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Roman Villas


"For Sale...Luxury Home"

Roman Villas were the homes of the wealthy, and could be filled with every creature comfort imaginable.

Although early structures were built of heavy timber, it wasn't long before citizens were building with stone. Roman villas were typically just one story, although some would have a ground floor for storage and to maintain the furnace system.

A single family would live in the home, although that family could be quite large. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and other members of the extended family would often join parents and their children.

Unlike the town apartments, several bedrooms and private courtyards would enable the family to spread out comfortably.

"A Modern Warming System"

Warmth was important for comfortable living, not only for water, but for the air temperature. Crofton Roman Villa shows wonderful detail dealing with its hypocausts. These 'furnaces' enabled heated air to flow through the house.

Either slaves or paid servants kept fires in the basement burning. The heated air would then be directed through wall ducts.

Pools of water could be maintained at a warm temperature, and the floors themselves would have been comfortable to walk upon... or sometimes so hot that wooden sandals would have to be worn.

Although the typical Roman villa only had one room which was heated, wealthy citizens could keep their entire homes warm.

For spot heating, braziers could be moved from area to area. Fireplaces were not usually used because the control of smoke was difficult.

"The Riches Inside"

Roman villas did not open onto the street, nor were there windows. To keep their daily concerns private, doors would be located on the sides of buildings. Blank walls faced the outside.

To that outside world, no clues would be offered as to the brightly coloured Roman mosaics, tile floors, or other elegant furnishings which the owner might enjoy.

Inside walls were covered with plaster and lead to high ceilings. Often these walls would be painted in bright colours, or made to look like marble.

The light needed to view these decorative walls would have been furnished by an atrium, most often with a decorative pool at its centre. Open to the sky, natural sunlight was available during the day. After dark, candles or oil-burning pottery lamps furnished brightness.

Floors were made of bricks, tile, or cement. Onto these floors would be placed the mosaics. Patterns could be chosen from special books or just left to the owners imagination.

Furniture was often sparse in a Roman villa, so the mosaic depictions provided a visual focus for the home. Couches, chairs, stools, and tables would be placed carefully so that the emphasis was on the floor.

"A Roman Garden"

Roses were introduced to Great Britain by The Empire. Violets and lilies were also found in the garden of a Roman home. Placed amongst the flowers would be small statues.

Box hedges were used for borders with rosemary incorporated into the design. Rosemary was also essential for the kitchen garden which would also include broad-leafed parsley, dill, chives, and basil.

Often used as an outdoor dining area, a garden would feature ornamental artwork and outdoor furniture. Corinthian columns would provide depth to the grounds.

Living in a Roman villa would be quite comparable to living in a large country estate in this period of time. Comfort was important, as well as Roman mosaics that reflected their owners personalities or accomplishments.

Article by "Tudor Rose"

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