Great part of the city of Pompeii consists of private houses, so you can see in detail all kinds of Roman houses that made up the residence of Pompeian and representing not only different classes (rich homes and houses for common people), but also different building types built across the time that are very different.
The houses of the city
Some buildings are dated back to the IV-III century BC that is 400 years after the cataclysm that shook the city. They are Italic style houses, structured according to a recurring pattern. (It belongs to this type, for example, the House of the Surgeon). The house is developed around a great environment – the atrium – the centerpiece of which was the impluvium, where they collected rainwater.
The roof had a large hole, the compluvium, which gave light and that just served to bring down the water being collected and used for the needs of housewives. Around the Atrium were opened the different rooms and the back of the house was a garden – hortus – which was in fact used as a vegetable garden for growing vegetables for food. In the Atrium took place the majority of everyday life: here was the lararium, that is the space dedicated to Larii, the ancestors protectors of the family. And here, gradually over time, the space started acting a social role too: the head of the family of the most important families received his clientes, namely those people allied family who supported her head in her political or commercial activities. That of clientes (which does not mean “customers”) is a figure that does not exist in today’s society, and that more or less corresponds to the group of people willing to support a powerful person in its activities, primarily of a political nature.
The need to get people in their own homes, with the passage of time meant that the models of “domino” house they develop according to a model that divided the private house by the public area. And the houses of prestige built in later times assumed this character, modeled on the houses of the Hellenistic type. So you went to the Hortus as turning into a garden of pure aesthetic purpose, surrounded himself with a colonnade, and this is organized around the private rooms of the house, from cubiculum, the bedrooms and the triclinium, the important room for officers meals.
The representing parties of the house were richly decorated, and nowadays you can admire this wealth in both places you can visit, especially the frescoes: i the Archaeological Museum of Naples which shows the mosaics, the dishes (fabulous services Silver for meals), furnishings.
In some homes, such as the House of the Faun, you see the maximum splendor marked by the frescoes, statues, mosaics.
The villas and the otium
Then there were the suburban villas, sometimes farms that were in the middle of an agricultural farm, in others real aristocratic residences where rich Pompeian, but often the Romans, went to enjoy the leisurely. It seems funny to think that there is a practice of the “oziare” (idleness), but according to the common philosophy among wealthy Romans, the work was considered a somehow demeaning activity, and instead the best a wise man could do was, in fact, the ‘ idleness, that did not mean to do nothing but read, study, reflect, make music, chat with friends, eating together.
The Campania was prime land for this activity. Pozzuoli, Capri, Herculaneum and Pompeii were also home of these villas where the wealthy Romans could enjoy a mild climate, a favorable environment, the presence of Greek (Naples, Cuma , City of ancient Hellenic tradition) in which that culture flourished. The most famous villa in Pompeii, the Villa of the Mysteries, beautifully frescoed, was precisely one of these beautiful places dedicated to otium.
We have said that eating together was considered as part of this enjoyable pastime activity. And the main room of the Roman houses – and those of Pompeii, then – was the triclinium, where he ate dinner lying on a bed, (because the Romans were in bed a little bit of everything, from eating to read, to write). It was a copied mode, like many others, by the Greeks, and the dinners were not only at major banquets, but also of shows, music, fun and learned conversation. The otium was in fact the way to the cultural and artistic creation: only those who practiced idleness, away from the hard work necessary to survive, was then able to write poetry, compose music, to create artistic products. Not bad, these Romans!