Private and Public Sphere in the Roman House: Semantics, Archaeology and Performative Theory
A collaborative study to be executed at the University of Helsinki, funded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation. Project director: Dr Kaius Tuori
Studies on the domestic space in Roman context have shown that the private house (domus) was the economic and social centre of its owner, his or her family and associated persons. Houses were designed to suit both the private life of its occupants and the demands of public life. Movement inside houses and the use of space was guided with the help of decoration and structures. The Roman house was open for outsiders to a certain extent, which made the division between public and private spaces inside the domus a very interesting topic already to Romans themselves.
The purpose of this project is to explore the public and private spheres of the Roman house from the first century BCE to the second century AD through a re-evaluation of the material remains and literary evidence. As an interdisciplinary enterprise, the project seeks to combine historical, archaeological, philological and architectural analysis to further the understanding of the function of the domus as a place for social, cultural, political and administrative action. Often overshadowed by modern presuppositions regarding the functions of spaces within a home, the tradition of assigning a single purpose to each space has only recently been subjected to serious criticism due to the contradictions of material finds with the assumptions regarding the use of that space.