wall of a roofed building, in contradistinction to MURUS
fence wall, and maceria,
the wall of a small
enclosure, such as a garden or courtyard. For the methods of construction of
the more solid sorts of parietes,
The wall of the primitive huts, used by many races at an early stage of
development, were formed of wattled osiers daubed with clay (paries cratitius
). (See CRATES: also cf. Festus, s. v. solea;
Pliny, Plin. Nat. 35.169
; Vitr. 2.1
; and Ovid, Ov.
and 6.261.) In later times thin party-walls were
sometimes made of wood framing covered with reeds, and then stuccoed, like a
modern lath-and-plaster partition. Walls of sun-dried bricks (paries lateritius
) have been mentioned under MURUS: a variety of this method, used for humbler
purposes, was to make the wall in one mass of beaten earth, paries formaceus:
In some districts where timber was plentiful,
log houses were built: very curious representations of these structures
occur, carved in stone, in many of the tombs of Lycia and Lydia: cf. Hdt. 4.108
; and Viturv. 2.1 and 9. Many of these
show carpentry of the most elaborate and skilful kind, with long carefully
formed tenons, passing through the mortises and secured by wooden pins or
wedges. Even under the Roman Empire wood was very largely used for the upper
stories of houses, which were frequently built projecting over the
ground-floor, like a mediaeval halftimbered structure. Many examples of this
have been traced at Pompeii, though in most cases the charred beams fall to
pieces as soon as they are exposed to air. In one instance, however, it has
been possible to prop up and preserve an example of this overhanging upper
or maenianum pensile.
The metropolitan building acts of Nero, Trajan,
and other emperors were specially framed so as to prevent the use of these
highly combustible structures in the city of Rome, where constant fires
committed the most fearful devastation (Suet. Nero
; Aur. Victor, Epit.
13; and Vitr. 2.8
The paries solidus
was a wall unbroken by
openings for doors or windows: as in modern language, it was also called
“a blind wall” (Verg. A.
). The paries communis
party-wall common to two houses (Ovid, Ov. Met.
): the κοινὸς τοῖχος
of Thuc. 2.3
. The party-wall was also called intergerinus
(see Festus, s.v. and Plin. Nat. 35.173
); and in Greek μεσότοιχος
, and Ephes.
2.14). Cross walls for separating the rooms of a house were called parietes directi.
4) distinguishes four kinds of wall--the paries solidus
as opposed to the paries fornicatus,
a wall pierced with arches; and the
or party-wall as distinguished
from the directus
or private-room wall.
The decoration of the paries
was very varied and
elaborate: for painting and mosaic, both of which were very largely used for
Roman mural decoration, see PICTURA: cf. also DOMUS
and [p. 2.346]MURUS
s. v. “Mural Decoration.”
Stucco (opus tectorium
) was very largely used by
the Romans, both for exterior and internal walls. Great care and skill were
expended in producing a hard durable substance, quite unlike the soft
friable material which we now call stucco. Vitruvius (7.2
) gives an elaborate description
of the various methods of preparing and applying stucco: as Pliny's remarks
on this subject are copied from Vitruvius, it is needless to refer to what
he says about it. Existing examples agree closely with Vitruvius' advice.
For internal work, three to five coats of stucco were laid on. If the wall
were thought likely to be damp, it was often covered with flanged tiles,
fixed with iron T-shaped cramps (Vitr. 7.4
examples of this have been found in Rome. The first coat was of lime and
coarse pozzolana (lapis Puteolanus
like the mortar used in the joints of brick facings. Over this, another
rough coat was spread, frequently composed of lime, sand, and pounded
pottery (testae tunsae
), which set as hard as
rock, and was impervious to moisture. The third coat was of lime and
coarsely pounded marble; the finishing coat was of pure white lime or
gypsum, mixed with marble ground to an impalpable powder, which usually had
some glutinous substance, size made of parchment or tree-sap, mixed with it.
The earlier coats were mixed with water only. In some cases one or more
intermediate coats of similar composition were added, the composition always
growing finer in grain as it approached the surface. The finished surface of
this stucco set to a very hard consistency, and had a beautiful ivory-like
texture, capable of receiving a high degree of mechanical polish. The final
coats were called opus albarium
or caementum marmoreum
For external work, the same beautiful marble cement was used, but as a rule
with fewer undercoats. A wall so treated was called paries dealbatus.
Brick and concrete buildings were in this
way made to look like white marble, and the deception was increased by the
common Roman custom of forming incised lines in the stucco, so as to imitate
the joints of the blocks of a solid marble wall. The application of the
coats of stucco (trullissatio
) was managed by a
small square board at the end of a long handle, just like the modern
plasterer's “float.” This is shown in a painting from Pompeii
representing a plasterer at work (see Ann.
last. Arch. Rom.,
vol. for 1881). The use of iron or bronze
nails and marble plugs to form a “key” for the stucco is
mentioned in the article MURUS
(see also Middleton, Ancient Rome,
pp. 36 and 412 seq.
). Reliefs modelled in this fine stucco were
very largely used by the Romans as a decoration for their walls and vaults.
