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7HASS - Ancient Rome: Life

Learn all about the political, economic and social systems of Ancient Rome and how they have influenced our world today.

Key Terms

Assembly - a group of people with the power to vote on the decisions of the Senate.

Consul - the highest role in the Roman government.

Magistrates - elected officials who had the power to put laws into practice.

Paterfamilias - the name given to the male head of the household; the family father.

Stola - a shorter tunic worn as the outer garment for fashion.

Toga - A long robe worn by Roman citizens. It was generally white with colour markings for high ranking officials.

Tunic - the basic piece of clothing warn by both men and women.

Nelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome for Kids: Glossary and Terms. Ducksters. 

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Roman Baths

Every Roman city had a public bath where people came to bathe and socialize. The public bath was something like a community center where people worked out, relaxed, and met with other people. 

The main purpose of the baths was a way for the Romans to get clean. Most Romans living in the city tried to get to the baths every day to clean up. They would get clean by putting oil on their skin and then scraping it off with a metal scraper called a strigil. 

The baths were also a place for socializing. Friends would meet up at the baths to talk and have meals. Sometimes men would hold business meetings or discuss politics.

Nelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome for Kids: Roman Baths. Ducksters. 

Clothing

Tunic - The most common type of clothing for men was the tunic. The tunic was like a long shirt. It varied in length from just above the knees to the ankles. A belt was used about the waist to keep it tight.
Toga - The toga was worn by upper class men outside the home or at official occasions. The toga was a large piece of cloth around 18 feet long and 6 feet wide. It was wrapped and draped around the wearer according to the latest style. Togas were very heavy and uncomfortable.
Cloaks - Roman men also wore a wide variety of cloaks to stay warm in bad weather. Examples of cloaks include thelacerna, the paenula, the birrus, and the pallium.
Underclothes - Roman men also wore underclothes such as a loincloth or a light under-tunic.

Nelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome for Kids: Clothing and Fashion. 

Tunic - The most common form of clothing for women was the tunic. It was the primary garment worn by peasants and unmarried women. The women's tunic was typically longer than the men's.
Stola - The stola was the traditional form of clothing worn by married Roman women. The stola was a long pleated dress held on by belts. It could be decorated with ribbons and colours.
Cloaks - Like the men, women wore cloaks on top of their clothes in cold or bad weather. The palla was a typical cloak worn over the stola and fastened with broaches.
Underclothes - The typical underclothes worn by a woman was a closely fitted light tunic. 

Nelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome for Kids: Clothing and Fashion. 

Most of the clothing worn in Ancient Rome was made of wool. Wool was made throughout Italy and much of the Roman Empire both in the home and commercially. Sometimes clothes were made from rare materials such as linen from Egypt, cotton from India, and silk from China. 

Men generally wore white or off-white coloured clothing. There were certain colours or markings that showed the status of a man. Women wore white clothing until they were married. Once married, they wore clothing in a variety of colours. 

Most Romans wore open sandals made from leather. Other types of shoes included closed boots called calcei and open shoes (sort of between a sandal and shoe) called crepida. 

Nelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome for Kids: Clothing and Fashion. 

Hairstyles changed throughout the history of Ancient Rome. Typical artwork from the middle to late stages of the Roman Republic shows men having fairly short hair and being clean shaven. This changed somewhat during the Roman Empire when beards and curly hair were in fashion. Women's hairstyles varied widely. Wealthy women had their hair curled, pinned into place, plaited in the back, or put into a bun. Hairstyles became much more elaborate during the peak of the Roman Empire. 

Jewellery was mostly worn by women. Wealthy women wore a wide variety of jewellery including earrings, necklaces, tiaras, and bracelets. Men usually only wore rings. 

Nelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome for Kids: Clothing and Fashion. 

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Food

People in Ancient Rome ate a wide variety of foods. What a person ate depended on both their wealth and where they lived in the Roman Empire. Food was imported from all around the empire to feed the large populations in the capital city of Rome. 

The Romans ate three meals during a typical day. The first meal (breakfast) was called the "lentaculum." It was usually eaten around sunrise and consisted of bread and maybe some fruit. The next meal (lunch) was called the "prandium". The prandium was a very small meal eaten around 11 AM. The main meal of the day was the "cena." It was eaten in the afternoon. 

Poor
As you might expect, the poor people in Rome did not eat the same food as the wealthy. The main food of the poor was a porridge call "puls." Puls was made by mixing ground wheat and water. Sometimes they might get some vegetables or fruit to eat with their puls. The poor ate very little meat. 

Wealthy
The wealthy ate much better than the poor. They would often have fancy dinner parties that lasted for hours and had several courses. They would have a variety of foods including fruit, eggs, vegetables, meats, fish, and cakes. At formal dinner parties, the Romans reclined on couches around a low table. They would lay on their left arm and then eat from the center table using their right hand. For less formal meals, the Romans would sit on a stool or stand while eating. 

The main utensil used by the Romans for eating was the spoon. They also used their hands a lot. They sometimes used a knife or a fork like utensil for cutting or spearing a piece of food. The main drink of the Romans was wine. It was often watered down for daily consumption.

