EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS02. The Public and Private Domus in the Social Topography of Ancient Rome (100 BCE-500 CE)

Coordinators: Juhana Heikonen (, Kaius Tuori (

Studies on the domestic space in Roman context have shown that the private house (domus) was the economic and social centre of its owner. Houses were designed to suit both the private life of its occupants and the demands of public life.

The purpose of this session is to go beyond the dichotomy of public and private spheres of the Roman house through a re- evaluation of the material remains and literary evidence. The timeframe would be from the first century BCE to the fifth century CE. As an interdisciplinary enterprise, the session seeks to combine historical, archaeological, philological and architectural analysis to further the understanding of the function of the domus as a place for social, cultural, political, religious and administrative action in relation to the socio-topography of Rome.

The orthodoxy in the older scholarship has changed from a very rigid view of the domus as divided between public and private sections. However, the role of the domus itself in the changing urban topography of Rome has been less researched. The republican domus gravitating to the outskirts of Urbs with its administrational, economic, religious and social functions in the Imperial period has been less researched.

Drawing from the suggestions by new theoretical and archaeological developments in Rome, we seek to explore how functions of the urban public and private domus affected the social topography of Rome in time and how the boundaries between public and private sphere changed.
Keywords: Rome; domestic architecture; public space; public private dichotomy; ancient Rome