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DOMUS (οἰκία, οἴκησις, οἰκητήριον, a dwelling-house; οἶκος, generally a room; in Homer and the Tragedians, δόμος, but more usually in the plural as a dwelling-house), a house.

I. Pre-historic.

One special form of hut appears to have been commonly used by many different races of men at an early stage of their development. This was a small circular structure made of branches of trees stuck into the ground in a circle, and then bent inwards till their ends met and were tied together at the top. This rude framework was then filled in by wattled work woven in and out, and the whole was daubed over with tempered mud or clay. The hut of Achilles, thatched with rushes (Il. 24.450), was probably a dwelling of this sort, and similar huts are said to have been used in Lydia, Sardis, and other places in Western Asia Minor (Hdt. 5.101): it seems probable that a reminiscence of this form of building exists in the stone domical structures of Mycenae, Orchomenos, and other early sites in Greece.

Even in historic times a survival of this ancient circular form of house existed in the form of the Prytaneum in Athens and elsewhere, and also in the Athenian Tholus, which was built in the newer part of Athens as an adjunct, in a more convenient position for the use of the Prytanes. The Tholus was a round building with a domical roof, and must have had some resemblance to the Roman Temple of Vesta, to which the same name was frequently applied. The original Temple of Vesta was a round hut formed with wattle-work of osiers (Ov. Fast. 6.261 seq.; Fest. p. 250, M.). Mr. James Frazer, in a valuable article (Journ. of Philol. vol. xiv.), derives the form both of the Greek Tholus and the Roman Temple of Vesta, in both of which a perpetual fire was kept burning, from the pre-historic round hut of the village chief, under whose charge was the ever-burning fire, which was kept lighted for the general convenience--a very important thing at a time when a fresh fire could only be obtained by the laborious process of friction.

Even during the imperial period in Rome one or more wattled huts were preserved in memory of the primitive dwellings of its founders. One of these, which stood at the western angle of the Palatine hill, was known as the Casa Romuli (Dionys. A. R. 1.79; Plut. Rom. 20); it was twice burnt and repaired during the reign of Augustus (D. C. 48.43, and 54.29. See also Ov. Fast. 3.183; V. Max. 4.4, 11; Liv. 5.53). The Tugurium Faustuli is probably another name for the same thing. Another hut, also called after Romulus, appears to have been preserved on the Capitoline hill (Vitr. 2.1; Senec. Contr. 1.6; Macrob. Saturn. 1.15).

A careful representation of this early form of house, as used by the pre-historic Latin race, exists in the small sepulchral “house-urns,” which are found in considerable numbers in the early cemeteries of Central Italy and elsewhere. In these the construction is less simple, the roof being evidently formed of separate branches, laid so as to form projecting eaves. These curious pieces of archaic pottery have small movable doors fixed with a wooden peg. (See Virchow, Die italienischen und deutschen Haus-Urnen, Berlin, 1884.)

During the many centuries which elapsed before the commencement of the historic period of Greece, a state of society existed very different from that with which Greek literature has made us familiar. Instead of the large cities with their flourishing trade and carefully constructed systems of political, religious, and social organisation, a number of small, highly-fortified towns or villages were ruled in an autocratic [p. 1.655]way by some chieftain of semi-oriental habits, who lived in a style of much luxury and splendour, surrounded by a group of followers, very much like those of a mediaeval feudal lord. At this early period wealth and splendour, which in historic times were devoted to the more public uses of the agora, the council chamber, and the temples of the gods, were lavished on the palace of the chief. It is this period which is celebrated in the Homeric poems; which, there is every reason to believe, give us a faithful, if highly coloured, picture of the magnificence which adorned the dwellings of wealthy chiefs, such as Alcinous and, in a lesser degree, Ulysses. The recent discoveries made by Dr. Schliemann and Dr. Dörpfeld, within the massive walls of Tiryns (the Τίρυνς τειχιόεσσα of Homer), have for the first time shown us that the stately and richly decorated palaces of the Odyssey were not wholly the offspring of a poet's fancy.

Plan of the Palace of Tiryns.--Some doubt has been thrown on the remote antiquity of

Plan of the Palace at Tiryns.

