Ancient Roman Homes

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History, Facts and Information about Ancient Roman Homes
As in most societies the Romans were divided by class, notably the Patricians and Plebeians. The Patricians were the rich ruling class of nobles and most the remaining population were the Plebeians, who were considerably poorer. Just as today the style, architecture and furnishings of Ancient Roman homes were determined by the wealth of the home owners.

The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about life in Ancient Rome including Ancient Roman Homes.

Ancient Roman Homes - the Houses
The houses of the Romans were initially nothing more than thatched cottages. After the city was burnt by the Gauls, it was rebuilt in a more solid fashion and were more open and roomier. The streets were very irregular. During the time of Nero the city of Rome was set on fire, and more than two-thirds of it burnt to the ground. The people of the city of Rome was therefore provided with the opportunity to rebuild the city with greater regularity and splendor. The streets were straightened and widened but the Ancient Roman homes of the poor were still small, dark and crowded.

Ancient Roman Homes of the Rich Patricians
After the fire the height of the houses of the rich were limited to seventy feet, and each house had a portico before it, fronting the street (A portico is a porch that leads to the entrance of a building with a roof structure supported by columns or enclosed by walls). The homes were heated by portable furnaces in their rooms, on which account they had little use for chimneys, except for the kitchen. The windows of some of their homes were glazed with a thick kind of glass, not perfectly transparent; in other homes isinglass split into thin plates was used (isinglass were sheets of mica which were commonly used as a heat-resistant substitute for glass). Perfectly transparent glass was so rare and valuable in Rome, that only the Emperor or the very rich could afford it for but only for wine goblets. Detached houses, those homes not joined with the neighboring ones were called Insulae.

Rooms in Ancient Roman Homes
The houses had high sloping roofs, covered with broad tiles, and there was usually an open space in the centre to provide light to the inner apartments. The windows were closed with blinds of linen or plates of horn, but more generally with shutters of wood. During the time of the emperors, a species of transparent stone, cut into plates, was used for the purpose. The lower floors of the homes of the rich were, at this time, either inlaid marble or mosaic work. Every thing curious and valuable was used as ornaments and for furniture. The number of stories was generally two, with underground apartments. On the first, were the reception-rooms and bed-chamber; on the second, the dining-room and apartments of the women. The principal rooms of private houses and ancient Roman homes were as follows:

  • The outer door was furnished with a bell: the entrance was guarded by a slave often in chains who was armed with a staff, and attended by a dog.
  • The vestibulum, or court before the gate, which was ornamented towards the street with a portico extending along the entire front
  • The atrium or hall, which was in the form of an oblong square, surrounded by galleries supported on pillars
  • Reception rooms
  • Main bedroom
  • An inner apartment, called the penetralia
  • The second floor housed the dining-room and apartments of the women
  • The dormitories of slaves and menials are called the cellae

The atrium or hall, which was in the form of an oblong square, surrounded by galleries supported on pillars. It contained a hearth on which a fire was kept constantly burning, and around which were ranged the lares, or images of the ancestors of the family. These were usually nothing more than waxen busts, and, though held in great respect, were not treated with the same veneration as the penates, or household gods, which were considered of divine origin, and were never exposed to the view of strangers, but were kept in an inner apartment, called the penetralia.

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