| In the Field

Monuments of Aphrodisias

The Atrium House

The Atrium House is a large townhouse located just to the east of the city center and directly north of the Sebasteion. Buildings on the site of the Atrium House seem to have existed since the late Hellenistic period, but it was after major renovations of the fourth century that the townhouse took on its surviving ground plan. A major focus of the building is the large apsidal peristyle in the south of the house. The monumentality of the apsidal wall, which rose to a height of ten metres in antiquity, make it an extremely interesting addition to the history of the development of domestic architecture in Late Antiquity, and this space was surely an important material manifestation of the power and influence of the owners of the Atrium House.

In the fifth century AD a series of philosopher shield portraits were commissioned for and displayed in the apsidal wall along with other sculpture. Due to the presence of these shield portraits and a number of objects clearly related to pagan ritual, the Atrium House seems to provide good evidence for the survival of pagan practices in Aphrodisias until the sixth century, at which point the house was abandoned. It is possible that the Atrium House was even a late antique school of philosophy, because of the prevalence of imagery of philosophers and education found in this building.