Greek and Roman Interiors: Comparison and Contrast

Table of Contents


The Greek and Roman interior styles are commonly referred to as classical architecture. The Roman architecture was profoundly influenced by classical Greek style according to Greek history. However, they advanced their architecture so that they looked different from those of Greek. In fact, they created new architectural style. This was as a result of many factors including social factors such as wealth and large numbers of people.

Classical art expresses various themes such as humanity and beauty. It is common because it is logical and comprehensible. It began in Greece about mid 5th century BC.Greek’s citizens lived in Roman interiors in ‘Domus’. This place, built with the intention of portraying simplicity and at the same time be cozy, has become a historical sight. The Roman interior, characterized as one of the richest arts, is one of the classical styles of interior history (Janson, 1991).

Comparison and Contrast: Greek and Roman Interiors

A Roman interior was characterized by spectacular elements such as mosaics. It consisted of tesserae which were small and rough cubes that were joined together to form decorative patterns. This was done on the floors, walls and ceilings. Examples of floor mosaics are opus tessellatum and opus vermiculatum. Materials that were used to make these mosaics were of different types.

The most common however, were marble stones and glass. The decorative pattern as well as colors used varied depending on the province and the period it existed in Roman Empire. Artificial colors that were mostly used included white, black and other shades ranging from blue, purple and burnt ochre.

Roman sculpture was also a part of Roman interior. This included portraits, reliefs and statues. Sculptures in Roman Empire were important because they portrayed the emperors and their families as well as high class citizens and in rare cases they depicted animals. The sculptures were also painted (Wheeler, 1969).

The non-architectural elements were also used to decorate residential environments. Among them were vessels, pottery and metalwork. These vessels were made from silver and exhibited various themes. Pottery was of different types depending on the period and the province of creation. For example, there was Campanian Pottery, red – gloss ware, Arretine – Arezzo ware, eastern relief wares and South Gaulish pottery. The pottery used relief and painting for decoration.

Campana reliefs were Roman interior terracotta that was used as panels. They were religious symbols. Various Terracotta objects took different shapes. Glass wares were common in Roman interior. They existed in all periods in various shapes. In addition they were of different colors.

The Greek art can be studied in three phases according to its three basic era’s division. These include the archaic, the classical and the Hellenistic period. However, in all these periods Greeks used marbles to build their residential environments as well as other architectural items such as sculptures. They used bright colors to paint their residents and statues. In about 600 BCE the Greek having observed the Egyptian sculptures, shifted form wooden structures to stone structures.

The walls were done with marbles and limestone. They used terracotta to make tiles that would fix the roof. Other items such as ornaments were also made from terracotta. Unlike the Roman decoration, theirs was done in metal resembling bronze.

Greek non-architectural elements such as the vase were also decorated. In most cases the brown color was used. This style was known as geometric style. The sculptures of men, gods and animals transformed with time in terms of color. For example in the 6th century the sculptures were made of red clay and were painted with black color. In addition, their statues were firm and even. The Greek residential environment comprised of simple post-and-lintel creation techniques.

According to Nevett (2001), Greek architecture was designed in that it had ornate exteriors and relative dull interiors. This was because all decorations were to be viewed from outside. The Roman architecture on the other hand ensured that the buildings were beautiful both from outside and inside. The walls were decorated with many colors and paintings. To illuminate the walls, there was lighting of the building.

The materials used by Greek differed from that which was used by Roman architecture. Greek’s architecture portrayed the materials used in creating while the Roman’s did not. Instead, the applied surface was visible.

The Roman buildings used cast concrete and other new materials. The architects’ preferred concrete which was cheap, light and portable. In addition, it required semi-skilled work force. Greek unlike the Romans did not use vault and dome even though they had good knowledge of them. In other words, the Roman buildings required round arch and barrel vaulting.

Roman domestic interiors did not have windows and therefore were dark. In other words, they were claustrophobic. For this reason, there was painted decorations brighten up the living room. These paintings included stucco or fresco. The walls were also divided into rectangular shapes with multi-point outlook and trompe-l’oeil special effects (Wheeler, 1969).

Fresco during the classical period was done following certain procedures. Vitruvius, specifically gave the amounts of mortar and lime and marble that was to be applied on the wall. This specification was in form of ratios of 3:1 for marble and lime. Before completely drying, one had to apply colored pigments. Liquid wax was finally applied after the wall dried.

Roman had different wall painting. First there was Incrustation wall painting which resembled that of Greek. It had flat areas of color and faux coat. Architectural wall painting which was the second type extended the room space. The third Roman wall painting style was ornate style. The style exhibited flat appearance with pictures in frame.

The painting involved both the image and the frame. Intricate style encompasses the three dimensional delusion framed images. It exhibits open vistas and aerial viewpoint. In addition, it portrays a detailed architectural framing. Fresco was done on the walls directly. It was done to decorate including making marble patterns. Another painting was used on the walls as fake windows that would open up the space. The other styles developed the first two paintings adding scenes and enhancing themes.


The Roman and Greek interior compare to some extent. This is because of the fact that Roman architecture adopted some of the designs from Greek style. However, it is necessary to note that the Roman architects developed their style to create new ones.

This, therefore, means that the Roman architecture should not be studied alongside the Greek standards. Instead, it should be gauged like independent interior. Roman interior seems to have developed more than the Greek interior in terms of material used, techniques and decorations. Most of the modern art styles borrow heavily from Roman interior.


Janson, J. (1991). The History of Art. London: Oxford University Press.

Nevett, L. (2001). House and Society in the Ancient Greek Work. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Wheeler, M. (1969). Roman Art and Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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