Atrium in the so-called Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum. The atrium was a representative room in a Roman house that was intended to stand out and impress visitors. It was the first room after passing through the entrance hall.
Its name comes from the word – ater, meaning “black”, which owed it to the smoky walls; the black came from the fires in the altars placed in this room. Originally, the atrium served as the mater families bedroom. There was also a sanctuary for laras (lararium) and sometimes a bust of the lord of the house, as well as ancestral masks (imagines maiorum).
The central place in the atrium was occupied by the impluvium, a shallow depression in the floor, filled with water. There was a roof above the atrium, in the middle of which there was a hole (compluvium) through which rainwater flowed straight into the impluvium. This water was then discharged through channels to an underground cistern, where it was collected for personal hygiene purposes, or directly to the road.