Rome had two classes of citizens. The
wealthy were called the patricians, and the lower class were called plebeians.
The plebeians lived in apartment houses.
These were usually above or behind their shops. A well paid tradesmen might have an
apartment building over his store with renters on the upper stories. This apartment was
roomy with running water. Some of the nicer apartments opened onto interior courtyards.
The lower paid tradesman lived in a
crowded apartment called insulae with grandparents, parents, and children. These
apartments were five or six-story buildings. His apartment may have only one room. It had
no running water. This family had to use public toilets. Often several apartment buildings
were grouped together so that the occupants could share fountains and latrines.
The patricians could afford a country
estate "villa" as well as a comfortable house in the city "domus".
In the fourth century, Rome had 45,000 insulae and only 1,800 domus. Homes were generally
made of brick. Many had red tile roofs.
The homes were built around a
square courtyard called a atrium. The courtyard was open to the sky for light and rain to
come in. In the center of the atrium was a pool of rainwater. The windows and balconies
faced the courtyard. This made the home safe from thieves.
In the second century B. C. the
atrium was replaced with the peristyle. This was a colonnaded inner courtyard built behind
the tablinum. These homes were built around a garden with fountains and statues.
Off the courtyard were bedrooms, a
kitchen, and a dining room. At the back of the house was a private room for the head of
the house and a small garden.
The homes were painted with murals and
wall hangings. Beautiful mosaics decorated the floors. These homes had little furniture.
Every room had a bed. The men reclined when dining. Elegant beds of wood and stone were
used. Some were decorated with bronze and inlaid with patterns created with wood, ivory,
or shells. Chairs were used by women.
In the back of the home were rooms for
slaves and apartments for the women. Most did not live in large homes.
of Terms used on this Page
||rectangular open courtyard around which
Roman houses were built
||word for house, home, or palace; in
ancient Roman times
||the name for an apartment house
||a picture or design made with small
pieces of colored material such as glass or tile stuck onto a surface
||a member of one of the noble families of
the ancient Roman Republic
||a line of columns that encircles a
building or a courtyard, colonnaded
||common people of ancient Rome
||in an ancient Roman
house, a large, open room at the side of the peristyle farthest from the main entrance
||manor house in the country