Glossary of Roman Architure and Painting

Aedicula (plural, aediculae)
A small shrine enclosing a niche for a statue. An aedicula often consists of a pediment resting on a pair of columns.

The lowest part of the entablature, consisting of a horizontal course of stonework directly supported by the columns.

Atrium (plural, atria)
The reception hall of a Roman house, which was surrounded by other rooms (cubicula). Typically the atrium contained a small pool (impluvium). Above was an opening (compluvium) in the roof, which allowed rainwater into the impluvium and admitted light and air into the house.

Compluvium (plural, compluvia)
A rectangular opening, in the roof of a Roman house, that channelled rainwater into the impluvium below.

The uppermost part of the entablature, consisting of an outward-projecting decorated horizontal band.

Cubiculum (plural, cubicula)
A bedroom in a Roman domus.

Domus (pronounced "doh-muss;" plural, domus, pronounced "doh-moose")
A wealthy middle-class or upper-class Roman house in the city. Most citizens could not afford a domus, and lived in apartments (insulae) instead.

The horizontal course of a Greek or Roman temple between the columns and the pediment. The entablature is divided horizontally, from top to bottom, into cornice, frieze, and architrave.

The middle band of the entablature, which was often decorated in relief sculpture.

Impluvium (plural, impluvia)
A rectangular pond that was set into the floor of the atrium of a Roman house. It received rainwater from the compluvium above.

In situ
Refers to archaeological discoveries, artifacts, or works of art which have been left in their original place of discovery, instead of being removed to museums, private collections, etc.

Insula (plural, insulae)
The typical Roman tenament housing, shoddily constructed and lacking even the most basic amenities, that consisted of up to six stories of rooms (imagine the climb!), arranged on all four sides around a hard-scrabble central courtyard. Small shops occupied the ground floor.

Isodomic courses
In First Style wall decoration, the horizontal slabs (usually 2-3 courses) that rest above the orthostats.

Oecus (pronounced "ee-cuss")
The living-room of a Roman house.

In First Style wall decoration, the course of vertically standing (ortho-stat) painted slabs, just above the socle.

In Greek and Roman architecture, the triangular gable above the entablature. In Roman painting, the pediment is often broken at the top, bottom, or both in order to admit a more distant architectural or scenic view.

Surrounded by columns.

The base of a column (architecture) or wall (First Style), that rests upon the floor.

A covered colonnade (walkway lined with columns) or porch.

The lowest horizontal course of paint on an interior wall of a Roman house. Originally representing a stone or marble lower course (First Style), the socle was conserved as a decorative element in all subsequent Styles.

Tablinum (plural, tablina)
The reception-room of a Roman house.

Roman painted walls are typically divided into three horizontal parts (lower, middle, and upper; these terms are, of course, inexact) and three vertical parts (left side, center, right side). "Tic-tac-toe" is not standard art history terminology, although it certainly deserves to be.

Triclinium (plural, triclinia)
The dining-room of a Roman house, usually containing three couches on which the diners would recline while eating.

The deceptive imitation, in painting, of other media such as marble, wood, stucco, cloth, stone, etc.

A Roman mansion in the country. Only the very wealthiest citizens, aristocrats or rich merchants, could afford this type of home.