Roman Houses

Roman Houses

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Roman Houses


     Roman houses evolved from the thatched-roof huts of the original roman civilization to the great villas of the late empire. Roman houses were not only built in Italy. There were Roman houses built in Greece, Africa, and Britain.
     Roman houses were one story high, the villas of the wealthy were sometimes two. Walls were built of cement covered in stucco or sun-dried bricks which were commonly used until the beginning of the first century B.C. Although the concrete walls were weatherproof, they were usually faced with stone or burned bricks. The walls could also be covered with fine white marble stucco to give it a brilliant finish. Some windows were provided with shutters, which slid in a framework on the outer wall. The ceilings were vaulted and painted in brilliant colors. The roofs varied, with some flat and some sloped. The earliest roof was a thatch of straw, later replaced by shingles and finally tiles. Floors were covered with marble tiles. Smaller houses floors were covered thickly with small pieces of stone, brick, or pottery and pounded down. In two story houses the upper floor was made of wood, sometimes with a layer of concrete on top. Doors were richly paneled wood carved, or plated with bronze. Usually curtains were preferred instead. Sometimes larger houses had an open court in front of the door, called a vesibulum, with pavement from the door to the street.
     Roman villas were divided into public and private spaces. The private spaces were bedrooms, the kitchen, and servant quarters. The masters office or study called the tablinum was also located in the private section. A large chest was kept there chained to the floor containing money and valuables. The main room in the house was the atrium, a windowless room with a space in the ceiling through which rain fell into. The rain fell into a hollow space called the impluvian. There were four types of atrium: Tuscan (in which the roof was supported by two pairs of beams that crossed each other at right angles, testrastylon (in which four pillars supported the roof beams at the corners of the opening in the ceiling) displuviatum (in which the roof sloped down to the walls) and the testudinatum. Later the atrium was reduced to being a reception room.
     For lighting public rooms there were tall stands from which numerous lamps could be hung.

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Light was also reflected from polished floors and from the water in the impluvium.
     There was various methods of heating, In severe weather, portable stoves made of metal were used. Wealthy people sometimes had furnaces with chimneys. Sometimes a furnace was under the house and the hot air circulated in the tile pipes under the floor and the hollow walls. Many occupants could live in a villa at one time. The husband, wife, children, grandparents and slaves.
     Before the end of the Republic, the majority of the population lived in apartments. They were sometimes six or seven stories high. The apartments were built poorly and cheaply and were often in danger of fire and collapse.
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