Sumptuous rural residences

The luxuriousness of rural residences extolled by literary sources was also a reality for the villas of Roman Gaul. It was expressed in a variety of ways, all of which contributed to the prestige of both the dwelling and its owner. The choice of location and the qualities of the landscape can be a sign of these manifestations of wealth. When the shore was too far away, lakes and rivers could provide a lovely setting for the buildings and a feast for the eyes.

The use of architectural drawings, which provide a clue to the sums invested, explains the success of certain regional models – villas with colonnaded facades and pavilions in the northern and central Gaul, or the southern villas with peristyle. The dimensions, the development of construction techniques and materials, and the presence of porticos are also signs of wealth, as are the number of rooms, which provide the owner with areas for receiving and entertaining guests, and for sleeping quarters.

The size of the structure's baths, which could reach several hundred square meters, were another source of expense. Water brought under pressure could also be used in gardens and ornamental pools. The villa's public rooms were decorated with mosaics – which sometimes extended as far as the porticos – as well as wall paintings, plaster-work and marble cladding. Further indicators of comfort included window glass and the use of heated floors outside the bathing quarters.

Medias

Interactive document - Séviac, an example of a southern villa with a peristyle courtyard

Séviac, an example of a southern villa with a peristyle courtyard

Reconstruction of the Séviac Villa, Montréal-du-Gers (Gers).
© Archéovision
Interactive document - Séviac Villa, Montréal-du-Gers (Gers)

Séviac Villa, Montréal-du-Gers (Gers)

In the foreground, a large bathing pool.
© Archéovision
Interactive document - Painted decoration from the Mercin-et-Vaux Villa (Aisne)

Painted decoration from the Mercin-et-Vaux Villa (Aisne)


CNRS/UMR 8546
Interactive document - Painted decoration from the Mercin-et-Vaux Villa (Aisne)

Painted decoration from the Mercin-et-Vaux Villa (Aisne)


© A. Barbet / CNRS/UMR 8546
Interactive document - Reconstruction of the painted decoration from the Mercin-et-Vaux Villa (Aisne)

Reconstruction of the painted decoration from the Mercin-et-Vaux Villa (Aisne)


© A. Barbet / CNRS/UMR 8546
Interactive document - Painted decoration (child astride a dolphin) from the Plassac Villa (Gironde)

Painted decoration (child astride a dolphin) from the Plassac Villa (Gironde)


© A. Barbet / CNRS/UMR 8546
Interactive document - Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer Villa

Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer Villa

Mosaïque from the Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer Villa (Seine-Maritime), watercolours by Amédée Feret, circa 1840.
Fonds ancien de la médiathèque Jean Renoir, ville de Dieppe
Interactive document - Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer Villa

Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer Villa

Mosaïque from the Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer Villa (Seine-Maritime), watercolours by Amédée Feret, circa 1840.
Fonds ancien de la médiathèque Jean Renoir, ville de Dieppe
Interactive document - Montmaurin Villa (Haute-Garonne), the bathing establishment

Montmaurin Villa (Haute-Garonne), the bathing establishment

Entryway with two columns, leading to a room with a fountain – an area for bathers to disrobe?
© K et J.-L. Schenck-David.
Interactive document - Comparative layouts of several bathing establishments from villas in southwest Gaul

Comparative layouts of several bathing establishments from villas in southwest Gaul


© Alain Bouet
Interactive document - The Silver Treasure of Rethel (Ardennes), 3rd century CE

The Silver Treasure of Rethel (Ardennes), 3rd century CE

Silver tableware.
© Photo RMN - All rights reserved