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Roman villas

Грачева А.Д.

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The article deals with the principle of construction and decoration of villas of the Roman nobility in the era of the Republic. This question is not easy, since these types of structures were a compilation of the Greek and Italian house types. In order to understand this, we will first look at the Italian type, using the example of an Etruscan house, then turn to the construction plan of a Greek house, and only then proceed to a detailed consideration of the villas of the Roman nobility. As mentioned above, let's turn to the Etruscan house. As a rule, in the center of Etruscan houses there was an atrium-a square, central room around which rooms were located: behind the atrium there were living rooms, in the front part there were smaller side rooms; a high roof rises above everything in general (Brunov N. I. Essays on the history of architecture.P. 67.). At first, in the atrium (translated as "black") there was a hearth, and there was a roof, but since the lighting in the house was poor and in the atrium itself, as in the central room, there simply could not be windows, the hearth was soon moved to the kitchen, and the roof of the atrium was made sloping with a rectangular hole. This opening illuminated the main room of the house and gave more light access to the rest of the rooms. Due to the fact that the roof of the atrium had an inward slope (compluvium), accordingly, all rainwater got into the room, and this caused the need to build a pool called impluvium in the center of the room. The atrium itself began to serve not as a central room, but as a place where guests were waiting for an invitation to the new central room of the house called the tablinum. Now it is necessary to turn to luxury Greek homes. Greek houses did not have atriums, but instead had porticos and peristyles. The homes of wealthy city dwellers were two connected buildings, one for the family, the other for guests and visitors. Each of them had its own service rooms, located around a courtyard with a portico, connected by a long corridor (Choisy.A. History Of Architecture.P. 380). It should also be noted that the Greek houses were divided into female (genikei) and male (andron) halves. Now that we have considered the Etruscan and Greek houses, we need to look at the Roman type of construction and see what of all the above was present in the Roman house, and what it did not have. To begin with, the Romans, having conquered the Greeks, were strongly impressed by Greek houses with peristyles, and, accordingly, boldly borrowed this architectural element. Consequently, a peristyle was added to the existing Italian type of house with an atrium. These two architectural elements were connected by a tablinum, which retained the status of the main part of the house. The atrium did not undergo particularly strong changes, living rooms were still located around it, by the way, it should be noted here that the division of the house into male and female halves did not find a response.

According to our main source Vitruvius, there were two types of atriums: indoor and open-air with a roof around the circumference, the latter type is also divided into several types. The first and most ancient of these types is Etruscan-without supporting columns, the second-four-columned atrium, the third – multi-columned, was called "Corinthian". In the atriums, the impluvium was preserved, which was lined with marble or tuff, and could also be decorated with a fountain. Sometimes this fountain was placed near the impluvium, passing a drainpipe inside a statue depicting a child, animal, or some mythological figure; the water from this fountain did not gush directly into the impluvium, but into a large stone bowl placed in the middle of the impluvium; from it, overflowing over the edge, the water flowed with a splash back into the impluvium (Sergeenko M. E. Pompeii.P. 145.). Since there used to be an altar in the atrium, and food was also served in this room, which was no longer possible during the late Republic, since a special room called lararium appeared for the altar, and the so-called triclinium for the dining room, in memory of the old times, an altar and a table were placed in the atriums simply as a decoration. Now we should turn our attention to the second courtyard, that is, to the peristyle. In the central part of this courtyard, surrounded by columns, there was a garden (hortus), often decorated with a fountain and a statue. If we speak of the size and shape of this part of the house, it will be correct to refer now to Vitruvius, who writes that the peristyles should be one-third as wide as their depth, and their columns should be as high as the width of the porticos. The inter-column gaps should be not less than triple and not more than quadruple the thickness of the columns.(Vitruv.,VI.3). Around the peristyle there were many rooms for various purposes, first of all, living rooms called exedra, dining rooms that we already mentioned, a kitchen, if the owner was fond of literature, then he could have a library. At the back of the peristyle was a large, sumptuously decorated room that served at the same time as a drawing room, a place of relaxation, and even a state hall during great festivals; it was called the oecus. Here the owner of the house often sat in the shade of wide curtains, secluded from immodest and annoying visitors.(Giro.P. Private and public life of the Romans.P. 153.). It is necessary to mention one more obvious similarity of Roman and Greek houses. It consists in the fact that both houses were turned inward with all their decor, their facade had no decoration on the outside and most often consisted of a blank wall, except that on the shopping streets outside there could be shops or workshops.

Plan of a Roman villa

If we talk about the interior decoration of the house, it should be noted that there are many examples of decorative paintings of the period of interest to us. Now it will be most correct to turn to the Pompeian houses, in which quite a lot of similar examples have been preserved. Despite the fact that due to the high temperatures during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and after it, many paints changed their color, for example, yellow from heating, turned into red, this did not prevent modern scientists from recreating its original appearance thanks to their knowledge of chemistry. The entire classification of Roman decorative painting is divided into 4 styles. The first style is called "inlay style" and refers to the 3rd-2nd century BC.It is characterized as a direct imitation of marble finishing in plastic plaster cladding. (Hartman K. O. Istoriya Arkhitektury [History Of Architecture].T1. P. 88.). The second style is similar to the first, it also reproduces the imitation of marble decoration, only with the help of painting. This style is called "architectural style" or "perspective". The plinth, columns or pilasters, and entablatures or friezes were depicted in this style in perspective, as if they protrude forward in front of the wall surface. In the future, the walls of the second style begin to depict wider and wider spans, through which you can see into the distance nature, buildings, squares and streets of cities. (Brunov N. I. Essays on the history of architecture.С.228-229.).