    Plan of the Palace at Tiryns

  • 1. Main entrance.
  • 2. Inner gate.
  • 3. First propylaeum.
  • 4. Second.propylaeum.
  • 5. Open court.
  • 6. Portico of hall.
  • 7. Vestibule of hall.
  • 8. Megaron.
  • 9. Men's rooms.
  • 10. Thalami.
  • 11. Guard rooms.
  • 12. Passage to women's part.
  • 13. Open courts.
  • 14. Thalamus or women's hall.
  • 15. Thalami.
  • 16. Passage to postern.
  • 17. Narrow postern.
  • 18. Projecting bastion.
  • 19. Defences at the entrance.

these remains; but new discoveries of a similar pre-historic building at Mycenae have put an end to any doubt as to the antiquity of the Tirynthian palace. On the whole the evidence of the general planning of the building, its methods of construction, and the style of its ornament give overwhelming proofs that the house is one which belongs to a far-off prehistoric period of Greek architecture, prior in all probability to the Dorian invasion of the Peloponnesus. The house itself occupies more than a third of the Tirynthian Acropolis, the massive stones of which excited the wonder of Herodotus, Diodorus, and Pausanias, and led to their being associated with the fables of Heracles and Perseus, and the mysterious Cyclops, who were supposed to have been their builders. The accompanying plan shows the arrangement of the house, which is evidently carefully designed to suit its special purpose.

On entering through the main gateway of the Acropolis, the approach (as shown by the dotted line on the plan) leads through a narrow passage, strongly defended on both sides by massive walls, to a second doorway. A continuation of the passage leads to the outer porch of the palace--a propylaeum, decorated on both sides by two columns in antis, very similar in design to the 5th-century propylaeum built by Ictinus at Eleusis. On passing this an outer court is reached; and then a second propylaeum, smaller but of similar design to the first, leads into the main courtyard of the palace. Rooms for guards are placed at the sides of both these propylaea. The main court (αὐλή), round which the apartments of the men are grouped, was surrounded on three sides by a colonnade (αἴθουσα), forming a cloister. Near the propylaeum stands a stone altar with a rock-cut hollow beneath it, into which the ashes would fall. This was probably an alter to Zeus ἑρκεῖος, which is frequently mentioned in the Odyssey (e. g. 22.335) as being placed in the courtyard of a house. Opposite the propylaeum is the great hall (μέγαρον, Od. 16.341, 17.604), with an open portico of two columns, and an inner proch (πρόδομος), into which three doors open from the portico, and one into the hall. The roof of the hall was supported on four columns, which probably carried a partly open lantern [p. 1.656]to give light, and also to form an escape for the smoke of the fire--below, the circular stone hearth (ἐσχάρα) of which is placed midway between the pillars. On the west side of the hall are a number of small rooms for the use of the men; among them is a small bathroom, about 12 feet by 10 feet, the construction of which is very remarkable for its ingenuity and the extreme care which has been taken in the workmanship.

The whole floor is formed of one great slab of stone, smoothed accurately so as to fall to one point, where the water made its exit through a stone pipe, and so into the main drain. The walls were lined with wooden boards, each of which had its lower end fastened to the stone floor by two wooden pegs or dowels. The edge of stone on which these boards rested is raised about an inch above the general level of the floor, so that water splashed by the bathers might not soak in under the wooden wall-lining. The bath itself, which was made of clay deco-rated with a red spiral pattern, much resembled in shape and size the fire-clay baths now made in large quantities at Stourbridge.

The eastern half of the house seems to have been intended for the use of the women, and probably the married members of the chief's family. This portion, like the other, contains two open courts, and a hall with a single vestibule--all on a rather smaller scale. In this hall the hearth is square, and, the span being less, the roof was not supported by pillars. On the east of the hall and court are two ranges of rooms, more in number and larger than those on the men's side of the house. There appear to have been three means of access to the women's part: one by a long passage (λαύρη) leading from a side door in the outer propylaeum, another from the north-east corner of the men's court, while a third way led by a long passage round the back of the two halls to a rock-cut stairway, at the foot of which was a small postern door in the outer fortification wall. In case of a siege this little postern would be blocked up with stones, but in times of peace the women of the household probably used this path to fetch water from some spring in the plain below. When blockaded by an enemy, the garrison appear to have depended on their stores of rain-water, large cisterns for which were formed in the thickness of the outer wall. The surface water was collected and carried to the cisterns in clay pipes and stone drains.

