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PA´RIES (τοῖχος), the wall of a roofed building, in contradistinction to MURUS (τεῖχοχ), a 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, see MURUS

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. Fast. 3.183 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: see FORMA 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 story,--tabulatus 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 38; 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. 5.589). The paries communis was the party-wall common to two houses (Ovid, Ov. Met. 4.66): the κοινὸς τοῖχος of Thuc. 2.3. The party-wall was also called intergerinus or intergerivus (see Festus, s.v. and Plin. Nat. 35.173); and in Greek μεσότοιχος or μεσότοιχον (Athen. 7.281, and Ephes. 2.14). Cross walls for separating the rooms of a house were called parietes directi. Cicero (Topica, 4) distinguishes four kinds of wall--the paries solidus as opposed to the paries fornicatus, a wall pierced with arches; and the communis 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 and Encyc. Brit. 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 (7.2-6) 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). Many examples of this have been found in Rome. The first coat was of lime and coarse pozzolana (lapis Puteolanus), exactly 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 (Vitr. 7.16).

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 Seleukos 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. 36.48, 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. 37.200). 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.


hide References (15 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (15):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.108
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.3
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.66
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 5.589
    • Suetonius, Nero, 38
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 20
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 2.1
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 2.8
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 7.2
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 7.4
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 7.6
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 29
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.48
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.51
    • Ovid, Fasti, 3
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