The third style is called "ornamental or Egyptianizing", its dating is attributed to the end of the 1st century BC. e. - the beginning of the 1st century AD. e. the walls made in this style are painted with ornaments, many elements of which came from Egypt, the cultural influence of which was traced in Rome during this historical period of time. The fourth style of painting has several names "illusory", "fantastic", "perspective-ornamental" and no longer belongs to the period of interest to us, since its development dates back to the 60s AD.Now we should go to the examples of residential buildings in Pompeii themselves. A sample of the first "inlaid style" is preserved in the House of Faun and Sallust. The House of the Faun, built in the 2nd century BC, is one of the largest and most ornate houses in Pompeii. According to the plan, it consisted of two atriums, the first of which was Etruscan, and the second-four-columned, two sanctuaries, and two peristyles. At the entrance to the house, a mosaic was laid out with a welcome inscription. It should be noted that in many Pompeian houses at the entrance there was a mosaic in the form of a dog on a leash and an inscription that read: "Cave canem", which means "fear the dog". A famous mosaic depicting Alexander the Great and Darius II with soldiers during the Battle of Issus was also discovered in the House of the Faun. This mosaic is a copy of an unknown painting by a Greek artist. The mosaic itself is now in a fairly good condition, parts depicting the faces of the main characters of the battle (Alexander and Darius) were not damaged. Now this monument, like many others taken from Pompeii, Stabia and Herculaneum, is stored in the Archaeological Museum of Naples. As mentioned above, the house consisted of two atriums and two peristyles, so this villa got its name from the fact that in the Etruscan atrium, the impluvium was decorated with a bronze figure of a faun, which has been preserved to this day, and in fact is Greek in origin. Around this atrium were several rooms, two of which contained winter dining rooms decorated with mosaics, one of which depicted marine fauna, and the second Dionysus sitting on a panther. Here it should be added that the mosaic floor was in all the houses of the Roman nobility, those who could afford it decorated the floor with colored mosaics, and those who were not so wealthy - black and white. The next house in which the first style of painting is presented is the House of Sallust, whose construction dates back to the 3rd-beginning. 2. century BC This house wasn't as big as the previous one, it didn't have peristyles, but only one atrium. However, the owner of this house had set up two shops for trading in it from himself, and in addition, a room for a bakery and bakery, and several shops that did not communicate with the house - they were rented out. (Sergeenko M. E. Pompeii.P. 186.). In many houses of Pompeii, paintings of the second style of painting, that is, "architectural" or as it is also called "perspective", have been preserved. Such houses include the House of the Silver Wedding, the House of the Labyrinth, the House of Julius Polybius, as well as in the villas of the nearby towns of Boscoreale and Oplontis. Now we will take a closer look at the plan of one of these houses. The entrance to the House of the Silver Wedding began from the vestibule, the floor of which sloped upwards, towards the atrium, decorated in the second style. Impluvius was surrounded by four Corinthian columns. The next room according to the plan was the tablinum, decorated with decorative paintings in the fourth style ("illusory" / "fantastic", / "perspective-ornamental" style). The next room that the tablinum led to was a square-shaped peristyle. The peristyle was of the so-called Rhodes type, since one of the wings of the portico is higher in height than the others: the columns with a smooth lower part of the fust and the upper part - hexagonal-had a later plaster coating.Pompeii.P. 30.). It should be added that this house had a bath complex and an upper floor located above the rooms around the atrium. Examples of paintings of the third "ornamental or Egyptianizing" style can be seen in the House of Marcus Lucretius Fronto, a House with Theatrical Paintings, as well as in the rooms of the Imperial Villa.

The house of Marcus Lucretius Fronto was named after its owner. The house consisted of an atrium, the marble impluvium of which was laid out in black and white mosaic with an ornament in the form of a double braid. The next room according to the plan is a tablinum. It was decorated with many wall paintings: in the center of the wall there was an image of the myth of Venus and Mars, along the edges there were images of candelabra and landscapes of seaside villas. There was no peristyle in this house, but there was a tablinum, the walls of which were also painted in the third style. They depicted scenes of "The Love of Mars and Venus" and " the triumph of Bacchus." The house had a second floor and many rooms painted in the fourth style.

We have reviewed with you the houses in Pompeii chronologically on the development of decorative painting. Now let's turn to similar buildings in the capital. Houses of this type in Rome have practically not survived to us, for the same reasons as many other architectural structures, they died as a result of countless fires and alterations. For example, on the Palatine were located aristocratic villas, the places of which from the 1st century AD began to occupy the homes of emperors. (Pilyavsky V. I. Rome. P. 22.). These include the so-called House of Livia, the ruins of which are preserved on the Palatine Hill. To summarize, as we can see, the Greek influence on the construction of a Roman apartment building was actually quite large, especially in the presence of a courtyard-peristyle in many houses in Pompeii. But on the other hand, the presence of an atrium proves that the Italian tradition was also taken into account when planning residential buildings.

Related topics

Architecture in Ancient Rome, Roman temples, Circus Maximus in Rome, Roman Forum, Insula


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