Ancient Roman Life

Ancient Rome was a splendid city with magnificent structures, but it also had slum areas.  Wealthy Romans were the privileged citizens and they had large beautiful private houses, mostly situated in the hills outside Rome, away from the noise and the smell.  During hot weather, many Romans would take their mat or bed up on to their flat roof and sleep out there.  Their homes were decorated with mosaics and they had window panes of glass and many heated their homes with hypocaust systems and they also had water piped in.  Wealthy Romans enjoyed a rather extravagant lifestyle with luxurious furnishings.  They were surrounded by servants and slaves, who catered to their every desire.  They often held gluttonous dinner parties which would last for several hours and they served their guests scrumptious food at these great banquet affairs.  Romans did not use clay for their beverages, all of their pitchers and drinking cups were made from glass.

The poorer Romans lived in cramped quarters in tall tenement apartment buildings, their walls were cracked and their roofs often caved in.  They would sweat all day working in their menial jobs as servants.  They were packed into shabby, dirty, little rooms that were unsanitary and susceptible to fire.  They were not allowed to cook in these houses, so they had to go out to buy hot food from shops.  It was not an uncommon sight to see a newborn baby abandoned in the streets, because its former parents were hoping that someone else would take their baby in as a servant or slave.  The poor greatly outnumber the wealthy and when they were not working, they enjoyed being entertained by seeing chariot races or gladiators fighting, which helped them to forget their poverty.

Like everywhere else, men were always the head of the household, although their wives did do most of the work around the home.  Men made all of the decisions, concerning the fate of their children, including who they would be allowed to marry.  Each male citizen had to register for the census and declare his family, wife, children, slaves and riches.  If a Roman citizen failed to register, his possessions would be confiscated and he would be sold into slavery.  Family structure was important to the Romans and they all seemed to have a member who they called godfather.  This godfather protected family members if they got into trouble with the law, but in return he expected their full support and loyalty on all issues.

Rich and poor Romans all went to the baths after work each day.  They went there to wash, socialize and exercise.  This practice of bathing made the citizens of Rome feel superior to the rest of the world, as bathing made them feel Roman.  Most Romans used public lavatories, the Roman rivers were all polluted, no one swam in them or drank from them, but they were used for transport.  The streets of Rome were washed every day and there was a big sewer system.  The Romans felt that dirt brought disease and they stressed the importance of cleanliness.  Aqueducts brought clean water to public fountains, which were everywhere in the city, so no one ever went thirsty.

Merchants filled a large rectangular space in the streets of Rome that they called the Forum, where they could sell their goods at a much higher price than they could get in rural areas outside of Rome.  The Romans ate bread and fruit for breakfast and they usually had fish, cold meat, bread and vegetables for lunch.  Breakfast and lunch were usually eaten while standing up, but the Romans always ate dinner sitting on chairs, or reclining on their sides on couches.  The main meal was eaten in the evening and it consisted of meat, vegetable, egg and fruit, which they drink wine with.  The Romans also enjoyed eating dessert, which were usually cakes, cheese, dates, figs, grapes, honey, pudding or nuts.

The Romans worshiped many gods and the most important was Jupiter.  They had a god or goddess for almost anything imaginable and every household has its own personal spirits that protected it.  They made offerings of wine and food to their gods and there were many Roman holidays.  Every Roman village had its own local god, which in turn had its own annual festival that was celebrated with eating, singing, and dancing that lasted well into the night.  As Rome conquered other people, they incorporated their gods into the Roman culture and they built new temples to worship them.

Many Romans knew how to read and write as education was very important to them.  Most boys were taught by their fathers, while girls learned from their mothers.  In the formal schools attended by rich people, discipline was very strict and teachers could beat students with a cane if they were caught not paying attention.  Boys learned how to be warriors, or how to manage a farm or a business.  Girls were educated the same as boys in early childhood, but boys went on to learn more advanced subjects, while girls may have read literature or learned how to play a lyre, or dance and sing.  Since school was not free, the poor did not receive a formal education.

The Romans were obsessed with sex.  Sex was a way of life for them, it was just like eating and sleeping, so they did not get embarrassed about it and it was not always done in private or performed in seclusion.  They were always talking about how many times a day they had sex and what positions they did it in.  No aspect of Roman life existed without having thoughts of intercourse.  This sex obsession defined their lives, most of their thoughts revolved around sex which was accepted and encouraged.  Sex was not something that they hid or that they were ashamed of and most Romans felt that if it moved, then they should have sex with it.

Naked statues were prominently displayed everywhere.  Graffiti was scribbled on many of the walls, and Rome was completely surrounded by penises.  There were images of penises on every available surface and you could not go anywhere without seeing an erect penis.  Penises were displayed proudly, they appeared in gardens on sculptures, jewelry, wind chimes, breads, cookies, and cakes.  The phallus was not considered to be obscene or indecent, it was a symbol of fertility and prosperity that offered protection against evil spirits and it was used as good-luck charms.  Penises were often drawn on signs pointing the direction where you should go.  Penises were thought to protect against the Evil Eye, which sort of made sense as who would want to be poked in the eye with a penis.

Roman prostitutes were restricted to the suburban areas.  The brothels were dark, cramped and dirty.  They would post a list that described their available services for their customers.  Most clients didn’t even take their shoes off, as they were done in a few minutes.  Most sex acts would cost the same price as a glass of wine.  In Rome prostitutes were widely accepted and the fee was low because politicians wanted every Roman to enjoy the benefits.

Written for Linda G Hill Life in progress January 30, 2018 #JusJoJan Daily Prompt is Scrumptious by Judy at Judy E Martin, author, poet and lover of life.

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