peristyle garden

Instead of surrounding their houses with large lawns and gardens, the Romans created their gardens inside their domus. The peristylium was an open courtyard within the house; the columns surrounding the garden supported a shady roofed portico whose inner walls were often embellished with elaborate wall paintings. (one famous painting from a garden in Pompeii is the so-called “Venus on the half-shell”). See this cutaway view of the rear of the house from the composite model in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, including a closer view of the peristyle garden. Sometimes the lararium, a shrine for the gods of the household, was located in this portico, or it might be found in the atrium. The courtyard might contain flowers and shrubs, fountains, benches, sculptures and even fish ponds. This reconstruction of a peristyle shows how attractive this part of the house could be.

model of peristyle
Barbara F. McManus
revised Fabruary, 2007
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