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Public and Private in Roman House and Society

November 7, 2014 @ 08:00 - November 8, 2014 @ 17:00

Façade of the Casa del Torello di Bronzo at Pompeii, with central entrance surrounded by two shops.

Two day conference in Rome on public and private in Roman house and society, where I will give a paper on the role of tabernae associated with atrium houses in negotiating the relation between public space (the street) and private space (the atrium).

The academic programme of the conferene can be found here.

Shops, workshops and the commercialization of private space in Roman houses: the case of Pompeii

While scholarly discourse on public and private in the Roman house usually puts a lot of emphasis on social, cultural and even political processes taking place in domestic contexts, it should not be overlooked that one of the key aspects of the relation between public and private in a house was the way in which it incorporated commercial activities: there is ample evidence that houses played a central role in Roman urban economies and a considerable proportion of urban retail and manufacturing took place within or in the direct environment of houses.

Yet what is much less well-understood is to which extent, and in which way, the physical presence of retail and manufacturing in domestic contexts had an impact on the role of public and private in domestic space. To some extent, commercial spaces may be seen as ‘semi-pubic’ in the sense that, for business purposes, they may be penetrated by outsiders who were not members of a household, but this differs between shops and workshops, and it is not the whole story: the question is to which extent this also had consequences for the functioning of the rest of the house.

Focusing on Pompeii, this paper will analyze three aspects of this issue. It will first zoom in on the role that tabernae surrounding the entrance of houses could play in bridging the gap between public and private space, and assess the potential impact of workshops situated in the back parts of houses. Subsequently, it will be discussed how the public image of houses could be defined by the commercial activities of their occupants even if shops or workshops were absent. The paper will argue that it is impossible to understand public and private in the Roman house without understanding the role of houses in retail and manufacturing.




November 7, 2014 @ 08:00
November 8, 2014 @ 17:00
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Public and Private in the Roman House


Institutum Romanum Finlandiae
Passeggiata del Gianicolo 10
Roma, Italy
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