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Life in the Roman Empire

People crossed a Roman street by stepping stones.People crossed a Roman street by stepping stones.Roman streets were laid out in a grid pattern around the forum, a central meeting square. The basilica, or town hall, and a large public temple overlooked the forum. Each town would have its own bathhouse, theatre, amphitheatre and circus (race circuit). There were also lots of shops, bars, restaurants and craft workshops. Farmers from the countryside brought their produce into the towns to sell at the market. Wealthy Romans lived in comfortable, spacious townhouses or countryside villas, but poor people lived in small and cramped apartments, called insulae.

Mosaic showing a patrician woman and her slaveMosaic showing a patrician woman and her slave

Patricians and plebeians

Roman citizens were divided into two groups. Those descended from noble families were called patricians. All other citizens were plebeians. Gradually a third class emerged, called equestrians (those with enough wealth to provide their own horse). These citizens formed a middle order between patricians and plebeians. 

The wealthiest Roman families lived in elegant townhouses, called domus, while others lived in apartment blocks, called insulae. Slaves could not be citizens.



The Romans did not have weekends, but they did have about 120 public holidays each year. Citizens would celebrate by going to the theatre or to a chariot race or gladiator fight.

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