The private houses of the Romans were poor affairs until after the conquest of the East, when money began to pour into the city. Many houses of immense size were then erected, adorned with columns, paintings, statues, and costly works of art. Some of these houses are said to have cost as much as two million dollars.

The principal parts of a Roman house were the Vestibulum, Ostium, Atrium, Alae, Tablínum, Fauces, and Peristylium. The VESTIBULUM was a court surrounded by the house on three sides, and open on the fourth to the street. The OSTIUM corresponded in general to our front hall. From it a door opened into the ATRIUM, which was a large room with an opening in the centre of its roof, through which the rain-water was carried into a cistern placed in the floor under the opening. To the right and left of the Atrium were side rooms called the ALAE, and the TABLÍNUM was a balcony attached to it. The passages from the Atrium to the interior of the house were called FAUCES. The PERISTYLIUM, towards which these passages ran, was an open court surrounded by columns, decorated with flowers and shrubs. It was somewhat larger than the Atrium.

The floors were covered with stone, marble, or mosaics. The walls were lined with marble slabs, or frescoed, while the ceilings were either bare, exposing the beams, or, in the finer houses, covered with ivory, gold, and frescoing.

The main rooms were lighted from above; the side rooms received their light from these, and not through windows looking into the street. The windows of rooms in upper stories were not supplied with glass until the time of the Empire. They were merely openings in the wall, covered with lattice-work. To heat a room, portable stoves were generally used, in which charcoal was burned. There were no chimneys, and the smoke passed out through the windows or the openings in the roofs.

The rooms of the wealthy were furnished with great splendor. The walls were frescoed with scenes from Greek mythology, landscapes, etc. In the vestibules were fine sculptures, costly marble walls, and doors ornamented with gold, silver, and rare shells. There were expensive rugs from the East, and, in fact, everything that could be obtained likely to add to the attractiveness of the room.

Candles were used in early times, but later the wealthy used lamps, which were made of terra-cotta or bronze. They were mostly oval, flat on the top, often with figures in relief. In them were one or more round holes to admit the wick. They either rested on tables, or were suspended by chains from the ceiling.


The meals were the JENTACULUM, PRANDIUM, and COENA. The first was our breakfast, though served at an early hour, sometimes as early as four o'clock. It consisted of bread, cheese, and dried fruits. The prandium was a lunch served about noon. The coena, or dinner, served between three and sunset, was usually of three courses. The first course consisted of stimulants, eggs, or lettuce and olives; the second, which was the main course, consisted of meats, fowl, or fish, with condiments; the third course was made up of fruits, nuts, sweetmeats, and cakes.

At elaborate dinners the guests assembled, each with his napkin and full dress of bright colors. The shoes were removed so as not to soil the couches. These couches usually were adapted for three guests, who reclined, resting the head on the left hand, with the elbow supported by pillows. The Romans took the food with their fingers. Dinner was served in a room called the TRICLINIUM. In Nero's "Golden House," the dining-room was constructed like a theatre, with shifting scenes to change with every course.


The Roman men usually wore two garments, the TUNICA and TOGA. The former was a short woollen under garment with short sleeves. To have a long tunic with long sleeves was considered a mark of effeminacy. The tunic was girded round the waist with a belt. The toga was peculiarly a Roman garment, and none but citizens were allowed to wear it. It was also the garment of peace, in distinction from the SAGUM, which was worn by soldiers. The toga was of white wool and was nearly semicircular, but being a cumbrous garment, it became customary in later times to wear it only on state occasions. The poor wore only the tunic, others wore, in place of the toga, the LACERNA, which was an open cloak, fastened to the right shoulder by a buckle. Boys, until about sixteen, wore a toga with a purple hem.

The women wore a TUNIC, STOLA, and PULLA. The stola was a loose garment, gathered in and girdled at the waist with a deep flounce extending to the feet. The pulla was a sort of shawl to throw over the whole figure, and to be worn out of doors. The ladies indulged their fancy for ornaments as freely as their purses would allow.

Foot-gear was mostly of two kinds, the CALCEUS and the SOLEAE. The former was much like our shoe, and was worn in the street. The latter were sandals, strapped to the bare foot, and worn in the house. The poor used wooden shoes.

Bathing was popular among the wealthy. Fine buildings were erected, with elegant decorations, and all conveniences for cold, warm, hot, and vapor baths. These bath-houses were very numerous, and were places of popular resort. Attached to many of them were rooms for exercise, with seats for spectators. The usual time for bathing was just before dinner. Upon leaving the bath, it was customary to anoint the body with oil.