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Roman Doorways & Doors

Roman doorways had four parts: the threshold , the two jambs, and the lintel. The lintel was always of a single piece of stone and massive. The doors were exactly like those of modern times, except the hinges, for, though the Romans had hinges like ours, they did not use them on their doors. The door support was actually a cylinder of hard wood, a bit longer than the door and of a diameter a little greater than the thickness of the door, ending above and below in pivots. These pivots turned in sockets made to receive them in the threshold and the lintel. To this cylinder the door was mortised, so that the combined weight of cylinder and door came upon the lower pivot. The picture below shows this. Roman comedies are full of references to the creaking of the front doors of houses.

Roman Door
Roman Door.

The outer doors of houses were properly called ianua, the inner doors ostium, but the two words came to be used willy nilly, and ostium was even applied to the whole entrance.

Double doors were called fores; the back door, opening into a garden or into a peristylum from the back or from a side street, was called posticum. Doors opened inward; those in the outer wall had slide bolts and bars. Locks and keys by which the doors could be fastened from outside were known, but were very heavy and clumsy. In the interiors of private houses doors were less common than now, as the Romans preferred portieres.

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