What It Was Like To Live In Ancient Rome During Its Golden Age (1)
The hottest place to live from the second century BC
through the second century AD was, no doubt, ancient Rome.
Though like any major city, it wasn't always
sunshine and rainbows.
Sometimes it was insanely loud streets and using something
called a communal sponge to wipe your bum with.
Today, we're looking at what was life like in ancient Rome
during the golden age.
But before we dive into the glamorous life of the Romans,
be sure to click and subscribe to never miss out
on a weird history deep dive.
As early as sixth century BC, Rome
began taking census information to assist
with the needs of the growing population.
The population of Rome was generally
believed to be in the hundreds of thousands
during the first century BC and shooting up as high as 800,000
by the reign of Augustus and hitting as many as a cool
million during the second century AD.
Rome was a hodgepodge of free men and women with varying
degrees of wealth and some not so free men
and women who contributed to the population frenzy that
created a very crowded city with not a lot of space
to accommodate its people.
Housing was extremely limited with a population of this size,
so the city developed insula, or tenements.
Insula consisted of numerous apartments
alongside businesses and shops with large numbers of people
living in close confines.
They were several stories high, poorly built,
and home to a variety of income levels
both poor and only kind of poor.
They were also susceptible to being on fire, collapse,
and aided in the spread of disease.
An alternative to the ever appealing dorm room
coffin-like insula was a single family home known as the domus.
The domus was appealing to the wealthier Roman resident.
And the richer the Roman, the bigger the domus.
Domus featured one or two stories with reception,
halls living rooms or atria, several bedrooms, dining rooms,
a kitchen, and bathroom adjoined outdoor spaces for relaxing.
Larger houses might contain several bathrooms and even
Doing your business in private wasn't
a guarantee in ancient Rome.
A domus was in Rome was smaller than most houses
in other cities due to the tight topography
and space of the city during the Roman Empire.
The locations of domus in Rome are difficult to pin down,
but it's presumed they were located
outside the danger of a rising Tiber River
and close to places of imperial importance.
Domus could span an entire city block.
And unlike the poorly constructed hobo shanties
of the very safe sounding insula were standalone structures
that didn't face crowded Roman streets directly.
As mentioned previously, bathing and cleanliness of Rome
were slightly less conventional than what
we're used to in modern times.
Everyone from slaves to Roman emperors
visited the public baths in the city.
Called thermae by the first century BC,
public baths included hot and cold rooms
with pools, steam rooms, and dry heat rooms
where people could clean themselves, carry out business
transactions, and socialize.
The public bars were coed until the practice
of inter-gender mingling in public baths
was forbidden by Emperor Hadrian,
a frequent patron of public baths
himself in second century AD.
Hadrian famously gave a veteran he saw one of his own slaves
to perform the duty.
The honor of scraping oil off a human body,
normally done with a strigil, belonged to servants
for the wealthy people, while poor trash people
had to scrape the oil off their own garbaged bodies.
The number of baths in Rome increased from first century BC
through the fifth century AD and got even more fancy
with the addition of fountains and gymnasias.
By 400 AD, it is estimated 800 to 900 public baths
were getting weird in Rome.
Emperors such as Trajan, Caracalla, and Diocletian
gifted Rome elaborate baths that could serve thousands of Romans
at one time.
Diocletian built the largest, a structure
with massive pools lined with marble clad walls and granite
The task of washing clothes in Rome
fell to the fuller, who provided an essential service to Romans
since most didn't wash their own clothes.
Without the benefits and later internet hilarity of Tide Pods,
fullers got creative in finding ways to bleach linens and wool
Both animal urine and human urine
contain the cleaning agent ammonia.
Pee would be diluted with water thrown into a vat,
and fullers would stop around in the bucket
like Lucille Ball did with grapes,
only not funny and very gross.
By the late first century AD urine
became a valuable commodity.
So much so Emperor Vespasian put a tax
on urine collected in public.
This didn't sit well with Vespasian's son, Titus,
who didn't think it was super cool for his dad to collect
taxes on public conveniences.
Vespasian responded by waving a piece of money
from the first payment to his sons nose
and asked whether its odor was offensive to him.
When Titus said no, he replied, yet it comes from urine.
Ancient Rome had a reputation for stellar street
design for good reason.
While most planned cities had patterned streets,
unplanned cities could delve into chaos,
even if roads were generally well constructed.
Roads linked areas through the empire and Rome,
including the via Appia, which ran for more than 130 Roman
miles across the Italian peninsula.
While Rome had paved streets that allowed for drainage,
the frequent use of chariots and other wheeled vehicles
caused a ruckus of epic proportions.
Julius Caesar himself in the first century BC
made it illegal for wheely traffic
to enter the downtown area of Rome during the day.
While the noise was reduced during daytime hours,
it only succeeded in turning nighttime
into a calamity of noise.
