Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Classical Studies


Katherine M. D. Dunbabin




Grottoes were incorporated into private domestic Roman architecture in the Republican era, and the popularity of the form continued into the Imperial period. As places of refuge from the strains of public life, artificial and structurally altered natural grottoes equipped with nymphaea provided a cool and refreshing escape for the Roman aristocrat. Chapter 1 summarizes the physical evidence for the role of the grotto in the Classical and Hellenistic Greek world, and examines the association of the grotto with the god Dionysus. In Chapter 2 the motif of the grotto in Roman literature is briefly discussed, with emphasis on references to decorated grottoes. The majority of the chapter considers the construction, decoration and function of the grotto-nymphaeum, an architectural type which appears in many Republican and early Imperial villas. Chapter 3 examines the triclinium and its changing role in the Roman house plan, a role which reflects a wider movement in the evolution of domestic Roman architecture. The arrangement and decoration of outdoor and nymphaea triclinia are considered in this context. The nature of the stibadium and its Dionsiac and secular connections are also discussed. Chapter 4 is devoted to an examination of the triclinium-grotto of the praedia of Julia Felix at Pompeii, in which the elements of grotto, nymphaeum and triclinium are combined and fully integrated into the fabric of domestic architecture.

McMaster University Library

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