Where did people in Ancient Rome live?

Houses in Rome varied considerably in size and comfort levels, Dr Miles Russell explains...

Ancient Roman mosaic depicting a villa. (DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini/Getty)
Mosaic depicting a villa on the seashore, 3rd century AD. From Carthage, Tunisia. (DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini/Getty Images)

Most wealthy Romans were able to afford both a town house (domus) and an out of town rural retreat (villa). The best town houses possessed private spaces for family use, grouped around and facing an internal courtyard or garden. They also featured public rooms for the receiving of business visitors, clients and official guests.

The more well-to-do possessed dining rooms for winter and summer use,  featuring brightly coloured wall plaster often depicting scenes from Roman mythology. Their homes boasted multiple bedrooms, separate kitchens, underfloor heating and decorative mosaics.

The less well off city dwellers lived simply in either rooms above their shop or place of employment, or rented flats in crowded and less well-built apartment blocks of varying design and scale – sometimes seven or eight storeys high. Slaves were usually accommodated within discrete areas of wealthy family homes.

Dr Miles Russell is a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology, with more than 25 years experience of archaeological fieldwork and publication.

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