Life in Ancient Rome
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Two thousand years ago in a land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, there was a vast empire: the Roman Empire. In this empire were grand cities, magnificent buildings and riches of every kind. Rich emperors lived in palaces and beggars lived on the street. Long roads connected all the cities of the Empire and all roads led to the capital, the grandest city of the world: all roads led to Rome. So, let’s step back in time to see what life was like in that ancient city. A day spent in ancient Rome would be a very full day and it would start at sunrise. In these days before electric light, it was necessary to get everything done while the sun was shinning. That meant getting an early start everyday. Since the weather in Rome is warm most of the year and since they were out when the warm sun was shinning, Romans worn (...) called tunics that let their legs bare. Most Romans had only one outfit that they wore everyday and it was rarely washed. The wealthy, on the other hand, wore draping pieces of fabric called togas over their tunics. And the most important Roman citizens wore togas with a bold colourful stripe to make them stand out in the crowd. Finishing off a Roman outfit were sandals made of leather, not too different from the shoes of today. Roman homes were very ancient on familiar concepts as well. Very few people had houses of their own but those who did lived in houses that were built around a big garden and had beautiful works of art painted directly on the walls. Most people, however, lived in small apartment buildings that were made mostly of wood. So, for fear of fire, residents did not cook inside. They bought food already prepared, usually, no more than soup and bread. Some people sat at tables but most ate sitting on the floor. Mealtime in the homes of the wealthy was a different story. They ate large and were served as they lay on couches. But whether rich or poor, one thing was the same at every meal There were no forks in ancient Rome so people ate with their fingers. There were no forks in ancient Rome so people ate with their fingers. “What I think you’d noticed if the time travelled back would be the smell, the noise, the dirt, the crowdedness. There would be lots of beggars, lots of small children.” “Traffic was terrible. Julius Cesar forbade real traffic during the day so people could move around which meant that, at night, all these carts started going on in these stone streets and it was so noisy that you couldn’t sleep.” All that traffic was deep into the streets of Rome. “You could be in the city of Rome and you could see people who were obviously African, obviously Italian, Gauls, German… all of this people were in fact Roman citizens.” And everyday, the citizens would gather in the most crowded of the crowded places: the forum. The forum was a busy square in the centre of town were Romans could purchase goods from near and far using Roman coins called denari. It also was a with orators and politicians holding lightly debates and giving speeches. This would all be in the official language of the Roman Empire: Latin. Hearing the speeches of ancient Romans would have been much easier than reading their writings. They didn’t use spaces between words and they rarely use punctuation. They carefully carved woods under wax tablets or they wrote with ink on papyrus scrolls that came from Egypt. It is from their writings that we’ve learned so much about their lives. For instance, we know that the forum was only one place to visit in ancient Rome. They were also temples for worship, stadiums to watch races, theatres to see plays. And there were baths. The baths had pools of cool and hot water for bathing. But they were also libraries, hair saloons, massage palaces and gardens. The baths were places to relax and socialize. For the poor, a visit was a rare luxury. The rich would visit everyday. These are just some of the many things that we know about the way ancient Romans live. Because of their detailed writings, their art and their buildings we know today about the extraordinary Empire that ended centuries ago.
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