Roman Ball Games

Roman Life (Quiz)

Daily Life

The Roman Virtues

Roman Life

The Household

Romans sought to expand their family by marriage, divorce, adoption, and re-marriage. Ex-in-laws were important and children weren't lost through divorce. Bonds of love between the generations were strong. Romans needed large families obligated to support their political ambitions. Fertile wives were divorced and remarried to form alliances for political expedience -- sometimes while pregnant. Clients also augmented the support network. The patron, patronus, from which comes the Italian padrino, godfather, protected his clients if they got in trouble with the law, but expected their full, visible support on public occasions and loyalty on others. In addition to wives and children, the family unit, familia, included household slaves. It wasn't just grandma and grandpa living upstairs, but great-grandfather ruling the roost, along with the subordinate uncles, first and second cousins. This may have been more the ideal than the practice, but as long as that pater familias was alive, no Roman could do business in his own name unless the progenitor had emancipated him.


Roman shops were mostly booths opening directly on to the street. sRight: a cutler at his workshop. One man holds an iron bar and works the bellows for the fire at the back, while another hammers on an anvil. Various tools, including pincers, hang above. Below: a butcher at work on a pig's head. Behind him hang another pig's head, a ham, pigs' udders, a side of bacon and a lung. And someone with small respect for the dead has carved, ungrammatically, "To Marcius always drunk."


More small watercourses than are in use today served to transport merchandise in the Roman Empire. In the relief below a small barge carrying two barrels of wine is being pulled along a stream in Gaul. Two men [one not shown] tug at the ropes (there must have been three originally) and another steers with an oar. Like sailors, they sang shanties to keep the rhythm and lighten their task.


Bread was still in the oven of Modestus, baker of Pompeii, when it was excavated after nearly 2000 years.


Home and Beauty

To the Romans the family was a strong unit. The charming relief (left) shows a family meal, the wife sitting in a chair (as the custom was), her youngest child on her knee, and tfhe husband reclining. The older children stand nearby. Below: the cult of beauty. A wealthy lady is seated in a round-backed wicker chair with her feet on a footstool. She is not in a beauty-parlour, for none existed, but at home. Her four neat slave-girls are busy around her: one holds a perfume flask, a second poses a mirror, a third waits with a small pitcher, and arranging her hair is the ornatrix-- an important member of the slave household who also saw to the rouge, lipstick and eye-shadow.


Three hair styles from imperial Rome — mid first century AD, later hfirst century AD, and 2nd century. Fashions changed so quickly that one sculptor made a portrait head with detachable scalp, so that he could keep the hairstyle always up to date.


Pictures and text (Shops and Home and Beauty) are from
"The Birth of Western Civilization" ed. Michael Grant

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