Plan,Olynthus, Villa of the Bronzes

Context: Olynthus
Type: House
Summary: Well-built house of regular plan in the Villa Section of Olynthus.
Date: ca. 432 BC - ca. 348 BC

16.83-17.00 m. EW x 15.80-16.40 m. NS

Period: Classical/Late Clas.


House of regular Olynthian type, with central courtyard, pastas, rooms along north, kitchen-complex with bath and "flue" in southeast, and storage room in southwest corner of the house.

Date Description:

No earlier than 432 BC, when Olynthus was "synoecized"; destroyed by Philip II in 348 BC. Probably not built before ca. 400 BC, since most of the houses in this part of the city probably date to the fourth century.

Other Notes:

The Villa of the Bronzes is a well-built and well-preserved house, and had been heavily burned, particularly in the northern part. A number of weapons found in the court and other rooms, including a shield, a sword, three knives, two spearheads, five arrowheads and thirteen slingbullets, attest to the heavy fighting here during the capture of the city, and led to the naming of the house.

The house is quite regular in plan. The court takes the common position in the center of the south side of the house, and the pastas opens to the court through a colonnade of two columns and two engaged pilasters. Two stone Doric capitals and a pilaster capital from this colonnade were found near the bases. To the north of the pastas are three rooms, two connected by a pillar partition and forming a suite with a light well like that in the House of Many Colors. A fourth room in the northeast corner of the house (d) was entered through an anteroom (f) from the pastas, and might have served as an andron. In the southeast corner of the house was a kitchen-complex with flue and bath, and in the southwest was a storeroom. The house had a double door, a narrow door on the west for people and a wider door, 1.9 m wide, on the east, whose threshold was rutted by cart wheels.

Although similar in plan to the House of Many Colors, the Villa of the Bronzes has no proper andron, but has more architecturally unspecialized space than does the House of Many Colors.

The house was well built and appointed. Its south and west walls were built of drafted ashlar masonry, rare at Olynthus, and the court paved with cement and stone slabs. Six of its eleven rooms were painted, some with molded plaster, and room b had a mosaic floor.

The court, of about average size, was drained to the street via a channel and terracotta pipe. Most of the finds here seem to be remains of the final battle for the city: a shield, sword, three knives, two spearheads, and seven slingbullets. The skeleton of a large calf or small cow was also found on the floor of the court, perhaps another casualty of war.

As at the House of Many Colors, the pastas was apparently an important workplace. In many respects the assemblages of the two pastades are remarkably similar. In the northeast corner of the pastas was a cult assemblage, with a fine marble louter and base, nearly complete and mended in antiquity, and a marble portable altar. Another portable altar was found about two meters in front of the door to room b. A great many vases were found along the north wall between the doors to rooms b and c, including an askos, a fish plate and two plates, six saucers, and many other fragments, "usually broken in large pieces and lying on the floor as if they fell from a shelf or from somewhere above rather than as if this were any sort of a discard dump. Most of the pottery consists of the familiar small black glaze saucers" (excavation fieldbook). This chest or shelf also held a hollow bronze instrument with claw-like projections and a few other bronze objects, while other miscellaneous metal objects were scattered through the pastas, most notably a bronze basin near the westernmost base of the pastas, a finger ring, and a heavy hook.

The two rooms north of the pastas (a and b) form a suite with light well similar to that in the House of Many Colors. Architecturally, the suite differs from that in the House of Many Colors, in that the light well was not accessible from the pastas but only through the pillar partition from b, and the main room b was well decorated, with red stuccoed walls and a pebble mosaic floor; but in general the two suites must have been fairly similar (especially if the main room in the House of Many Colors had been painted and paved with mosaic as was intended).

This suite was used quite differently, however, from that in the House of Many Colors. In the main room, a chest or other furnishing stood at the north wall, attested by eight iron bosses in two sizes. The furnishing probably held either perishable or precious objects. Two elegant lamps, one with two, the other with four nozzles and with central handles, were found nearby. Otherwise, the room contained a rather mixed assemblage: a couple of saucers, an arrowhead, two heavy hooks (perhaps attached to the door, where they were found), a pin, and three coins. We should perhaps interpret this as a more formal living or reception room, lit with fancy lamps and with decorated furniture.

The light well (a), on the other hand, had an earth floor on which were found many ashes and traces of burning, apparently not only from the fire of the destruction but from "continuous fires here" during the use of the house. These fires might have heated the main room of the suite. There is no reason to think that this was a cooking area: no cookingwares or bones were found here or nearby.

In the northwest corner of room a was an odd egg-shaped pithos sunk into the floor, and in the center of the west wall of the room were 20 nails, apparently the remains of another piece of furniture. Several small iron bosses were found in this room although their exact locations were not noted; they too might belong to this furnishing. Near the furnishing were two more fancy double-nozzled lamps like those in the main room, personal articles like a bone spatula, a finger ring with a decorated bezel, and two black-glazed plates. On the other side of the room near the pillar partition were at least 25 saucers and another plate, while many other vases were scattered in this room, and in the southwest corner was a large shallow pot. The interpretation of this area is difficult: presumably it serviced the main room (b), but the use of the pithos, the saucers and other objects is problematic.

The kitchen complex in the southeast corner of the house consisted of a large kitchen, a "flue" separated by a pillar partition, and a cement-paved bath with a tub still in situ (rooms i, j and k). The flue and bath were separated by only a light partition, which left its impression on the yellow plaster of the bath. A fragment of a lower grindstone in the kitchen might suggest that this, like the kitchen in the House of Many Colors, was used for food preparation, although it may have been reused here for some other purpose.

The floor of the flue was covered with a layer of ash, charcoal, burned earth and fragments of animal bones, up to 3 cm. thick; this was apparently a cooking room like the flue in the House of Many Colors. A tub was found in situ in the bathroom. Nearby was a large terracotta spouted basin full of ashes, perhaps a makeshift brazier for heating water.

The other corner of the house was taken up by a large storeroom (g), like that in the House of Many Colors. This contained a huge pithos, 1.7 m in diameter, whose lid was found nearby.

As at the House of Many Colors, there is architectural evidence for a second story at the Villa of the Bronzes. A stone stairbase was found along the south wall of the court, shifted out of place but probably at approximately its original location; and the kitchen has a pillar partition which probably implies a room above.

Sources Used:

Olynthus, 12, 235-258; other Olynthus volumes; unpublished excavation notes.