Roman Opus Mixtum Wall

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published on 23 August 2012

A segment of typical 2nd century CE Roman wall from Butrint (modern Albania). The wall is in the opus mixtum style which combined layers of opus testaceum (standard brick facing)with opus reticulatum (square-based pyramid blocks set in a diagonal pattern). Beyond its obvious decorative appeal the technique may also have allowed less-skilled labour to build more quickly.



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  • Mark Cartwright wrote on 02 September 2012 at 16:56:

    Thank you Mr Consoli. Yes, indeed Vitruvius specifically mentions the structural inferiority of opus reticulatum compared to opus incertum (random small blocks) and so it is reasonable to suppose that opus mixtum was a compromise - a decorative wall, more easily constructed. However, such walls were sometimes covered in plaster which discounts the decorative argument for their use and perhaps the real reason for opus recticulatum was the availability of easily carved volcanic tuft around Rome, hence its rarity in the empire...Clearly a more detailed definition is required. Please feel free to contribute your knowledge Mr Consoli!

  • Robert H. Consoli wrote on 02 September 2012 at 16:38:

    I may have posted more than once. Sorry, if that's true.

    Hi all,
    Mark Cartwright might like to add the following thought to his definition of 'opus mixtum' (which deserves a whole article on your site): The theory behind such construction is based on the observation that cracks in a wall of opus reticulatum run diagonally and unchecked between the pyramidal stones. In order to alleviate such behavior layers of opus latericium were interspersed.

    Best,
    Bob Consoli
    [email protected]

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