Ancient Roman Daily Life

As with many cultures from the past, the way a person in Ancient Rome spent their days depended a lot on their social standing (how rich/poor they were) and on whether they were male or female.

Wealthy Romans (patricians) would have servants and slaves to carry out the day’s work for them, and so had a great deal more free time than poorer Romans (plebeians).

Patricians, in general, spent their days socializing and relaxing. Plebeians spent most of their day working.

Patricians lived expensive lifestyles. They owned beautiful houses called villas, with expensive furniture and an indoor garden in the center of their home called an atrium.

Because patricians were surrounded by servants and slaves to fulfil their every need, this left them with a lot of time in the day for relaxation.

Many spent this time eating; it was common for the wealthiest patricians to hold daily dinner parties, and for these parties to last several hours at a time.

When they weren’t eating, patricians would attend fights in the colosseums of Rome, or go to see dramas/plays in their local theatre.

However, the plebeians of Rome could hardly dream of such a life! Plebeians would spend their day working, from sunrise to sunset and maybe even longer – as servants to patricians or farming their own land, plebeians spent their days working with little leisure time for themselves.

While men usually worked outside the home as laborers/builders etc., women and girls worked as domestic servants (servants in the home) or as caretakers to small children.

Although both boys and girls were allowed to attend school as children, girls had to stop attending after a few years to begin their training to work in the home.

After work or school, Roman men and boys would go to the local baths. However, this was not only to wash themselves; it was just as much for a chance to chat with their friends!

Roman girls and women would return home after their day’s work.

There, they would handle whatever chores had to be taken care of for the day, like cleaning or cooking, and take a small break before their fathers, brothers or husbands returned home.

The houses of plebeians were nowhere near as nice as the villas of the patricians. They were shabby and small, and at great risk from fire or other structural damage.

What would be sold as a one-person flat nowadays would be the same size as a house for a dozen plebeians at the time of the Roman Empire!

On their few days off, the poor of Rome would enjoy themselves with the “common entertainment” of the time; chariot races, gladiator fights, or street-side dramas were just some of the ways plebeians entertained themselves.

Some plebeians would read or paint for pleasure, too, if they could afford the materials for either activity. Though their leisure time was limited, it was precious to them, and they made the best use of it that they could.

However, one thing that the plebeians and patricians had in common was the shared importance they placed on religion.

Although poor families did not visit temples that often, most had shrines in their home dedicated to specific gods and goddesses, and time was made for prayer every single day.

The prayers said before and after dinner were roughly the same for patricians and plebeians, too. Whether they were rich or poor, the Roman people’s shared religious beliefs united them, and plebeians had access to the same temples and other places of worship as patricians.

Facts about Ancient Roman Daily Life:

  • The rich people of Rome were called patricians.
  • The poor were called plebeians.
  • Patricians would have a lot more leisure time than plebeians because they could afford servants to do their work for them.
  • Because of this, most patricians held daily dinner parties to kill time.
  • Plebeians would spend nearly their entire day working: men outside the home and women inside it.
  • After their day’s work, men would go to the baths to socialize, while women would return home.
  • Children would attend school, though girls only attended for a few years before leaving to learn domestic trades.
  • In their free time, plebeians would go to the theatre, chariot races, or watch gladiators fight.
  • One thing that the patricians and plebeians had in common when it came to how they spent their days was their religious practice. Both classes made time to pray daily, and attended their local temples as often as they could.

QUESTIONS:

  • What were the rich and poor of Ancient Rome called?
    – Rich = patricians, poor = plebeians
  • Why did the rich people of Rome have so much free time? What did they do with it?
    – Because they had servants to handle their daily chores for them, their free time began the moment their work day ended. They often hosted daily dinner parties.
  • Where would men go every day after work?
    – The baths.
  • What did the poor do in their free time?
    – Went to the theatre, watched gladiator fights, went to chariot racing.
  • What is one thing that the rich and poor had in common?
    – Their religious beliefs and practice.