What It Was Like To Live In Ancient Rome During Its Golden Age


The hottest place to live
from the second century BC through the second century AD
was, no doubt, ancient Rome. Though like any major
city, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes it was insanely loud
streets and using something called a communal sponge
to wipe your bum with. Today, we’re looking at what
was life like in ancient Rome during the golden age. But before we dive into the
glamorous life of the Romans, be sure to click and
subscribe to never miss out on a weird history deep dive. As early as sixth
century BC, Rome began taking census
information to assist with the needs of the
growing population. The population of
Rome was generally believed to be in the
hundreds of thousands during the first century BC and
shooting up as high as 800,000 by the reign of Augustus and
hitting as many as a cool million during the
second century AD. Rome was a hodgepodge of free
men and women with varying degrees of wealth and
some not so free men and women who contributed to
the population frenzy that created a very crowded city
with not a lot of space to accommodate its people. Housing was extremely limited
with a population of this size, so the city developed
insula, or tenements. Insula consisted of
numerous apartments alongside businesses and shops
with large numbers of people living in close confines. They were several stories
high, poorly built, and home to a variety
of income levels both poor and only kind of poor. They were also susceptible
to being on fire, collapse, and aided in the
spread of disease. An alternative to the
ever appealing dorm room coffin-like insula was a single
family home known as the domus. The domus was appealing to
the wealthier Roman resident. And the richer the Roman,
the bigger the domus. Domus featured one or two
stories with reception, halls living rooms or atria,
several bedrooms, dining rooms, a kitchen, and bathroom adjoined
outdoor spaces for relaxing. Larger houses might contain
several bathrooms and even private baths. Doing your business
in private wasn’t a guarantee in ancient Rome. A domus was in Rome was
smaller than most houses in other cities due to
the tight topography and space of the city
during the Roman Empire. The locations of domus in Rome
are difficult to pin down, but it’s presumed
they were located outside the danger of
a rising Tiber River and close to places of
imperial importance. Domus could span an
entire city block. And unlike the poorly
constructed hobo shanties of the very safe sounding insula
were standalone structures that didn’t face crowded
Roman streets directly. As mentioned previously,
bathing and cleanliness of Rome were slightly less
conventional than what we’re used to in modern times. Everyone from slaves
to Roman emperors visited the public
baths in the city. Called thermae by
the first century BC, public baths included
hot and cold rooms with pools, steam rooms,
and dry heat rooms where people could clean
themselves, carry out business transactions, and socialize. The public bars were
coed until the practice of inter-gender
mingling in public baths was forbidden by
Emperor Hadrian, a frequent patron
of public baths himself in second century AD. Hadrian famously gave a veteran
he saw one of his own slaves to perform the duty. The honor of scraping
oil off a human body, normally done with a
strigil, belonged to servants for the wealthy people,
while poor trash people had to scrape the oil off
their own garbaged bodies. The number of baths in Rome
increased from first century BC through the fifth century
AD and got even more fancy with the addition of
fountains and gymnasias. By 400 AD, it is estimated
800 to 900 public baths were getting weird in Rome. Emperors such as Trajan,
Caracalla, and Diocletian gifted Rome elaborate baths that
could serve thousands of Romans at one time. Diocletian built the
largest, a structure with massive pools lined with
marble clad walls and granite columns. The task of washing
clothes in Rome fell to the fuller, who provided
an essential service to Romans since most didn’t wash
their own clothes. Without the benefits and later
internet hilarity of Tide Pods, fullers got creative in finding
ways to bleach linens and wool garments– urine. Both animal urine
and human urine contain the cleaning
agent ammonia. Pee would be diluted with
water thrown into a vat, and fullers would stop
around in the bucket like Lucille Ball
did with grapes, only not funny and very gross. By the late first
century AD urine became a valuable commodity. So much so Emperor
Vespasian put a tax on urine collected in public. This didn’t sit well with
Vespasian’s son, Titus, who didn’t think it was super
cool for his dad to collect taxes on public conveniences. Vespasian responded by
waving a piece of money from the first payment
to his sons nose and asked whether its
odor was offensive to him. When Titus said no, he replied,
yet it comes from urine. Ancient Rome had a
reputation for stellar street design for good reason. While most planned cities
had patterned streets, unplanned cities could
delve into chaos, even if roads were
generally well constructed. Roads linked areas through
the empire and Rome, including the via Appia, which
ran for more than 130 Roman miles across the
Italian peninsula. While Rome had paved streets
that allowed for drainage, the frequent use of chariots
and other wheeled vehicles caused a ruckus of
epic proportions. Julius Caesar himself
in the first century BC made it illegal
for wheely traffic to enter the downtown area
of Rome during the day. While the noise was reduced
during daytime hours, it only succeeded
in turning nighttime into a calamity of noise. Overcrowding and traffic both
contributed to constant racket in the streets that
made peaceful sleep damn near impossible. Ancient Rome with an elaborate
system of aqueducts and sewers had running water in their
homes and public places, making them pretty sophisticated
all things considered. The cloaca maxima,
or main sewer, collected water
from around the city and channeled it back
into the Tiber River. By the third century AD
they turned the open channel into a closed tunnel
that collected water from public baths and
latrines, and got the town’s sewage the hell out of Rome. Before iPhones, people used to
connect with one another face to face. And what better time
to have a conversation with a neighbor than when
you’re doing your business. At public latrines,
there were multiple holes for men and women to relieve
themselves with wild abandon, and wealthier Romans would
have latrines in their home with one or two holes. In public latrines, human
waste would dump out into the running water below. But with little ventilation
and communal sponges for toilet paper, the