In addition to the rooms on the ground-floor, the walls of which still exist to a height of from two to three feet, there was also an upper story (ὑπερώϊον), which probably extended over all the rooms except the two halls. Traces of a staircase in two flights still exist on the east side of the women's hall.

Construction of the Palace of Tiryns.

The walls, about three feet thick, are built of roughly-dressed limestone bedded in clay up to a height of about two feet above the floor level: the rest of the wall was of sun-dried brick, and the whole was covered inside and out with three coats of hard stucco, made of lime mixed with sand, gravel, and broken pottery, forming a coating nearly as hard as stone, which must have completely protected the unburnt bricks from the effects of weather.

The floors, both of the roofed parts and of the open courts, were made of a thick layer of good lime concrete. In the rooms the pavement was worked to a smooth surface, on which simple patterns of squares or spirals were incised, and then painted blue and red. Pliny (Plin. Nat. 36.184; see below, p. 664a) speaks of painted floors having been used by the Greeks before mosaic came into use: those at Tiryns are the first examples of this kind of paving that have been found.

The concrete paving of the open-air courts is laid so as to fall towards open stone gullies, through which the rain-water escaped into the drains: its upper surface is formed of a sort of rough mosaic made of pebbles; these are set more closely together in places where there was most traffic.

The various doorways have massive stone sills or thresholds (λάϊνος οὐδός), mostly provided with two large drill-holes, in which the bronze pivots of the doors revolved, showing that in most cases folding doors were used. Some of these bronze pivots were found during the excavations: they are of very neat and solid workmanship, and much resemble the pivots of the great Balawat gates of Shalmaneser II. (859-824 B.C.), which are now in the British Museum. It is probable that the construction of the doors themselves in the Tirynthian palace resembled that of the Balawat doors. A number of thick wooden planks were placed side by side, and held in their place by strong bronze bands, which were nailed on to them, and lapped round the circular post on which the door swung; each end of this post was shod with a pivot, which revolved at the bottom in a hole drilled in the sill, and at the top in a similar hole in the lintel (ὑπερθύριον). The neatly-fitted planks are spoken of by Homer (Hom. Od. 2.344) as σανίδες πυκινῶς ἀραρυῖαι. This method of hanging heavy doors lasted throughout the Greek and Roman periods, and was used, as can still be seen, for the great doors in Aurelian's wall round Rome. The wide bronze bands which were constructionally necessary for this sort of door formed also in some cases a rich and elaborate method of decoration, as they could be enriched with repoussé reliefs and gilt. A beautiful little earthenware box (pyxis) of the 4th century B.C. in the British Museum shows that doors of similar construction were used by the Greeks of later times. The painting on it represents a toilet scene in a lady's room, and in the background is a double door covered with wide bands, attached by rows of rivets along each edge, exactly like the Balawat doors. Owing to the use of soft unbaked brick for the jambs of the doorways, it was necessary to line the whole opening with woodwork, so as to protect the angles from injury. In some cases there seems to have been a stone lining, but even then the woodwork was not omitted. Grooves cut in the stone upright of some of the door-jambs (σταθμός) show with what extreme care and neatness the wood lining was fitted into its place. It is interesting to note that this system of using wooden doorlinings survived till later times, and was used in cases where it would seem needless. Even the beautifully-finished white marble doorways in [p. 1.657]the Parthenon and Propylaea at Athens had their reveals concealed by wooden casings.

The roof of the men's hall was supported by four intermediate columns (κίονες), which, like all the columns at Tiryns, were made of wood, resting on a carefully-levelled block of stone. The construction of the roof, of which nothing but charred fragments and ashes remains, may be guessed from an early rock-tomb in Phrygia discovered by Prof. Ramsay (see

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