1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Roman Dwellings

(Part 76)

Roman Dwellings

The still extensive remains of the villa of Hadrian, near Tivoli, bespeak its original magnificence. Everything appears to have been directed to internal splendour and effect alone; and indeed, all collateral evidence tends to the conclusion, that the exterior of Roman palaces and mansions was not heeded, being merely plain brick walls. This is the case of Pompeii, and the ruins of mansions in various parts of Italy, from that of Sallust on the Benecus or Lago di Garda, to those of other Roman nobles on the shores of the Bay of Baiae, present no indications whatever that their exteriors were subjected to architectural decoration. The palace of Diocletian at Spalatro, and the splendid remains of Baalbec and Palmyra, some of which, perhaps, belonged to secular structures, offer evidence to the contrary of this, if they are correctly restored in the works which treat of them. Notwithstanding the extent of the structure and its general magnificence, however, the mouldings and ornaments in the interior of the villa of Hadrian, though in themselves classical and elegant, are small, and have a general air of littleness, especially when compared with the apartments to which they belong, -- not that the apartments are generally large, but they are for the most part lofty. The ceilings appear to have been formed by vaulting; there are no indications of windows, and none of stairs of any magnitude -- so that the rooms must have been nearly, if not quite, open at one end to admit light and air; and the probability is that there were seldom apartments above the ground floor, though it is likely enough that terraces formed on the vaulted roofs were used for the purposes of recreation and pleasure. Of the floors, which were of mosaic, several are preserved entire in the museum of the Vatican; where also are deposited many fine specimens of ornamental sculpture in vases and candelabra, besides busts, statues, and groups in bronze, marble, porphyry, and granite, of various styles, remains of the noble collection Hadrian made during his progress through his extensive dominions, which have been found among the ruins of the villa.

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