smelling situation in Rome sounds less than desirable. In lieu of doing fun things
like watching Netflix until bedtime at 8 PM,
Romans had all sorts of ways to spend
their leisure time and keep themselves entertained. The Colosseum, which
we did a video on, hosted gladiator combat for
an exciting but bloody way to pass the time. Rome was home to theaters of
varying sizes that were often modeled after Greek
buildings with tiered seating and awnings to block out
the weather conditions. Smaller theaters existed
during this time period but were mostly for
musical performances, with larger theaters being
reserved for stage productions. Not everyone thought it
was OK to have fun though. Roman satirist, Juvenal,
made the petty observation that the citizens of Rome only
cared about bread and circuses, losing sight of their
role in politics in exchange for food and fun– an inalienable human
right that is still practiced today by most people. Before it became a big deal
for wealthy B-list celebrities to buy their children’s
way into fancy colleges, the Romans were
trailblazing the premise of wealthier people
receiving a better education than their poorer counterparts. There were no public
schools in Rome, and kids receive most of
their basic instruction from their parents before
being sent to a teacher or tutor to finish the job. The father would
teach his son how to read and write and
do physical manly stuff, while the women were tasked with
training their daughters on how to get married. Lesson plans from
teachers and tutors were determined by the amount of
money parents were contributing to their education. Wealthy Romans snatched
up the best tutors or employed literate
trained slaves to educate their children. Other occasions saw the
rich kids sent off to school with a pedagogue in tow. Somebody who carried the
young student’s books escorted them to
classes and made sure the children
behave themselves. Poorer Romans, meanwhile,
could skip formal education altogether and go
into the family trade. Education was also
based on gender, with male s studying logic,
literature, and philosophy. And the women were taught how to
read, and write, and that’s it. Women didn’t need a
lot of formal education in Rome because women
weren’t expected to do a lot. The role of a woman
in Rome was determined by her social status, wealth,
location, and the auspices of her male guardian, be it
her father, husband, brother, or even her son. They had very few legal
rights, couldn’t even vote, and were prohibited
from entering politics by holding public office. They could, however, own
property and work outside of the home as a wet
nurse, a midwife, an agricultural laborer,
or in the marketplace. Women on the lower
end of financial luck and social nobodies
were relegated to being mothers and providers. While the job opportunities
for women were sparse, they could produce crafts
or other artisan goods for the home. And while women did
provide assistance to the working men in
the family businesses, women who were not
crafty or educated may have turned to prostitution. Wealthy women had
fewer responsibilities in domestic chores,
which left them with more time for
leisurely activities like checking out a
matinee gladiator show or just having
lunch with the gals. One last option for
women during this time was the life of a priestess. Vestal virgins, for example,
dedicated their lives to Vesta, the goddess
of the hearth, by committing to 30
years of chastity. Ancient Rome loved
their religions. There were temples to gos
within the Roman pantheon throughout this city
that acted as links between human existence
and divine presence. The Temple of Mars
Ultor was built to honor Augustus and
his military success with the assistance
of Mars himself. Temples honoring
Venus and Jupiter served as political
and religious centers with Jupiter going through
several restorations in the firs centuries, due to
its importance within the Roman state religion. Household gods, called “pane,”
oversaw the kitchen and home, making it a safe
and abundant space. Other house gods, lares,
where ancestral spirits who were worshipped all day every
day with additional offerings sprinkled throughout
the year to keep things copacetic with the
ancestral spirit community. Both lares and pane were
tethered to the family and moved along with them if
they should relocate homes. The presence of pane and
lares in everyday life brought cult worship of
gods like Backus and Isis. The most important
cult, however, was the cult we met along
the way, the imperial cult. Many emperors were
worshipped as deities, which strengthen their
ties to the Roman pantheon and earned them a coveted
spot amongst the pane and lares in the daily worship
cycle of a Roman citizen. With the establishment of
tribunals in the fifth century BC, the plebian
class earned a voice within the Roman
political system. The wealthy class maintain
control of the Roman senate. But with increasing
pressure from farmers, servicemen, and a growing
population of immigrants, the concept of
citizen was expanded through the second century BC. Tribunes like Tiberius
and Gaius Gracchus demonstrated the role citizens
could play in their government. In addition to their second
century BC agrarian reforms, they called for all
of Rome’s allies in Italy to become citizens. This never came into
fruition, however, as Roman citizens feared
what the outcome would mean for their own livelihoods. Gaining citizenship in Rome
did come with the right to exercise your civic
duty to go to the polls and cast your vote. Citizens would also
register for the census every five years, reporting
possessions, property, and current number of
human beings in the family. All the Roman
government insisted back as a citizen of Rome was loyalty
and service to the state. The male head of the
house was in charge of everything from
business matters to property exchanges
to arranging marriages for their daughters. The father of the family
controlled every aspect of their child’s life, even
selling them into servitude, disowning them, or
straight up murdering them depending on the circumstances. The paterfamilias did
consult with the lady of the house or
the materfamilias, who was most likely his wife,
but not in all circumstances. When a daughter was married
off, the authority over her was transitioned from the
father to the husband. If a man had no son, he could
adopt one, many times choosing to take in a nephew or
distant family relative to serve as his heir. The male head of a household
also led the family in faith, serving a religious
role by overseeing the rites practiced
to lares, pane, and other deities
worshipped in the home. So what do you think? When in Rome, let us know
in the comments below. And while you’re at it, check
out some of these other videos from our weird history. [MUSIC PLAYING]

