Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Art History

First Advisor

Brenda Longfellow


This dissertation expands upon previous analyses of the social functions of Pompeian domestic architecture by articulating the essential role of the peristyle garden in communicating the status of the homeowner while structuring the interactions of residents and visitors with the art and architecture both of the peristyle itself and with the house as a whole. Peristyles provided light, air, and circulation space for the home, but their aesthetic function was just as significant; embellished with painting, sculpture, fountains, and plants, peristyles were important centers of display. Although typically the largest and most lavishly decorated architectural space in a Pompeian house, the peristyle is often treated summarily in studies of Pompeian domestic architecture. This study fills a lacuna in scholarship, examining the architecture of peristyles in conjunction with the paintings, sculptural ensembles, and other features that adorned them. This synthetic approach to the material remains allows for an examination of peristyles as lived spaces rather than as collections of disparate decorative elements.

The dissertation is divided into four chapters, each focusing on a specific problem related to the design and function of peristyles. The first chapter presents the characteristic architectural and decorative features of true, or fully colonnaded, peristyles in Pompeian houses. The second chapter consists of two case studies of true peristyles that demonstrate the role and function of the true peristyle within the Pompeian house. These case studies articulate the function of the peristyle relating to issues of status, access, and display in the House of the Vettii (VI.15.I) and the House of the Lovers (I.10.11). The third chapter addresses the architectural and decorative features of truncated peristyles, or those that are not fully colonnaded. This chapter also addresses differences in size, architecture, and decoration between true and truncated peristyles. The fourth chapter uses the truncated peristyles of the House of Marcus Lucretius (IX.3.5) and House of the Vettii (VI.15.1) as case studies to assess the various roles of truncated peristyles within the domestic setting. Together, these chapters bring about a more complete understanding of the social and aesthetic function of Pompeian residences and how domestic art and architecture shaped the experience of the viewer, enhanced the prestige of the owner, and affirmed social hierarchy.


domus, garden, peristyle, Pompeii, Roman house


xxv, 394 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 375-394).


Copyright © 2014 Summer Rae Trentin