What is a peristyle? Greek architecture

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Peristyle in the House of the Vettii (Pompeii, 79 AD)

Peristyle in the House of the Vettii (Pompeii, 79 AD)

A peristyle is a courtyard with a covered walkway all the way around it, with columns holding up the ceiling so you can see out into the garden. Peri means “around” and style means “column”, so a peristyle is a place with columns all the way around it. The walkway and columns were usually limestone. Richer people might use marble.

The earliest peristyle courtyards that we know of were in Greek houses, beginning around the Classical period. Peristyles were also common in wealthier Roman houses, all over the Roman Empire, beginning about the time of the Julio-Claudian Emperors. Many Roman people built their peristyle out of brick, covered with plaster and painted to look like marble – that was cheaper.

Remains of a brick peristyle from the palace of the Roman Emperors in Rome

Remains of a brick peristyle from the palace of the Roman Emperors in Rome

Because the weather in Greece and around the Mediterranean Sea was generally warm and sunny, people could work in the shade of the peristyle columns and have good natural light from the courtyard or garden in the middle. In ancient houses, the peristyle was a nice cool shady place to spin, or weave, or play with the baby, or break the ends off green beans.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, the peristyle courtyard develops into the cloister in monasteries and convents.

Learn by doing: build a peristyle out of Lego, or in Minecraft
More about Roman houses

Bibliography and further reading about ancient houses:

More about Greek Architecture
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By |2017-07-02T01:15:33+00:00July 2nd, 2017|Architecture, Greeks|1 Comment
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. What is a peristyle? Greek architecture. Quatr.us Study Guides, July 2, 2017. Web. December 16, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

One Comment

  1. […] jets d’eau ou une piscinae, bassin où l’on trouve des poissons. Le péristyle est en briques couvertes de plâtre ou en marbre, le sol est dallé ou en mosaïques, et les murs peuvent être décorés de fresques représentant […]

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