Life in Ancient Rome

As with any society your quality of life depended on your social rank and Rome was no different.  Two Romans living at the same time in the same city could have very different lives.


For wealthy Romans, life was good. They lived in beautiful houses – often on the hills outside Rome, away from the noise and the smell. They enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle with luxurious furnishings, surrounded by servants and slaves to cater to their every desire. Many would hold exclusive dinner parties and serve their guests the exotic dishes of the day.

Rich people included High ranking soldiers, Merchants, Lawyers, Engineers and the ruling classes such as Senators and Consuls.

A Rich Roman Family
A Rich Roman Family
Roman Slave market
Roman Slave market


Poorer Romans, however, could only dream of such a life. Sweating it out in the city, they lived in shabby, squalid houses that could collapse or burn at any moment. If times were hard, they might abandon newborn babies to the streets, hoping that someone else would take them in as a servant or slave.

Poor in wealth but strong in numbers, they were the Roman mob, who relaxed in front of the popular entertainments of the time – chariot races between opposing teams, or gladiators fighting for their life, fame and fortune.

While the Emperor and Senators looked on...

Shared Rituals

Although their lives may have been different, they did have some things in common. In any Roman family life, the head of the household was a man. Although his wife looked after the household, he controlled it. He alone could own property. Only he decided the fate of his children and who they would marry.

There were other traditions that all Romans shared. Whatever their individual circumstances, all Romans observed certain practices at dinner time, the main meal of the day. Although they might eat very different food, they ate it in roughly the same way.

And Romans of all classes made a point of visiting the baths after work each day. There they would mix freely with their fellow citizens, exercising, washing and chatting. To citizens, the baths made them feel superior to the rest of the world – they made them feel Roman.

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Roman Baths in Bath England
Roman Baths in Bath England