Some of the foods that the Ancient Romans ate would seem strange to us today. At fancy banquets they sometimes ate things like flamingo's tongues, roast peacock, and stewed snails. Perhaps the strangest thing they ate was dormice. Dormice were considered a delicacy and were sometimes eaten as appetizers. One Roman recipe called for the dormice to be dipped in honey and rolled in poppy seeds. 

Nelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome: Food and Drink. Ducksters.

Housing

Most people in the cities of Ancient Rome lived in apartments called insulae. The wealthy lived in single family homes called domus of various sizes depending on how rich they were. 

Insulae 
The vast majority of the people living in Roman cities lived in cramped apartment buildings called insulae. Insulae were generally three to five stories high and housed from 30 to 50 people. The individual apartments usually consisted of two small rooms. The bottom floor of the insulae often housed shops and stores that opened out to the streets. The larger apartments were also near the bottom with the smallest at the top. Many insulae were not constructed very well. They could be dangerous places if they caught fire and sometimes even collapsed. 

Private Homes 
The wealthy elite lived in large single family homes called domus. These homes were much nicer than the insulae. Most Roman houses had similar features and rooms. There was an entryway that led to the main area of the house called the atrium. Other rooms such as bedrooms, dining room, and kitchen might be off to the sides of the atrium. Beyond the atrium was the office. In the back of the home was often an open garden. 

 

 ‚ÄčNelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome: Housing and Homes. Ducksters.

While the poor and the slaves lived in small shacks or cottages in the countryside, the wealthy lived in large expansive homes called villas. 

Roman Villa 
The Roman villa of a wealthy Roman family was often much larger and more comfortable than their city home. They had multiple rooms including servants' quarters, courtyards, baths, pools, storage rooms, exercise rooms, and gardens. They also had modern comforts such as indoor plumbing and heated floors.

Nelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome: Housing and Homes. Ducksters.

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Entertainment

The Roman Arena was a place of entertainment for Romans. The games were often brutal and bloody. At first they were mostly put on for memorials or funerals, but later they were put on for many occasions including birthdays and victories. The games were paid for by wealthy individuals and were used for that person to gain popularity with the people. Julius Caesar became very popular by putting on large public games and theatre.

Nelson, Ken. (2016). History of Ancient Rome for Kids: The Arena and Entertainment. Ducksters. 

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883).

Sometimes the games would last all day. At the start of the day they would use exotic wild animals such as bears, lions, rhinos and elephants. Sometimes the animals would fight each other, sometimes the animals would be hunted by huntsmen, and sometimes criminals would be thrown into the arena to be killed by wild animals.

Nelson, Ken. (2016). History of Ancient Rome for Kids: The Arena and Entertainment. Ducksters

The main attraction in the arena was the gladiators. Gladiators were men who would fight each other in the arena. Usually gladiators were slaves or prisoners, but sometimes volunteers would become gladiators. A very few of the best gladiators who survived would become rich and famous. The gladiators were trained to fight. They had different areas of specialties in terms of fighting styles and weapons so each fight would be different and interesting for the people to watch. Some gladiators used heavy armor and swords, while others fought with little armor in order to be quicker. One type of fighter called a retiarius would use a net and a trident to fight. Each style had its advantages and disadvantages. Not all of the fights were to the death. When a gladiator was about to lose he could ask for mercy. The crowd or leaders would then decide if the loser would live or die.

Nelson, Ken. (2016). History of Ancient Rome for Kids: The Arena and Entertainment. Ducksters

Another favourite pastime of the Ancient Romans was the chariot races. This is perhaps the oldest of the Roman pastimes. There were teams that raced: the Reds, Greens, Blues, and Whites. People would follow and cheer their favourite teams and riders. Top chariot racers were heroes just like the top athletes of our day. The races were held in an arena called a circus. The oldest and largest circus was the Circus Maximus in the city of Rome which could seat around 150,000 people.

Nelson, Ken. (2016). History of Ancient Rome for Kids: The Arena and Entertainment. Ducksters

The Ancient Romans also enjoyed theatre. Much of their theatre was copied from the Greeks. Like the games, wealthy people would put on theatre for free in order to gain popularity. Most of the actors were Greek and their favorite plays were comedies. Two of the more famous play writers were Livius Andronicus and Gnaeus Naevius.

Nelson, Ken. (2016). History of Ancient Rome for Kids: The Arena and Entertainment. Ducksters

The Colosseum is a giant amphitheatre in the center of Rome, Italy. It was built during the Roman Empire. Construction on the Colosseum was started in 72 AD by the emperor Vespasian. It was finished eight years later in 80 AD. The Colosseum was huge. It could seat 50,000 people. It covers around 6 acres of land and is 620 feet long, 512 feet wide, and 158 feet tall. It took more than 1.1 million tonnes of concrete, stone, and bricks to complete the Colosseum. 

Nelson, Ken. (2016). Ancient Rome for Kids: The Colosseum. Ducksters.
Colosseum in Rome, Italy, by David Iliff. (2007),
 

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