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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Center of Roman life

Continuing with elements of life in ancient Rome, today I'm writing the first post about their houses, and the subject is so interesting that I'll divide my posts into possibly three. Most of what we know pertains to larger homes, but we can suppose smaller houses were built along these lines, though with less costly materials and fewer rooms.
Roman homes had no windows until much later. Instead, the air and light came from openings in the roof. The main room, the Atrium, was the center of domestic life. It was reached by passing through a vestibule. Other rooms opened off the atrium, and I'll discuss those later.
Three elements important to the atrium were the hearth, a symbolic bed, and a place to display the family lares, which are the ancestral spirits and representations of the pagan gods and goddesses the family worshipped.
The hearth may be burning or not, and might even contain a fire brought directly from the Vesta fire tended by the Vestal Virgins.
The bed, originally used for the oldest esteemed member to sleep on, later became a symbol of family continuity. For a wedding, it was decorated with flowers and costly bedding in hopes the symbol would promote fertility and many sons.
The lares were displayed on an altar, the spot where ceremonies took place, like this picture.
Other furnishing, beyond the specified three, might be couches and a marble bust of the owner or distinguished family members.
In the middle of the room was a sunken pool which caught rainwater and distributed it to an area below the floor. In cooler climates north of the Mediterranean, pipes carried heated water beneath the floor to warm the house. The early Romans were engineering geniuses, not only with their aqueducts and underground storage facilities, but also with their home construction.


Skhye said...

Wonderful post as always. I've always been fascinated by what Classical archaeology brings to light... the Romans! Throw in an exploding volcano and being preserved for all eternity and voila--instant mystery. I am most appreciative of the floor mosaics made with small glass or pottery. VERY VERY intricate work there. ~Skhye

Cate Masters said...

Fascinating, Joyce! Sounds like we could use some Roman engineering today to reduce global warming!

Helen Hardt said...

Hi Joyce! With all our scientific and engineering knowledge today, it's amazing what we can still learn from those bygone eras. Great post!

Mary Ricksen said...

What a wonderful period to write!!

Joyce Moore said...

Skhye: I looked at your blog. You have some great medieval links. I'm always looking for fresh info so I'll be checking back. Gladyou stopped by hh.

Joyce Moore said...

Hi Cate; Thanks for stopping by. Hmm. You know, I think if they'd had global warning they would have figured out how to fix it too. Heck, why not? They had radiant heat!

Joyce Moore said...

Hi Helen: Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, we tend to forget what a great civilization it really was, 'til Caligula and Nero botched it up! Thanks for reading!

Joyce Moore said...

Mary: Always good to hear from you. Don't know how you do it. You seem to be everywhere at once. I'm glad you like our posts. All of us hope maybe another author can find something useful here.
Thanks for stopping.