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date: 24 April 2024



  • Richard Allan Tomlinson


  • Greek Material Culture: Bronze Age

In bronze-age Crete and Greece palaces serve as complex administrative centres, as well as the residence of presumed monarchs (see minoan and mycenaean civilization). With the rise of Macedon, monarchy is once more a significant political institution. The palace at Pella (late-4th cent.?), and the palace (late-4th or 3rd cent.) of Aegae (Vergina), consist of rooms around substantial colonnaded courtyards. The ground floor rooms at Aegae are arranged almost entirely for formal feasting, one, with an antechamber, and marble and mosaic embellishment, being presumably that of the king and his closest ‘friends’ (see dining-rooms).

Apart from written descriptions, recent underwater research in the Great Harbour of Alexandria (1) is revealing elements of the Ptolemaic palace area, partly submerged as a result of seismic activity. This confirms that it comprised a complex of various elements, rather than a single unified structure, a mixture of separate administrative and related structures, together with special feasting buildings, one, built for Ptolemy II in the form of a Macedonian dining tent, having sufficient space for 130 feasting couches.

In Rome the favoured area was the Palatine Hill (which gives its name to palaces as a type). The definitive construction is that of Domitian (incorporating some earlier work by Claudius and part of Nero's Domus Transitoria). This comprises two large brick and concrete structures arranged around courtyards, one with large rooms designed for public receptions and functions, the other with smaller rooms and dining-rooms, presumably the residential area. Before this Nero had built his Domus Aurea (Golden House), sprawling over a large part of the city in imitation of the palace at Alexandria. Left unfinished at his suicide it was then demolished, or subsequently incorporated into the baths of Trajan. The rambling rural ‘Villa’ of Hadrian at Tibur (Tivoli) probably reflects the type. See also ai khanoum; europus.


  • A. G. McKay, Houses, Villas and Palaces in the Roman World (1975).
  • F. Sear, Roman Architecture (1982).
  • I. Nielsen, Hellenistic Palaces (1994).
  • W. Hoepfner and G. Brands (eds.), Basileia (1996).
  • F. Goddio and A. Bernand, Sunken Egypt (2004).