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Plans of a Roman House

The House of Pansa

The ancient house of Pansa at Pompeii belonged to a very wealthy Roman. The house occupied an entire block and faced south-south east. Most of the rooms on the front and sides were rented out for shops or stores or apartments, ie were taberna, and in the back there was a garden.

The rooms that did not belong to the house proper are shaded in the plans in the picture. The vestibulum, marked 1 in the plans, is the open space between two of the shops. Behind the vestibulum stands the ostium, with a figure of a dog in mosaic, opening into the atrium. The atrium had three rooms on each side, the alae in the regular place, the impluvium (3) at the center, the tablinum (4) opposite the ostium, and the passage on the eastern side (5). The atrium is in the Tuscan style, and is paved with concrete; the tablinum and the passage have mosaic floors. From these, steps lead down into the peristylium, which is lower than the atrium, measures 65 by 50 feet, and is surrounded by a colonnade with sixteen pillars in all.

Roman House Plans
Roman House Plans.

There are two rooms at the side next to the atrium. One of these (6) is believed to be the bibliotheca because a manuscript was found in it ; the other room (6) is perhaps a dining room. The peristylium has two projections (7, 7), similar to the alae, are called exedrae ; it can be seen that one of these allow for an exit to the street.

The rooms on the west and the small room on the east cannot be definitely named. The large room on the east (T) is the main dining hall ; the remnants of the dining couches are noted in the plan. The kitchen is on the northwest corner (13) with the stable (14) next to it; off the kitchen is a paved yard (15) with a gateway from the street where a cart could make entrance. East of the kitchen and yard is a narrow passage connecting the peristylium with the garden. East of this are two rooms, the bigger of which (9) is one of the most imposing rooms of the house, 33 by 24 feet in size, with a large window guarded by a low balustrade, and opening into the garden. This was probably an oecus.

In the centre of the peristylium is a basin about two feet deep, whose rim was decorated with figures of water plants and fish. Along the entire north end of the house ran a long veranda (16, 16), overlooking the garden (11, 11) where was to be found a kind of summer house (12). The house had an upper story, but the stairs leading to it are in the rented rooms, suggesting that the upper floor was not occupied by Pansa's family.

Of the rooms facing the street it can be seen that one, lightly shaded in the plan, is connected to the atrium and was probably used for some business conducted by the owner, Pansa, perhaps with a slave or a freedman in immediate charge of it.

Of the other rooms the suites on the east side (A, B) look like they were rented out as apartments. The others were shops and stores. The four connected rooms on the west, near the front, seem to have been a large bakery; the room marked C was the salesroom, with a large room coming off it holding three stone mills, 3 troughs for kneading dough, a water tap with sink, and an oven in a recess.

Pompeii House
Section of the Pompeii House.

The uses of the others are not quite known. The plan above represents the appearance of the house as if all were cut away on one side of a line drawn from front to back through the centre of the house. It is, however, mostly guesswork, but nevertheless gives a clear idea of the general way in which the dividing walls and roof were arranged.

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