100 thoughts on “What It Was Like To Live In Ancient Rome During Its Golden Age

  1. At least they don't have to care about people's opinions… Like hell, i can't even rub my face at my pet. Because people said it is AnImaLLL AbuSE since my cat don't like. Like,, bitch, it's my fucking pet, it's not like i'm poison them to death or chop them. My pet is far cuter than your grumpy people when they annoying. If i can't tease my pet, why i even have a pet.

  2. According to brilliantmaps.com the average GDP per capita in the Roman Empire was lower than those of the DR Congo which is the lowest in the modern world.

  3. To this day, when I think of really nasty stuff I remember the saying " all roads lead to Rome " .
    We should be thankful for the public baths that are in most major cities.
    Helped spread aids and other diseases when re opened in the late 70s to the 90s (?) .
    Perversion, pedophilia and other great things, brought to us by Rome.

    All roads surely do lead to Rome and the Vatican.
    ..
    .

  4. I just wanna say. I love this channel so much. It’s so well produced and I love the narration. Thank you for your hard work we appreciate it ❤️

  5. I just finished reading a book about Ebola called "The Hot Zone." I know it's not related, but just the mere thought of using a communal sponge seriously creeped me out. 😱

  6. Haven't finished this video but before I even start it I wanna say during the golden age middle class citizens are like Kings with food and meat from all over the world. I read one thing that described a man eating meat from a nile croc

  7. For anyone wondering the modern photos of a roman bath is called "the roman baths" located in Bath UK.
    The only natural thermal roman Bath in England maybe the UK.
    Heated from water deep below the city.

  8. God. We are 370 million now in America. Rome during it's heyday, was one million. ONE million!!
    This is incredible. As the quantity goes up, the quality indefinably, and inextricably goes down.

  9. You would think things like hygiene would be common sense. How could you think it's a good idea to wash your ass with the same sponge as someone else

  10. I'll bet living in Rome was alot like living in New York in the seventies. Corruption, violence, danger everywhere but there was also great shopping, great food, art, clubs and alot of celebrities. There was a pulse. A life. Young, beautiful people everywhere and lots of drugs. I'll bet New Orleans was alot like ancient Rome too or at least was until it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the police arresting everyone they could get their hands on and ruining the tourist industry. Out of control policing got so bad I moved away.

  11. Um hello we still use communal sp0nges just saying and it's not weird either

    I keep getting rashes tho…but I don't think its related.

  12. COMMUNAL BATHROOM SPONGES–WHILE SITTING NEXT TO ONE ANOTHER?? I will never complain about any modern bathroom again.

  13. Actually, recent discoveries have proven that the sponge on a stick might have been used for cleaning the toilets, not as a communal bum wiper. I don’t think even the romans would share a bum wiper. Lol

  14. On the grand scheme of things how unhygienic you think a communal butt-sponge was? I get we see that as nasty it's not like they used it as a toothbrush after wiping.

  15. A co-ed bath house now a day's, would be pretty awesome. Any idea why the toilets in the video, have 2 holes of the same size? Is it easier to get the community sponge under your ass to scrub clean? Those sponges couldn't have felt good rubbing against your goods.

  16. I only came back to this channel due to this guys voice. It's calming. And soothes me. This is coming from a guy with PTSD and gets triggered by a slight creek in the floor boards.

  17. "Poorly built" was just used to describe very large straight sided domestic apartment buildings which once torn down wouldn't be matched in artitecture until the 1700s. Or the late 1800s if you consider the indoor plumbing.

  18. Rich history, beautiful meals………. lots of sacrifices, alot of deities to worship, war, plagues…… I could go on but someone will find more positive than negative aspects of living in ancient Rome.

  19. Vestal virgins served 20 years not 30; after which they received a pension and were allowed marriage (which most didn't)

  20. The sponge was a cleaner for the toilet, so you'd not be presented with the previous persons dirt. They used other materials for cleaning their backsides. Communal sponges would spread disease very rapidly.

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