Ancient Roman Towns

The Ancient Romans are famous all over the world for their art and architecture, so it’s no wonder that their towns were also very well designed!

The Ancient Romans were excellent town-builders, and this is why many of the towns they built (like the city of Rome, which is the capital of Italy) are still around today.

The cities and towns of Ancient Italy were built and laid out in grids with crisscrossing streets. In between streets, town squares and open circles of stone were built to add variety to the town’s design.

There were carefully placed and constructed parks, temples, and fountains all over Ancient Roman cities to ensure that the town looked as pretty as possible.

The cities were usually built using wide streets laid at right-angles to one another. Every fifth street was a different size to help make the town look more unique.

If you’ve ever been in a town with a grid-based structure before, it’s likely that it was designed by the Ancient Romans!

The Roman Empire had towns all over the world (from southern Europe to as far as Norway and Finland) and you can see even traces of Roman design in towns in England like Lancaster, Manchester, and Worcester.

Ancient Romans towns had many public facilities available to the people who lived there, and there were many rules which described how a town should be run.

For starters, a town wasn’t considered “proper” unless the streets were paved (covered in stone), there was a reliable water supply, and there were public baths available.

Public baths (or bathhouses) were extremely popular in Ancient Rome. Even though, nowadays, bathing (or washing yourself) is considered a very private activity, in the days of Ancient Rome, it was often done with your friends or neighbors.

Bathhouses were a place where people could meet their friends and catch up after a long day’s work, and were treated sort of like swimming pools are nowadays.

Bathing was a very important part of Roman culture, which was unusual in comparison to other ancient civilizations, and this was reflected in how Ancient Roman towns were developed.

In many ways, a town without a bathhouse was a town without an economy!

The Romans also built their towns to be as safe as possible from enemy attack. Most Italian towns at the time were surrounded by walls to guard from enemy attack, with only one entryway to the inside.

These entryways were highly decorative (fancily designed) and were a good example of the skills of Roman architects at the time. The sidewalks were artistic, too.

Instead of boring, grey stone, the Roman Empire used colorful mosaic tiles to build more appealing pathways around their cities.

Another example of Roman architecture which was built to be eye-catching were the temples they built.

Every town built by the Roman Empire had some place of worship (like a temple, or a similar structure) but many built temples specifically for one god, if they felt that they needed one’s help above the others.

For example, port towns would usually build temples to Neptune (the god of the sea,) while harvest towns would build temples for the gods of the harvest (or Bacchus, the god of wine.) Larger cities would have temples for all the gods.

Because the Roman Empire focused a lot of energy on the development of the arts, there were theatres in most Roman towns (even the smallest ones) to celebrate this emphasis on drama.

The largest theatres were called amphitheaters, and would fit thousands of people who paid to watch plays and musicals. In the center of almost every Roman town, there was a town square with a large fountain.

There was also usually a place somewhere in the town filled with torches where offerings could be made to the gods, and where food could be burnt in their honor.

Facts about Ancient Roman Towns:

  • Ancient Roman towns were built in a grid pattern.
  • The streets were wide and built at right angles to one another.
  • Every fifth street was differently sized.
  • Sidewalks were built using mosaic tiles to add color.
  • Every town had a bathhouse, and most had many more.
  • Bathhouses were popular among young and old, and were divided into baths for men and women.
  • Most Roman towns had a theatre or two to show the empire’s dedication to the arts. The biggest theatres were called “amphitheaters.”
  • There was usually at least one temple in every Roman town. The bigger the city was, the more elaborate the temples were.

QUESTIONS:

  • What shape were most Roman towns built in?
    – A grid shape.
  • What was a bathhouse in Ancient Rome?
    – A public bathing/washing facility with lots of baths, where people could meet up and socialize while they cleaned themselves.
  • What was the name given to the biggest theatres built by the Romans?
    – Amphitheaters.
  • What kind of tiles were used to build sidewalks?
    – Mosaic tiles.
  • Why did some cities built by the Romans only have one temple?
    – Some towns prayed more to certain gods, and wanted to show this by having dedicated temples.