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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 don’t have any windows.

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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 master’s 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 family’s 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,


and were placed in the atrium and sometimes the garden. and by studying the impressions left by plant roots. Fruits. fountains. or reclined. Wealthy homes had at least two triclinia – often more. oil lamps and candelabra. weave and meet their friends. Cubiculum Most Romans did not have bedrooms as we understand them today. The walls were often richly decorated and elite familes might display busts of their ancestors here. It opened on to the peristyle and garden. From the remnants of such frescoes. Each lectus was wide enough to fit three reclining diners.with figurines in bronze or terracotta. These were rooms designed to impress. a garden – hortus – was an outdoor extension of their home’s indoor elegance. Triclinium The dining room or triclinium contained three couches. Positioned thus. 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. or 2 . sometimes with a large window. the triclinium of the ‘House of the Golden Bracelet’ had a lifelike garden fresco. Frescoes of garden greenery could create the illusion of lush grandeur in even a modest-sized garden. The numerous small rooms. borders of mosaic give hints of how the room may have been divided. http://museumvictoria. combs. which formed its main furnishings. But for those with money. fishponds and pergolas. Ornate with paintings and mosaics. Tablinum Generally located on one side of the atrium and opposite the vestibule of the house. according to their status and relationship to the master of the house. spindles. they were served food by slaves – course after course from communal dishes – and entertained by musicians and dancers. Peristyle and Garden Not every Pompeii house had its own garden. sewing needles. sew. or where furniture once stood. In fine weather alfresco dining was popular with the garden serving as an outdoor room. or lecti. On the floor of some cubicula. in Pompeii houses would have served not just for sleeping. archaeologists have been able to identify some of the plants grown in Pompeii. Grand Roman gardens featured promenades. Among the objects unearthed in cubicula are jewellery boxes. sculptures. Chairs were provided for those whose status did not merit a reclining position. or a folding door or just a curtain. but as private spaces. shrines. particularly for the women of the household. vegetables and herbs were grown for kitchen and medicinal use. marble furnishings. but made their beds wherever convenient and according to their status within the Guests were seated. flourishing with greenery and birdlife. Here they could read. and flowers and leaves were worn as garlands.

They would have had a second toilet. of course.Kitchen Not every household in Pompeii had its own kitchen. though lacking their freedom. When flushed with a bucket of Pompeians squatted or sat on a seat over a drain. Find out more about the architecture and art of Pompeii at http://www. How are the rooms decorated? 7. usually in a nook off the kitchen. Many Roman’s felt that a good master should look after his slaves as an investment. To reduce the risk of a slave who helped her mistress with her hair each How is their way of living in a house different to ours? 4. the kitchen would seldom have been entered by the master and his family. Design your dream house using some of the features used in a typical house in Pompeii. Compare the House of Vine with your own house. A home kitchen was used mainly for food preparation. somewhere to sleep and the opportunity to take on paid work to help them save for their freedom. In fact. How is it different? Make a list and compare how many different things you notice with your classmates. How much furniture did you see? 3 . Many Pompeians bought their food ready-cooked from street vendors or thermopolia. The ancient equivalent of toilet paper was a sea sponge on a stick (everyone had their own).au/Pompeii Households with kitchens nearly always had slaves to do the cooking. Toilet Most houses in Pompeii had a toilet. How did people use the different rooms in the house of Vine? 3. The wealthy would not have used the kitchen toilet. most cooking was done in a courtyard outdoors. Slave’s room Slaves in Roman households. Compare and Analyse 1. using a portable stove or oven which could be brought inside in bad weather. A Roman farmer might live in near poverty. http://museumvictoria. but a house slave of a middle class family could expect to be provided with clothing. Look at the virtual tour of the House of Vine on the museum website: http://museumvictoria. living hand to mouth. might be permitted to take on paid hairdressing work when not otherwise or used a chamber pot – emptied by slaves. For instance. the effluent ran into a deep cesspit. were often treated quite well. 2. treating them well so that they would work willingly and learn to become good Roman freedmen once their earned their manumission. perhaps upstairs. adequate food.shtml 8.

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