, was where the “poor people” resided. It had three or
more floors that had little rooms in them where a whole family
lived, a tenement block. The rooms got light only by a little
window that did not contain any glass. These popular houses
lacked current water. Collapses and fires occurred often in
In their properties in the country, Romans
had usually two types of buildings that
had got different epithet according to the
principal use which they were destined
The villa rustica, devoted fundamentally to
the agricultural works
The villa urbana, devoted principally to the
rest of the owners of the property.
The villa rustica was devoted fundamentally to the agricultural works
and therefore it had characteristics and particular buildings.
Nevertheless, often it had a building reserved to the owner if he
wanted to spend some time in the field. Though it wasn´t usually so
luxurious as the urban villa, it had got many similarities and its more
But it had got also other typical elements like the house of the
vilicus or manager of the farm, houses for the slaves (and even a
prison for the rebels or ergastulum), different buildings for the cattle
and the tools, barns, hay lofts, presses, watering places for farm
The urban or pseudourban villa was the lodging of
the owners of the estate when they visited it.
It was built in a place where the owner could enjoy
himself widely the sight of the field or the sea.
Normally it had got all the comforts of the city’s
houses, included the heating in winter.