The atrium of the common
Roman townhouse was both a reception hall and a living room,
and was either roofless or partly roofed over, with an
impluvium or pool in the centre. The compluvium
or roofless opening, provided the dwelling with
both light and air.
This attractive feature of Roman homes likely
has its roots in Roman's own ancestors, the Etruscans.
Evidence found in Etruscan tombs indicates that the Etruscans
also built their dwellings around a central courtyard or hall.
An old Etruscan box of ashes discovered at Poggio Gjello was
by design, meant to represent a house, with prodtruding roof,
doors and an impluvium. This architectural feature appears to
be completely Italian in origin, differing completely with
Branching off from the atrium one could
find the tablinium or office, containing the
tabulae, or family records, and the imagines, or
ancestor portraits. Some cubiculae or bedrooms might
also open onto the atrium, also triclinia
(dining rooms), diatae outdoor 'rooms' meant for
relaxation, oeci or reception rooms, a kitchen and a
lavatory. More lavish homes might also have such luxuries as
bath suites and libraries.
References: The Romans: their Life and
Customs, E.Guhl and W. Korner (Senate Press, 1994); Handbook
to Life in Ancient Rome, Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins
(Oxford University Press, 1998)