Overcrowding and traffic both contributed to constant racket
in the streets that made peaceful sleep damn
Ancient Rome with an elaborate system of aqueducts and sewers
had running water in their homes and public places,
making them pretty sophisticated all things considered.
The cloaca maxima, or main sewer,
collected water from around the city
and channeled it back into the Tiber River.
By the third century AD they turned the open channel
into a closed tunnel that collected water
from public baths and latrines, and got the town's
sewage the hell out of Rome.
Before iPhones, people used to connect with one another face
And what better time to have a conversation
with a neighbor than when you're doing your business.
At public latrines, there were multiple holes
for men and women to relieve themselves with wild abandon,
and wealthier Romans would have latrines in their home
with one or two holes.
In public latrines, human waste would dump out
into the running water below.
But with little ventilation and communal sponges
for toilet paper, the smelling situation in Rome
sounds less than desirable.
In lieu of doing fun things like watching Netflix
until bedtime at 8 PM, Romans had all sorts
of ways to spend their leisure time
and keep themselves entertained.
The Colosseum, which we did a video on,
hosted gladiator combat for an exciting but bloody way
to pass the time.
Rome was home to theaters of varying sizes that were often
modeled after Greek buildings with tiered seating
and awnings to block out the weather conditions.
Smaller theaters existed during this time period
but were mostly for musical performances,
with larger theaters being reserved for stage productions.
Not everyone thought it was OK to have fun though.
Roman satirist, Juvenal, made the petty observation
that the citizens of Rome only cared about bread and circuses,
losing sight of their role in politics
in exchange for food and fun--
an inalienable human right that is still
practiced today by most people.
Before it became a big deal for wealthy B-list celebrities
to buy their children's way into fancy colleges,
the Romans were trailblazing the premise
of wealthier people receiving a better education
than their poorer counterparts.
There were no public schools in Rome,
and kids receive most of their basic instruction
from their parents before being sent to a teacher
or tutor to finish the job.
The father would teach his son how
to read and write and do physical manly stuff,
while the women were tasked with training their daughters on how
to get married.
Lesson plans from teachers and tutors
were determined by the amount of money parents were contributing
to their education.
Wealthy Romans snatched up the best tutors
or employed literate trained slaves
to educate their children.
Other occasions saw the rich kids sent off to school
with a pedagogue in tow.
Somebody who carried the young student's books
escorted them to classes and made
sure the children behave themselves.
Poorer Romans, meanwhile, could skip formal education
altogether and go into the family trade.
Education was also based on gender,
with male s studying logic, literature, and philosophy.
And the women were taught how to read, and write, and that's it.
Women didn't need a lot of formal education
in Rome because women weren't expected to do a lot.
The role of a woman in Rome was determined
by her social status, wealth, location, and the auspices
of her male guardian, be it her father, husband, brother,
or even her son.
They had very few legal rights, couldn't even vote,
and were prohibited from entering politics
by holding public office.
They could, however, own property and work outside
of the home as a wet nurse, a midwife,
an agricultural laborer, or in the marketplace.
Women on the lower end of financial luck
and social nobodies were relegated
to being mothers and providers.
While the job opportunities for women were sparse,
they could produce crafts or other artisan goods
for the home.
And while women did provide assistance
to the working men in the family businesses,
women who were not crafty or educated
may have turned to prostitution.
Wealthy women had fewer responsibilities
in domestic chores, which left them
with more time for leisurely activities
like checking out a matinee gladiator show
or just having lunch with the gals.
One last option for women during this time
was the life of a priestess.
Vestal virgins, for example, dedicated their lives
to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth,
by committing to 30 years of chastity.
Ancient Rome loved their religions.
There were temples to gos within the Roman pantheon
throughout this city that acted as links
between human existence and divine presence.
The Temple of Mars Ultor was built
to honor Augustus and his military success
with the assistance of Mars himself.
Temples honoring Venus and Jupiter
served as political and religious centers
with Jupiter going through several restorations
in the firs centuries, due to its importance within the Roman
Household gods, called "pane," oversaw the kitchen and home,
making it a safe and abundant space.
Other house gods, lares, where ancestral spirits who
were worshipped all day every day with additional offerings
sprinkled throughout the year to keep
things copacetic with the ancestral spirit community.
Both lares and pane were tethered to the family
and moved along with them if they should relocate homes.
The presence of pane and lares in everyday life
brought cult worship of gods like Backus and Isis.
The most important cult, however,
was the cult we met along the way, the imperial cult.
Many emperors were worshipped as deities,
which strengthen their ties to the Roman pantheon
and earned them a coveted spot amongst the pane
and lares in the daily worship cycle of a Roman citizen.
With the establishment of tribunals in the fifth century
BC, the plebian class earned a voice
within the Roman political system.
The wealthy class maintain control of the Roman senate.
But with increasing pressure from farmers,
servicemen, and a growing population of immigrants,
the concept of citizen was expanded