• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Whenever you search in PBworks or on the Web, Dokkio Sidebar (from the makers of PBworks) will run the same search in your Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Gmail, Slack, and browsed web pages. Now you can find what you're looking for wherever it lives. Try Dokkio Sidebar for free.



Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 10 months ago

Housing in Ancient Rome


Apartment Buildings

Wealthy Romans built brick and stone apartments. They decorated the floors with mosaics and the walls with paintings. These apartment dwellers owned only a few pieces of furniture, most of which was simple in design. Farmers crowded into wooden apartment buildings six or more stories high. Living conditions were terrible! The aqueducts, which brought the water into the city, did not connect to the apartments. Neither were the sewers, that carried away the wastes. The apartment buildings, in which the farmers lived, often caught on fire or collapsed. Diseases, such as typhus was common.


Poor Romans


The size of homes was determined by how wealthy the person was. There were apartment blocks made of wood, and then a few hundred years later, of brick faced concrete. The apartment blocks weren’t the best looking homes. They weren't built very well and they had cheap insides, they had straw mattresses and stone fireplaces. They had leaks in the roofs, and the walls were cracked up. They had no plumbing or water in the houses. There weren't many furnishings in the house; a wooden bed and a mattress of straw, and a table and tools and if lucky one cupboard for storage. The cooking was done on a small fireplace. They did not have very much space in their homes because they didn't have a lot of money, they had small amounts of food, and only had some things to trade with wealthy Romans. The Romans rented the apartments, they didn’t own them. The owners rented them to the people. Some Romans didn’t live in anything at all. Some lived outside because they weren't rich enough to have apartments.


Wealthy Romans


Wealthy people usually lived on the bottom floor of an apartment block. They had luxurious homes with a few big windows, three rooms and had a courtyard in front called an atrium. Roman houses weren’t as luxurious as homes in our society and they had limited space for apartments and separate homes. They also had better and bigger fireplaces for cooking and had many cupboards for storage. The rooms that wealthy Romans had in the house or apartment were a cooking area and a dining area. The big windows they had been always facing toward the courtyard or atrium. They had nice beds with many blankets and they were made out of many materials. The wealthy people usually owned a sheep or lamb for trade or food. The typical house of wealthy Roman contained an impressive entrance vestibule called the atrium, which was often open to the sky and may have had a fountain or pool as a central feature. It would also include a lararium, which was a household shrine to worship domestic gods and goddesses, such as the goddess of hearth, Vesta. They lived in homes that were separated into two parts joined with a passage way.


Home Comforts


There were big differences between the lives of rich and poor Romans. While the wealthy could afford to live luxuriously - in homes like the rooms in apartment blocks, which might be four or five stories high. Many of the richest Roman citizens had two houses, a town house and a country villa. Furnishings were kept simple and decoration was plain yet elegant. Larger Roman houses had few windows to keep out the heat of the sun, and usually had at least one open courtyard, complete with a fountain. Floors and walls were kept cool with the prodigious use of marble or stone tiles, often inlaid with elaborate mosaics.


Roman Homes

The comfort and size of Roman homes were determined by the owner's wealth. The poor lived in simple dwellings often in apartment blocks built of wood and, increasingly after the first century A.D., of brick-faced concrete. These were usually built cheaply and often had cracked walls and leaky roofs. Fire was a constant danger. Each apartment had only one window with no glass. Furnishing was scarce: A wood frame bed and straw mattress and a table and stools, and perhaps a simple cupboard for storage. Cooking was done on a small fireplace made of brick. We can get a good idea of what a Roman house was like from the remains of buildings preserved at the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under ash and mud from the volcano Vesuvius in C.E. 79. In the town house of a wealthy family, there was a central room called an atrium, open to the sky. A lot of people lived in one story buildings that were made of cement or marble. They didn’t have many windows to stop noise from the streets from coming in the homes.


Homes for the Women

Men and women dined together in the triclinium, or the dining room. Women sat on chairs, while men lay on couches. Women had their own bedrooms, which they shared with small children. A wealthy woman often saw little of her husband during the day, for he was working in town or running his business. Only in the evening might husband and wife enjoy time together.



A villa's wealthy and luxurious feel differentiated it from typical farmsteads. In the widest sense of the term, a villa was a farmhouse whose Romanized architecture separated it from normal farmsteads, ranging in size from modest to mansion. Romans themselves were not consistent with the use of the term, and there are a great number of borderline cases. In the eastern provinces, we are unsure exactly what the status and role of the villa was, but during the empire the villa developed throughout Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Germany, and the Danube province. A villa was generally the product of successful farming, and while original funds may have been supplied from elsewhere, maintenance funding came from farming. Villa farm operations were generally dependent on a relatively local market, such as a town or city.

Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 11:36 am on May 3, 2006

Hello! This is a good article! I feel bad for the poorer people, when they have to live with those holes in the roof! Thats sad! Look how lucky we are. Wouldn't you think that the richer people, would help the poorer people, by fixng the holes, or giving them some money for holes? That would be nice of them.

It sounds like the rich people got it pretty good. I like the sounds of the houses they live in!

You don't have permission to comment on this page.