CHAPTER IX. THE ROMAN TOWN HOUSE

Coming back from the garden into the court, we might explore other passages, leading to the kitchen or to the bathrooms of hot, warm, and cold water. These offices would be respectively situated wherever circumstances made them most convenient. In the kitchen the part corresponding to our "range" consisted of a flat structure of masonry, on which the fire was lighted. The cooking pots were placed either upon ridges of masonry running across the fire or upon three legged stands of iron. The accompanying illustrations will sufficiently show what is meant. The bedrooms, little better than cells, of the slaves, and also the storerooms, were variously distributed. Underground cellars were apparently exceptional, although examples may be seen at Pompeii.

Somewhere in one of the bays of the hall, at the back of the peristyle court, or elsewhere, would be found a small shrine for the worship of the domestic gods. This was variously constructed. Sometimes it was a niche or recess containing paintings or little effigies and with an altar or altar-shelf beneath, sometimes a miniature temple erected against the wall. There was apparently no special place to which, rather than any other, it was to be assigned. To the nature and meaning of the household gods we may refer again when dealing with the general subject of religion.

In the homes of persons of culture there would also be included a library and, perhaps less regularly, a picture-gallery. The library, which sometimes comprised thousands of rolls, would be a room not only surrounded by large pigeon-holes or open cupboards containing the round boxes for the parchment rolls, but also traversed by lower partitions provided on either side with similar shelves. About the room, over or by the shelves, stand portrait busts or medallions of great authors, both Greek and Roman, the "blind" Homer being represented in traditional form, but the majority, from Aeschylus and Thucydides down to Virgil and Livy, being authentic and excellent likenesses. In the picture-gallery would be found paintings either done upon the stucco walls in a frame-like setting or upon panels of wood attached to the walls, very much as we hang our modern pictures.

It was scarcely ever the case that a second storey - where one existed at all - extended over the whole house. If upper rooms were used, they were placed over those parts where they would interfere least with the light, the comfort, and the appearance of the ground-floor arrangements. The stairs leading to them were variously disposed and as little as possible in evidence. In such upper apartments there was naturally not the same risk from the curious or the burglar as in the case of the lower, and windows of perhaps 4 by 2-1/2 feet were therefore freely employed. In some instances, though we cannot tell how frequently, the second storey projected on strong beams over the street, as in the example at Pompeii known as the "House of the Hanging Balcony."

It remains to make brief observations upon one or two matters interesting to any practical householder. These are the questions of water-supply, drainage, warming, and roofing.

In respect of water there was no difficulty. It was brought in the ordinary way, from those reservoirs which formed the ends of the aqueducts or conduits, by means of pipes, mostly made of lead, though sometimes of bronze. These were conducted to the points where they were required, and there the flow was manipulated by means of taps and plugs. In order to make a water-pipe, a sheet of lead or bronze was rolled into a cylinder, the joining of the two edges taking the shape of a raised ridge, which was soldered. One end of a section was squeezed or narrowed so that it might be inserted into the widened end of the next. Lead pipes of no inconsiderable size, stamped with the name of the owner, are to be seen preserved in the Palatine House of Livia, and a number of smaller ones remain at Pompeii. For drainage there the sewers, and also pipes to carry the less offensive overflow of water into the street channels, which in their turn led into underground drains.

For the warming of a house the Romans not only portable braziers with charcoal for fuel, but in the larger establishments there existed a system of "central" heating, by which hot air was conducted from a furnace in the basement through flues running beneath the floor and up through the walls, where its effect might be regulated by adjustable openings or registers. The only fixed fire-place in a town house was in the kitchen. From this the smoke was carried off by a flue, constituting to all intents and purposes a chimney. The belief that the Romans were unacquainted with such things as chimneys has been proved to be untrue.

The roofing, when constructed, as it most frequently was, in a gabled form, consisted of terra-cotta tiles arranged on a regular system. First came the flat layers, each higher row overlapping the lower. The descending edges of a row of these flat plates, as they lay side by side, were turned up into a kind of flange of about 2-1/4 inches in height, so that at the points of contact a ridge was formed down the roof. Over this line was laid a series of other tiles shaped into a half-cylinder, the lower end of each tile overlapping the next. By this means the rain was prevented from penetrating the crevice between the flanges. At the bottom, above the eaves, the line of semicircular tiles ended in a flower-like or mask-like ornament, which broke the monotony of the horizontal edge of the roof.