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Ancient Roman Vestibulum or Courtyards

At the front, Roman city houses were built directly onto the street. In houses of the poor the door opening into the house through the atrium was in the front wall, being separated from the street only by the width of the threshold.

However in the homes of the rich the division of the atrium from the street by the row of shops allowed for arranging a more impressive entrance. Sometimes a part of this space was designated as an open court, with an expensive footpath running from the street to the door, and if the owner was rich and successful the court was often decorated with shrubs, flowers, statuary, and trophies of war. This Roman courtyard was called the vestibulum.

The ancient Roman vestibulum is often confused with that part of a modern house called, after the vestibulum, the vestibule. In the vestibulum the customers gathered, in the early morning, to wait for entry to the atrium, and here the sportula was handed out among them. Here, as well, was arranged the wedding procession, and here was gathered the train that escorted the boy to the forum the day that he was to put away childish things and become a man. Even in the poorer houses of the Romans the name vestibulum was given to the small space between the door and the inner edge of the sidewalk.

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