There were many different kinds of people in Rome. Wealthy men were called
patricians. Most wealthy men were land owners, lawyers, political leaders,
or magistrates. Poor men, craftsmen, or people that had shops or sold goods
were called plebeians. Plebeians couldnít marry patricians.
The plebeians were treated badly by the law and society. They also had
few rights. Only the patricians could belong to a ruling assembly or become
government leaders. According to Livy, plebeians rebelled in 494
B.C., demanding changes in their government. The plebeians threatened to
leave Rome and start a city of their own. Then both sides in time agreed
to work together to improve Romeís government. The new government
was called a republic, which means ì public thingsî in Latin.
In a republic, citizens choose their own leaders. Not all citizens participated
in the assembly that ran their city. Instead they elected representatives
which are people that acted for them. Their republic lasted 500 years.
Our government was modelled after this type of government.
Roman men wore a toga over their tunic, which was like a wide shawl that
was draped over the shoulders and carefully wrapped around the body. A
cloak was worn at night and during winter for warmth, and as protection
against rain or wind. For shoes men wore sandals. Patricians wore red sandals
with an ornament on the back. Men also wore wigs to hide their baldness.
Men were expected to marry young and to produce children. They also were
expected to support their families. If parents could afford it, a Roman
boy was then taught by a tutor. This was probably a Greek slave who had
been captured in a war.
Rich women spent
their time being dressed and decorated by their slaves. They also enjoyed
going to baths, watching games, attending the circus, and being
present on social occasions. Poor women cooked, cleaned, wove cloth, and
attended to children. Few women in Rome were educated. Women didnít
do the work in fields, their slaves did it. Most women wore a knee length
toga over their tunica and, a stola, which was full length from the neck
to the ankle. The stola was high wasted and fastened to the shoulders with
clasps. Another thing they wore was a shawl that wrapped around their shoulders
and arms, or it could be draped over their head. Women covered their heads
when they walked outside. Fashionable women wore hairpieces made by their
slaves. They wore closed white, green, or yellow shoes.
Most men of
the ancient world made their living by agriculture. As many things as possible
were grown locally because there was no refrigeration in those days and
transportation was slow. On the other hand, manufactured articles such
as jewelry, pottery, glass, and bricks were carried easily over the fine
Roman roads, to be sold in cities and provinces. There was a regular network
of roads throughout the Roman world, not only for the convenience of travelers
and the movement of armies, but also for the postal service and businesses.
The most famous Roman road was probably the Appian Way, which runs south
from Rome. It is well paved with big blocks of lava, and today automobiles
speed along a part of it.
We have learned
a good deal about Roman houses from the excavations of Pompeii. Pompeii
was located near the Bay of Naples on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, which
is still an active volcano. In the year AD 79 Vesuvius erupted and buried
Pompeii and other nearby towns under a mass of ashes and lava. Apparently
the ashes came down in two stages. During the first, many people escaped,
but some greedy people returned, when the ashes stopped falling, to get
their jewels. Then the second stage began, and these people were buried.
We know this
because the Italian archaeologists, in excavating the ancient city, find
the outlines of men sometimes half way out of the windows with money or
jewels in their hands. The archaeologists then poured plaster of paris
into the outlines of these bodies. So, when you scroll around Pompeii today,
you come across plaster casts of people who once lived there.
great builders. They constructed temples, country houses, and magnificent
public buildings of carved marble. Romans adopted many Greek architectural
systems. The Romans invented the dome. They also developed concrete, by
mixing pozzolana, a strong volcanic material with rubble. One of the most
important buildings in Rome was the Pantheon, a temple to all gods. Its
a dome illustrates the daring of the Roman engineer, for it was made of
solid concrete. It was 142 feet in diameter, and about as high. The kings
and queens of modern Italy are buried in the Pantheon. The structures that
the Romans built had a long life span. Some of the roads and bridges
are still used today. Another important building was the theater. They
largely copied the theater from the Greekís theater. Roman theaters
were usually open to the sky. At the theater people preformed plays.
The best actors in Roman plays were usually Greek. The tickets were free
to see a play in the Roman theater. Women were not allowed to sit in the
front, incase they were tempted to run off with one of the performers
used in many parts of the world, including Rome. Slaves were people that
had been captured in a war, born into slavery, or abandoned as a child.
People bought and sold slaves at the market. Daughters were frequently
sold into slavery. Slaves preformed all hard and unpleasant work and they
were punished if the work wasnít done right. Slaves had no rights
at all. At least the slaves were clothed, fed, housed, and kept in reasonable
health. If slaves got caught trying to run away, they would be crucified