Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor K.M.D. Dunbabin
An examination of the archaeological evidence for the urban domus in Roman northern Italy reveals regional characteristics which distinguish it from the prevailing view of the Roman house. The north Italian house is examined in its various parts-entrance area, open areas (atria, courts, peristyles), reception rooms, service and heated areas. Although no single architectural type emerges, comparison with domestic architecture in Campania, at Ostia and other sites in central Italy allows a clearer view of architectural tendencies. The popularity of the atrium-tablinum house of Republican Campania has long been recognized, but new scholarship shows that a variety of interior arrangements co-existed with the dominant atrium house, and underlines the importance of porticoes, peristyles and courts. The peristyle-reception room dyad which replaces the atrium house is considered in its incipient for in Campania, and more fully developed at imperial Ostia.
This expanded view of the Roman domus proves useful in studying the often piecemeal evidence from Northern Italy. In contrast to the dominance of the atrium at Pompeii, it is shown that the atrium house appears only infrequently in northern Italy, although examples do exist. Instead, it is apparent that courts and peristyles are more common, and that the latter are especially prominent in northeastern Italy. To further contrast with trends in the rest of Italy, the atrium appears in northwestern Italy in the first century A.C. The growing importance of reception rooms which is seen in the rest of the peninsular Italy is also manifested in the north Italian domus, and is demonstrated by the appearance of colonnaded and apsidal reception rooms.
Archaeological evidence for the domus in the other western provinces demonstrates a similar use of the peristyle and portico, and shows that the north Italian house generally follows changes in the provinces more than those seen in the rest of the peninsular Italy. The infrequent use of the atrium and the importance of the peristyle in the north in the early Imperial period at sites such as Aquileia, broaden the definition of the Roman house. Such evidence also recommends a reconsideration of the atrium house as the paradigm of the Roman domus, and demonstrates that in the Imperial period diversity and lack of uniformity are the characteristics of the Roman domestic architecture in both Italy and the western provinces.
George, Michele G., "The Roman Domestic Architecture of Northern Italy" (1992). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2221.