chapter  6
12 Pages

Houses

But it was not only imposing public vastness at which people in the Roman empire excelled. They also built interesting private houses. Admittedly some of the tenements in the cities were deplorable, but the accident of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 has shown us extraordinary examples of private (if gracious) living, at Pompeii and Herculaneum and Stabiae, illustrating the fact that Roman art, for all its temples, is primarily unreligious, an art of organized humanity.1 It also represents a considerable element of artistic achievement. Much of this excellence was to be found in the provinces. But it is to the cities of Campania that we must preferably turn, because owing to the Vesuvius eruption they are so much better preserved.