You are on page 1of 3

Architecture in Roman Pompeii The House of the Vine

The House of the Vine is typical of many Pompeian houses, with a rectangular floor plan, and one room leading into another and out into the garden. It contains private family spaces and places for work and business. The Pompeian house is arranged very differently from the houses we live in today. Notice they dont have any windows.

Read through the notes provided and do the tasks that follow.

Visitors to the house would be shown into the atrium, a large, central room surrounded by smaller rooms. The main feature of the atrium is its impluvium, a pool to catch rainwater falling through the compluvium, an opening in the roof. The atrium opens onto the tablinum, the masters study, with a view of the garden. The atrium of the House of the Vine is its most public space, and is decorated with frescoes and works of art to impress visitors with the refinement and wealth of the house owner.

Most households and many businesses included a small shrine or lararium. These shrines were devoted to the gods honoured by the family, the lares (the spirits who protected the household) and the familys genii (guardian ancestor spirits). In the homes of the poor and in slave quarters of wealthy houses, the lararium might be painted on a wall or in a niche. The lararia of the rich were like miniature temples,

with figurines in bronze or terracotta, and were placed in the atrium and sometimes the garden.

Most Romans did not have bedrooms as we understand them today, but made their beds wherever convenient and according to their status within the household. The numerous small rooms, or cubicula, in Pompeii houses would have served not just for sleeping, but as private spaces, particularly for the women of the household. Here they could read, sew, weave and meet their friends. On the floor of some cubicula, borders of mosaic give hints of how the room may have been divided, or where furniture once stood. Among the objects unearthed in cubicula are jewellery boxes, combs, sewing needles, spindles, oil lamps and candelabra.

Generally located on one side of the atrium and opposite the vestibule of the house, the tablinum was a room used as an office by the master of the house and a place where he would meet with his clients. It opened on to the peristyle and garden, sometimes with a large window, or a folding door or just a curtain. The walls were often richly decorated and elite familes might display busts of their ancestors here.

Peristyle and Garden

Not every Pompeii house had its own garden. But for those with money, a garden hortus was an outdoor extension of their homes indoor elegance. In fine weather alfresco dining was popular with the garden serving as an outdoor room. Grand Roman gardens featured promenades, marble furnishings, sculptures, fountains, shrines, fishponds and pergolas. Frescoes of garden greenery could create the illusion of lush grandeur in even a modest-sized garden. From the remnants of such frescoes, and by studying the impressions left by plant roots, archaeologists have been able to identify some of the plants grown in Pompeii. Fruits, vegetables and herbs were grown for kitchen and medicinal use, and flowers and leaves were worn as garlands.

The dining room or triclinium contained three couches, or lecti, which formed its main furnishings. Each lectus was wide enough to fit three reclining diners. Positioned thus, they were served food by slaves course after course from communal dishes and entertained by musicians and dancers. Guests were seated, or reclined, according to their status and relationship to the master of the house. Chairs were provided for those whose status did not merit a reclining position. Wealthy homes had at least two triclinia often more. These were rooms designed to impress. Ornate with paintings and mosaics, the triclinium of the House of the Golden Bracelet had a lifelike garden fresco, flourishing with greenery and birdlife.

Not every household in Pompeii had its own kitchen. Many Pompeians bought their food ready-cooked from street vendors or thermopolia.
A home kitchen was used mainly for food preparation. To reduce the risk of fire, most cooking was done in a courtyard outdoors, using a portable stove or oven which could be brought inside in bad weather.

Households with kitchens nearly always had slaves to do the cooking. In fact, the kitchen would seldom have been entered by the master and his family.

Most houses in Pompeii had a toilet, usually in a nook off the kitchen. Pompeians squatted or sat on a seat over a drain. When flushed with a bucket of water, the effluent ran into a deep cesspit. The ancient equivalent of toilet paper was a sea sponge on a stick (everyone had their own). The wealthy would not have used the kitchen toilet. They would have had a second toilet, perhaps upstairs, or used a chamber pot emptied by slaves, of course.

Slaves room
Slaves in Roman households, though lacking their freedom, were often treated quite well. Many Romans felt that a good master should look after his slaves as an investment, treating them well so that they would work willingly and learn to become good Roman freedmen once their earned their manumission. A Roman farmer might live in near poverty, living hand to mouth, but a house slave of a middle class family could expect to be provided with clothing, adequate food, somewhere to sleep and the opportunity to take on paid work to help them save for their freedom. For instance, a slave who helped her mistress with her hair each day, might be permitted to take on paid hairdressing work when not otherwise needed.

Compare and Analyse

1. Compare the House of Vine with your own house. How is it different? Make a list and compare how many different things you notice with your classmates. 2. How did people use the different rooms in the house of Vine? 3. How is their way of living in a house different to ours? 4. Look at the virtual tour of the House of Vine on the museum website: 5. How much furniture did you see? 6. How are the rooms decorated? 7. Find out more about the architecture and art of Pompeii at 8. Design your dream house using some of the features used in a typical house in Pompeii.