Country living, city living

For enterprising landowners, the lifestyle of the provincial upper classes alternated stays in the country and time in the city, where they threw themselves into business matters, both public and private, negotiated in the county seat. A quest for comfort and a desire to assert one's social rank were the twin sources of an architectural style – the domus – whose elements could be found in both the villa and the urban dwelling. Among the various cities of southern Gaul, the provincial capital Narbo (Narbonne) has furnished eloquent examples of these domus, thanks to excavations led by Maryse and Raymond Sabrié in the Clos de la Lombarde. In this sector of the Roman city, a block bounded by roadways has been fully excavated. With a surface area of 1000 sq. metres, the so-called House of the Porticos was organised around an atrium and a courtyard with peristyle, in line with the style that was prevalent in Italy in the late 1st century BCE. A second, smaller house consisted of a single U-shaped main building build around a courtyard with an ornamental pool. A huge ceremonial room (87 sq. m) giving onto this garden space had a floor in opus sectile – a costly technique involving inlaid sheets of marble and schist. Such luxurious finishings, like mosaics, point to the most carefully decorated spaces in the house, reception rooms and private salons. Painted plaster walls were also an important decorative element for the house.

Medias

Interactive document - The "Portico" house in Narbonne (Clos de la Lombarde)

The "Portico" house in Narbonne (Clos de la Lombarde)

The eastern part of the domus was organised in the same way as Italian dwellings based around an atrium, while the western part of the building was constructed around a peristyled courtyard.
© M. et R. Sabrié
Interactive document - Rescue archaeology operations have allowed archaeologists to reconstitute comparison series for studying this type of rural farm, which provided a model for villa structures in this part of the Three Gauls.

Rescue archaeology operations have allowed archaeologists to reconstitute comparison series for studying this type of rural farm, which provided a model for villa structures in this part of the Three Gauls.

The residential rooms are placed around a courtyard-garden flanked on two sides by porticos. In this U-shaped composition, a luxurious reception room, thought to be a triclinium, occupies the central position.
© R. Sabrié
Interactive document - Floor of the House of the Porticos in Narbonne

Floor of the House of the Porticos in Narbonne

An example of opus sectile flooring, consisting of sheets of marble and polychrome stones.
© R. Sabrié
Interactive document - Detail of the floor decoration in the House of the PorticosDetail of the floor decoration in the House of the Porticos

Detail of the floor decoration in the House of the PorticosDetail of the floor decoration in the House of the Porticos

The floor decoration of a reception room features a window opening onto a garden. We can see the garlands adorning the window and, in the background, a shrub.
© R. Sabrié