This post owes a great deal to Mary Beard's briskly sceptical and extremely readable, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (Profile Books, 2010)
|The so-called House of Pansa, Pompeii|
House and shrine
Unlike the modern house, the Roman house was a shrine. It was the dwelling of the pater familias, the head of the family. It was also the place where the household gods were celebrated.
1. The lares: these were the gods of settlement, who resided where men had taken possession of the land and cultivated it. They were offered fire.
2. The genius was the god of the male line - each citizen received it from his father and passed it on to his son. They were offered pure wine.
3. The penates were the gods of the larder; they turned the house into a food store (corn, beans, wine, bacon, salt meat). They were offered incense.
Roman houses were four-sided, often rectangular. The building material varied from cob (clay mixed with gravel and straw) to brick. In Augustan Rome the commonest building material was sun- dried brick.
|Plan of a domus|
|Reconstruction of a peristyle garden, Pompeii|
|Insula from 2nd century AD in Ostia Antica|
Insula dwelling was the norm in Rome, which was a city of flat-dwellers. A document from the 4th century AD indicates that the city contained 46,602 insulae and only 1,797 private houses.