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Overview of Ancient Roman Houses

Info: 1460 words (6 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in History

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The Romans were one of the most important civilizations ever; they created the basis for the modern apartment, formed concrete, and had many influences on the contemporary world. The Roman culture was founded in 753 BC, and Rome was located about 23 km east off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and is the capital of Italy. Today if you visit you can find ruins of the Coliseum and The Arch of Constantine which were both examples of the famous “Roman Arches.” It was a bustling city in ancient times and is still today, and you could find people in the streets all the time day, and night.

The Ancient Romans lived in all sorts of houses that would range anywhere from humongous mansions to tiny shacks. People lived in certain types of dwellings based on there social class, economic status, and there preference of the city or the outskirts.

    There were two different social classes the patricians and the plebians. The patricians were very wealthy and the descendant of wealthy, and noble families. They were sometimes landowners, had power in the government, and lived in humungous houses. They also only did business and interacted with people of there class.

The plebians were impoverished people who usually had the job of being artisans or worked for the patricians as a servant or slave. They never had any power in the government and had no rights. Sometimes the plebians could get lucky and become a client of a patrician, and  they were offered protection when they did work for the patricians.

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There were generally three different types of houses, Inulaes, Domuses, and Villas. The poor lived in a tiny multi-story building that were shared with up to 50 people, and they were called Insulas. The rich lived in luxurious mansions that were decorated with marvelous objects such as sculpturer and mosaics, and these were called Villas. There were also Domus’s which were used for the middle class and were usually also used for religious ceremonies and business conferences. All three of them now have influences on modern houses today.

Insula was where poor people generally lived. It typically consisted of six to eight three-story apartments with multiple families living in each room. The ground floor was for shopping, and the upper floors were for families. They were made of mud and brick and generally broke down by the fire and collapsing from to much weight on the top stories. They were never well constructed and were always the cheapest due to there poor structure. The high level was the most affordable because the top tier was the first to collapse and usually just had only tiny stairways to get down to the bottom which would not be safe in the chance of a fire.  They were noisy, dirty, and cramped.

Someone who owed an Insula would generally be very wealthy. He could make people pay higher rent due to if the buildings were newer. An example of a wealthy landlord would be Marcus Licinius Crassus. He owned many insults and made his residence pay way more than usual. Roman Insula generally did not have toilets, so people had to use the public bathrooms.

Domus’s were huge building where middle-class people lived. It had marble pillars supporting the roof and had statues on the inside. The floors were made of mosaic tiles and were usually decorated with fantastic artwork. They sometimes took up a whole block, or they could also just be a tiny house. They would be used for religious ceremonies and business meetings. Some of them were separated with walls, and others were detached. Domus generally did not face the street due to safety. They were ancient Roman apartments and sometimes would be rented out to people.

Domus’s had multiple rooms including a dining room, garden, and courtyard. There were generally two sections that came into one center section that was outdoors that was called and Atrium. The Atrium had a backyard and a pool for drinking water, and sometimes they would have gardens where they would grow plant and herbs. The Atrium was a symbol of wealth, and they were usually decorated with amazing treasures.

Villas were country homes that the wealthy used, they were usually enormous and and were a way for Romans to escape from the big city. There were generally two different types of Villas, “Villa Urbana” which would be more for a country home and “villa rustica” which was where serevents had charge of the state when the owners were not there and was generally only sometimes occupied based on the season.

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Villas had three parts an the main building, the Atrium, a place where slaves would live, and then finally the place where farm produce would be stored. The Atrium would let natural light into the house. There was a hole in the roof, and they would collect water through it, and it would fall into the middle where there was generally a pool. They are similar to Domus’s and are usually decorated with frescos, mosaics, and sculptures.

The most expensive villas were the Imperial Villas, and they were usually for Royalty. Some examples would be the Villas of Diocletian, Domitian, Nero, and Hadrian. The Imperial Villas were generally very closed off and very chaotic even though they were organized. Romans who were very wealthy would escape to these during the summer time. They are similar to the idea of modern-day vacation homes.

A couple of different types of sections of a Villa and Domus are the vestibulum, the tablinum, the triclinium, and the culina. The vestibulum is the main entrance to the house, and it usually faces the street. The tablinum is the office or living room. It is also traditionally reserved for the “man of the house”. The triclinium is the dining room, and it was usually very well decorated because people wanted to impress guest when they invited them over for dinner, and the culina was the kitchen.

Ancient Roman houses had central heating, which means that they had heat that came from the floor. This was called hypocaust and slaves would help keep it clean and up to date. This system was also used to help keep the Romans bath water warm if they could not get a naturally heated water. This was done by transferring hot air through the floor and also the walls by a series of pipes. Most Roman houses also were centered around a courtyard. It did not matter if you were rich or poor or what type of homes you lived in. The opening of the yard was faced in of the streets instead out.

Today we have a clear idea of which houses rich people lived in and which one’s poor people lived in from. Ancient Roman houses were made for the most part out of sun-dried brick and built on a foundation like modern day dwellings. The walls were held up by beams made of either mud or wood. Towards the beginning of ancient Rome, the family lived in one big room where their meals were cooked, and all the “indoor work” was done. The houses, in the beginning, did not have a chimney and the smoke would escape through tiny holes in the roof. The ancient Romans have had such an impact of the modern day world and have the basis for so many great inventions. They will always be remembered as a great and powerful civilization.

Works Cited

  • Ancient Roman Houses. www.crystalinks.com/romebuildings.html.
  • Bombarde, Odile. Living in Ancient Work. Aileen Buhl, 1988. Young Discovery Library.
  • —. Living in Ancient Work. Aileen Buhl, 1988. Young Discovery Library.
  • Classics Unveiled. www.classicsunveiled.com/romel/html/romehouse.html.
  • Ellis, Simon P. Roman Housing.
  • —. Roman Housing.
  • Facts and Details. factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub369/item2072.html.
  • History on the Net. www.historyonthenet.com/the-romans-housing.
  • Khan Academy. www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/roman/beginners-guide-rome/a/roman-domestic-architecture-domus.
  • Rutland, Jonathan. A Roman Town. Edited by R.J. Unstead, illustrated by Angus Mc.Bride, 1986. See Inside.
  • —. A Roman Town. Edited by R.J. Unstead, illustrated by Angus Mc.Bride, 1986. See Inside.
  • Vroma. vroma.org/~bmcmanus/house.html.


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