Roman Villas: A Study in Social Structure

Roman Villas: A Study in Social Structure

Roman Villas: A Study in Social Structure

Roman Villas: A Study in Social Structure

Synopsis

Roman Villas explores the social structures of the Roman world by analysing the plans of buildings of all sizes from slightly Romanized farms to palaces. The ways in which the rooms are grouped together; how they intercommunicate; and the ways in which individual rooms and the house are approached, reveal various social patterns, which question traditional ideas about the Roman family and household. J. T. Smith argues that virtually all houses were occupied by groups of varying composition, challenging the received wisdom that they were single family houses whose size reflected only the owner's wealth and number of servants. Roman Villas provides a meticulously documented and scholarly examination of the relationship between the living quarters of the Roman and their social and economic development which introduces a new area in Roman studies and a corpus of material for further analysis. The inclusion of almost 500 ground plans, drawn to a uniform scale, allows the reader to compare the similarities and differences between house structure as well as effectively illustrating the arguments.

Excerpt

This book is the culmination of an interest which began nearly fifty years ago when the late Sir Ian Richmond urged me, on the slender basis of attendance for two weeks at his Corbridge training excavation, to accept an invitation from the then Ministry of Works to dig the villa at Denton (Lincs.), at that time threatened by ironstone mining. Parallel interests in the history of houses, which entailed study of room function and of timber construction, soon revealed problems hardly considered hitherto by students of Roman Britain; and the potentially fruitful interaction of the three strands of my life’s work, conducted at considerable intervals and at very varying intensity, has at last produced the ideas set out in the following chapters.

The approach here adopted, which is founded on the assumption that house plans reflect accurately the relations within and between the various groups or classes comprising a society, gives rise to a difficulty of presentation. Few people engaged in these studies have analysed plans in any depth and consequently few are familiar with more than a small proportion of villas in their own country - and here I refer to the major countries, Britain, France and Germany; the point applies with less force where there are fewer villas or where analytical gazetteers or summaries exist. Furthermore, hardly anyone has looked at plans from a functional standpoint, so that points of that kind made about even the few villas reproduced internationally, such as Köln-Mungersdorf, Montmaurin or Welwyn-Lockleys, require illustration for the present purpose. Because the approach is unfamiliar, all villa plans mentioned should, ideally, be illustrated, and generous aid from several bodies has enabled a considerable proportion of them to be presented. Nevertheless, every reader will deplore the omission of this or that plan, and to one and all I can only say that I have done my best.

One hoped-for result of this work is the internationalisation of villa studies, something already done splendidly in a general way by John Percival’s The Roman Villa, but now in greater detail. Archaeologists presented with an unfamiliar kind of pottery or brooch will scour excavation reports and museum catalogues for the whole of the Empire until they find a parallel; it is time they did the same for villa plans. the attitude of many of them was summed up by a member of the regrettably short-lived Roman Villas Research Group who remarked to me: ‘I regard your function in the Group as that of gadfly. ’ I hope this book will secure my promotion, in the eyes of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.