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How Real Romans Lived

Pompeiian kitchen; Ancient form of spoons; Ancient knives; Pompeiian pots and pans.
Pompeiian kitchen; Ancient form of spoons; Ancient knives; Pompeiian pots and pans. (1883) © NYPL Digital Gallery

What You Want to Know

If you're anything like me, you wish you could learn all about the minutiae of daily life about exotic people. While paparazzi can pursue modern celebrities, it is harder to find out what ancient people, also exotic to us today, might have done. We're very limited in the information that's available, mostly because it was considered too mundane to put to papyrus. [See: Caveats.] Nonetheless, historians and archaeologists have done a fair amount of sleuthing and we can enjoy the fruits of their labors. Here are some articles I've written for this site based on the work of such helpful scholars.

Click on the headings for the articles.

What the Romans Ate

You might believe the Romans lived to eat or followed the motto eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die, but most couldn't eat like that -- ever, and even most rich Romans would have eaten more modestly. See Names and Times of the Roman Meals. For the popular concept of the vomitorium, see Roman Colosseum. Roman soldiers ate somewhat differently since they needed a bit more energy: Roman Military Diet. See more on Foods of the Classical World.

You may be aware that the Romans drank wine watered so that they could drink it all day. Read about the Favored Wines. Also see 40 Foods They Didn't Eat.

Roman Baths
Tunics, togas, etc., worn by women. © NYPL Digital Gallery

What the Romans Wore

Images of "Animal House" notwithstanding, a Roman Toga was not a bedsheet to be slobbered over, wrapped casually and comfortably around a carousing body. It was a formal garment that made many movements awkward. It was cumbersome enough to discourage its wearing, so the first Roman emperor, Augustus, as part of his encouraging a return to the old values, mandated that Romans wear it on certain ceremonial occasions.

Not all Romans wore togas. Most women's clothing resembled items in the Greek woman's wardrobe. Men and women may have worn underwear.

School Days

The Romans contributed a great deal to our educational system, so if the topic interests you, either because you're a teacher/parent or remember your own school days, you may find these details refreshing or old fashioned, since we've gone beyond corporal punishment at most schools. If you want to pursue the topic, here is a look at the Ancient Sources on Roman Education. For comparison, you may wish to read about the Spartans' Education.
Roman Baths
"Bathing in Rome was a communal activity. Public baths could include libraries and lecture halls. Baths would contain a dressing room, a frigidarium containing a cold-water pool and a warm room called a tepidarium. The caldarium had a hot water tub and the laconicum was a room which provided hot steam. The hypocast system was used to heat the baths." © NYPL Digital Gallery


You can't get much more intimate than a look at the bathing and hygiene procedures of the Romans, so here you go, complete with a picture of the banks of toilets.

If you want to know the connection between magic and hygiene, look for the curse tablets in this article on Bath Thieves.

Roman Terms Glossary

An A-Z dictionary of Roman terms. Learn significant words about Rome from the 7 hills, 12 tablets, and Ab Urbe Condita to ... well, not exactly z, but Rome's Gallic enemy Vercingetorix and the Vinalia festival. Also see: A to Z Condensed, an index to the basics on ancient history, and Roman Terms for Beginners, a short list of terms to know when reading Roman history and literature.

Real Romans

Here is an index of famous Romans by name. Should you want a chart of Roman Authors, Renowned Military Leaders, or the Consuls, they're here too. You may prefer to look up people on this Occupation Index. Also see: (In)Famous Roman Mothers and Fathers.


Ancient Rome in Pictures
The Roman Family
Did the Romans Believe Their Myths?
Decay as a Reason for the Fall of Rome


Dates of the Roman Emperors
Roman Roads
Roman Treaties


An Introduction to the Pronunciation of Latin
Vulgar Latin
The Romance Languages
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