The Roman Domvs, Rabat

We started the day with the Domvs Romana in Rabat, wandering and loss of each other, another visit to Mdina, swimming at the Golden beach, glimpse of Selima and nice dinner at Legligin.  The next day was goodbye and heading back to our respective home land.

Domvs Romana is the only remaining ruin of an aristocratic Roman Town House (domvs) in Malta. It was built in first century B.C. A Muslim cemetery was built over it in 11th century. Until 1881 the site was discovered.  A museum was built and opened since 1882 to host the domvs with its elaborate mosaics, decorative architecture and imperial statues.  Visitors can visualise an urban house and people's daily life in the old days.

A Roman domvs is a town house versus villa built outside the city wall. It was not just a private residence but served as public and political functions between the owner and the outside world. Business was conducted in the house. The main parts of the house are designed to serve the public needs and to portray the power of the owner. The garden or peristyle was usually directly visible from the entrance of the major parts of the house.

Domvs were used in Roman Republican and Imperial Periods. Very different from modern houses, domvs were usually plain on the outlook but the interior was intricately decorated. The focal point is the atrium.

1. Entrance
2. Atrium
3. Tablinum
4. Triclinium
5. Peristyium
6. Secondary entrance
7. Cubiculum, bedroom

The atrium is a central open-roofed room with a inward-slanting roof and a sunken pool to collect rain water. It was normally in line with the fauces (entrance hall), tablinum (office) and peristyle to create one visual line through the house and promote the house’s interior to everyone visiting. People gathered in the morning here to get salutation.  It is the most decorative space in the house.

Tablinum is the office or studio where the patrunos received his clients to conduct business.  It was connected to the fauces and the atrium. It was also connected to the peristyle.

Triclinium is the formal dining room of the house.  It gets its name from klinai; three reclining couches were set during banqueting. It usually had a direct view of the peristyle or the hortus.  The richest house often had more than one triclinia.  They were used according to the mood and season.

Peristyle refers to a central courtyard surrounded by a colonnaded roofed passage called a porticus. This was one of the most important sources of light for a Roman house and also an important area connecting to other areas.  Porticus could also serve as an art gallery. 

Cocciopesto (water proof coating) floor constitutes the most common type of pavement in Roman sites. It is mixed with crushed pottery mixed with lime.  Apart from being cheap to build and maintain, its resistance made it widely popular for domestic, industrial and public areas.  Common patterns include: 

Opus scutulaum - constructed of lozenge-shaped tiles that could be set to create different patterns

Perspective meander - evolved from simpler swastika meanders, commonly used to provide a colourful frame of mosaic floor of larger room

Wave-band motif - vitruvian scroll or running dog, one of the oldest motifs in the mosaic repertoire

Theatrical mask - originally formed part of a garland composed of fruit, flowers and coloured ribbons decorated with eight masks which represent personages of the Greek New Comedy.


Various patterns and styles of mosaic can be found in the Domvs Romana.  The one at the atrium is best preserved. Rest may still need more advanced restoration technique, money and time to reveal its original face to the public.


The Three Cities, Malta

The Three Cities is a collective description of the three fortified cities of Vittoriosa (II-Birgu), Senglea, and Cospicua in Malta. Their position at the harbour front exposed them to maritime fortunes. Once flourished and were the base of people's home and fortress.

The boat from Valletta landed at Vittoriosa. It is the oldest among the three, which has existed since the Middle ages. It was used as defence and renamed by a Grand Master as Civitas Vittoriosa, 'Victorious Town'. Vittoriosa was the first home of the Knights when they arrived in 1530.  It contains many architectural riches.  The Knights 'auberges' (inns of residence), palaces and churches are older than those in Valletta.  At its tips stands the Fort St. Angelo, perhaps the oldest fortress on the island. Other highlights include the church of St. Lawrence, the Inquisitor's Palace and the Maritime Museum.

We first took the way to the Church of Saint Lawrence.  It was closed for the mid-day pause.  Houses nearby are built with yellow beige materials. We liked the atmosphere around. It's quiet. Then we walked towards the Angelo Fort.  As it was 3 or 4 pm, we thought that time would be insufficient to visit the giant fortress and strolled around it and the promenade instead.


The end of Vittoriosa promenade is the beginning for Senglea (Isla) promenade. Senglea was vastly damaged at the Second World War. At the end of the promenade stands the mighty II-gardjola, a guardian tower built at the tip of a bastion. Various symbols were sculpted on it. An eye, an ear represent guardianship, vigilance and protection of the Maltese shores.


It was a nice stroll and the day ended with sumptuous dinner at Tal-Petut.  It is a surprising find when we wandered along the streets and lanes in Vittoriosa.  Tal-Petut is a private dining restaurant within a a stone house built centuries ago. It features local fresh produce. Over 10 appetisers were served.  All cooked well and delicious. I rate it higher than Legligin on the main island. The host is very enthusiastic. All guests were happy and satisfactory.  A table of 4 British guests came back after patronage during their previous holiday.