Some examples of extraordinary beauty were recently discovered in a house in
the Farnesina gardens by the Tiber, and then destroyed by the works carried
on during the formation of the new river embankment in Rome. These reliefs,
which dated early in the first century A.D., were
modelled with marvellous spirit and refined taste, executed rapidly by the
artist in the quick-setting wet stucco, which he applied in lumps to the
flat plaster ground, and then rapidly, before it had time to harden, moulded
the figures into shape with his fingers and thumb, aided by a few simple
wooden tools. The decision and unerring skill with which every touch on the
wet stucco was applied is most admirable, and the result is that an amount
of vigour and life appears in these hastily-executed reliefs, such as could
hardly have been equalled by the slower process of chiselling a hard
substance. The only guide which the sculptor had to help him was a mere
sketch in outline, incised on the flat background, on to which he was
applying the reliefs. Scenes of very great beauty occur among these reliefs:
many are Dionysiac, with fauns and nymphs playing and singing. Some figures
of winged Victories are marvels of delicate grace in their pose, floating
lightly on large wings, with their onward movement skilfully indicated by
the flowing curves of the drapery. The modelling of the nude is very
skilful, showing complete knowledge of the human form: the play of the
muscles under the supple skin being rendered with perfect taste, free from
any of the usual Roman exaggeration. These reliefs, and others of the same
class, are of pure Hellenic style, and most probably were executed by Greek
workmen; in fact, one Greek artist had signed his name
on the walls of the Farnesina house, and other Greek
artists' names occur in similar cases. Mouldings of elaborate character were
formed in the marble cement by the use of long wooden stamps, the work being
finally touched up with the modelling tool. Not only cornices of rooms were
made in this way, but very often the whole wall-surface was divided up into
panels framed with enriched mouldings--the central space being decorated by
figure reliefs or by painting on the flat. Gold, silver, and colours of all
kinds were used to increase the decorative effect of the reliefs, which seem
very rarely, if ever, to have been left white.
The use of marble for decorative purposes in Rome did not begin before the
first century B.C. Its introduction, especially into private houses, was at
first regarded as a thing savouring of Greek luxury and unbecoming the stern
republican simplicity of a Roman citizen. The earliest example of the use of
thin marble walllinings (crustae
), according to
Cornelius Nepos, quoted by Pliny, Plin. Nat.
, was in the house of a knight named Mamurra, one of
Caesar's officials in Gaul. A few years later, marble became very common, in
the reign of Augustus, who did all he could to make Rome magnificent (Suet. Aug. 29
); and all throughout the imperial
period immense quantities of the most varied coloured marbles were poured
into Rome from countless quarries in Northern Africa, Greece, Asia Minor,
Arabia, and other countries. Immense wall-surfaces were covered with costly
marbles, and in some cases even by the hard basalts which only diamond or
corundum could work. The usual scheme was to have a moulded plinth, a dado
above that, and at the top of the wall a richly-moulded cornice; marbles of
different colours being used for all the various parts. The main surface,
between the dado and the cornice, was often divided into panels of different
coloured marbles, each panel being framed with a moulded strip, projecting
in front of the general surface like the frame of a picture. These [p. 2.347]
marble linings were fixed with great care. They
were backed with a thick coating of cement or mortar, made of lime and
pozzolana, and each piece of marble was then tied to the wall behind by long
hook-like clamps of iron or bronze, the ends being run with melted lead, or
wedged into joints of the brick facing of the wall. Extraordinary skill was
shown by the extreme thinness to which many of these marble slabs were sawn.
This was done with iron saws and sand and water, or, in the case of the
harder marbles, with emery from Naxos (see Pliny, Plin. Nat. 36.51
). The use of jewel-tipped drills, both solid
and tubular, was introduced into Rome from Egypt, along with the Egyptian
granites and basalts (see Pliny, Plin. Nat.
). The Temple of Concord and the House of the Vestals in
Rome still have on their walls well-preserved examples of these elaborate
linings. A list of the various ornamental marbles used for the walls of Rome
is given in Middleton, Ancient Rome.
pp. 13-19 and p. 39. The
annexed woodcut shows the
Marble lining, from the Cella of the Temple of Concord.
Marble lining, from the Cella of the Temple of
Concord., A. Slabs of Phrygian marble,
B. Plinth moulding of Numidian giallo.
C. Slab of cipollino (Carystian marble).
D. Paving of Porta Santa.
E, F. Nucleus and rudus of concrete bedding.
G G. Iron clamps run with lead to fix marble lining.
H. Bronze clamp.
J J. Cement backing.
method of fixing the marble linings in the Temple of Concord,
which was rebuilt in the reign of Augustus by Tiberius and Drusus (Suet. Tib. 20
). The slabs used in this building
and others of the same period are from 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches thick. It was
not till later times that a mere veneer, in some cases not more than 1/3
inch thick, was used.
In Italy, where the quarries of Luna supplied unlimited quantities of white
marble, the walllinings were usually of foreign coloured marbles; but in
Britain and other Roman provinces, where white marble was rare or absent, we
find it treated in the same economical way. At Silchester and other Roman
sites wall-linings of white marble only half an inch thick have been found.
This use of veneers to make a great show with a small expenditure seems to
have specially commended itself to the degraded taste of the Romans, who
loved shams of every kind, and in their common building used the most tawdry
and meretricious style of decoration that can possibly be imagined. Sham
marbling, painted on stuccoed walls, was a favourite method of decorating
ordinary houses; and even public buildings and temples, not in Rome itself,
but in the provincial towns, such as Pompeii, were daubed with this trashy
style of decoration.