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Roman townhouse

Cutaway illustration of a domus and its tabernaeCutaway illustration of a domus and its tabernae Very rich Roman citizens lived in a townhouse, called a domus. It was richly decorated and furnished. It also had a peaceful walled garden, or peristyle, where the owners could relax. Slaves cooked, cleaned and looked after the children. Much information about life in a domus comes from studying wall paintings in the ruins of the town of Pompeii. The town was buried under hot ash in AD 79 when the volcano Vesuvius erupted. Whole streets of shops and houses have been excavated. 

Guests are received in the atrium.Guests are received in the atrium.

Inside a domus

Although plain on the outside, the inside of a domus was richly decorated and furnished. The rooms were arranged around an atrium, a central area with an open roof to let in light. This had a pool called an impluvium to catch the rainwater that came in through the open roof. The atrium was where visitors were received. The shrine to the lar, the household god, was also kept here. There would be a dining room (triclinium), kitchen, storeroom, bedrooms, offices and toilets. The very richest houses also had a bathroom.

When wealthy people had feasts, sometimes the diners made themselves sick so they could go on to eat more food.

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