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.


The SATURNALIA was the festival of Saturn, to whom the inhabitants of Latium attributed the introduction of agriculture and the arts of civilized life. It was celebrated near the end of December, corresponding to our Christmas holidays, and under the Empire lasted seven days. During its continuance no public business was transacted, the law courts were closed, the schools had a holiday, and slaves were relieved from all ordinary toil. All classes devoted themselves to pleasure, and presents were interchanged among friends.

The LUPERCALIA; a festival in honor of Lupercus, the god of fertility, was celebrated on the 15th of February. It was one of the most ancient festivals, and was held in the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were said to have been nursed by the she wolf (lupa). The priests of Lupercus were called LUPERCI. They formed a collegium, but their tenure of office is not known. On the day of the festival these priests met at the Lupercal, offered sacrifice of goats, and took a meal, with plenty of wine. They then cut up the skins of the goats which they had sacrificed. With some of these they covered parts of their bodies, and with others, they made thongs, and, holding them in their hands, ran through the streets of Rome, striking with them all whom they met, especially women, as it was believed this would render them fruitful.

The QUIRINALIA was celebrated on the 17th of February, when Quirínus (Romulus) was said to have been carried up to heaven.

Gladiators were men who fought with swords in the amphitheatre and other places, for the amusement of the people. These shows were first exhibited at Rome in 264 B. c., and were confined to public funerals; but afterwards gladiators were to be seen at the funerals of most men of rank. Under the Empire the passion for this kind of amusement increased to such an extent, that gladiators were kept and trained in schools (ludi) and their trainers were called Lanistae. The person who gave an exhibition was called an EDITOR. He published ( edere), some time before the show, a list of the combatants. In the show the fights began with wooden swords, but at the sound of the trumpet these were exchanged for steel weapons. When a combatant was wounded, if the spectators wished him spared, they held their thumbs down, but turned them up if they wanted him killed. Gladiators who had served a long time, were often discharged and presented with a wooden sword (rudis), Hence they were called rudiarii.


The AMPHITHEATRE was a place for the exhibition of gladiatorial shows, combats of wild beasts, and naval engagements. Its shape was that of an ellipse, surrounded by seats for the spectators. The word Amphitheatre was first applied to a wooden building erected by Caesar. Augustus built one of stone in the Campus Martius, but the most celebrated amphitheatre was built by Vespasian and Titus, and dedicated in 80 A. D. It is still standing, though partly in ruins, covers nearly six acres, and could seat ninety thousand people. The name given to it to-day is the COLOSSÉUM. The open space in the centre was called the ARÉNA, and was surrounded by a wall about fifteen feet high to protect the spectators from the wild beasts. Before the time of Caesar the shows were held in the Forum and in the Circus.

The THEATRE was never as popular with the Romans as with the Greeks. The plays of Plautus and Terence were acted on temporary wooden stages. The first stone theatre was built by Pompey in 55 B. C., near the Campus Martius. It was a fine building, with a seating capacity of forty thousand. The seats were arranged in a semicircle, as at present, the orchestra being reserved for the Senators and other distinguished persons. Then came fourteen rows of seats for the Equites, and behind these sat the ordinary crowd.

The CIRCUS MAXIMUS. between the Palatine and Aventine Hills, was built for chariot races, boxing, and gymnastic contests. It was an immense structure, with galleries three stories high, and a canal called Eurípus, and it accommodated one hundred thousand spectators. In the centre Caesar erected an obelisk one hundred and thirty-two feet high, brought from Egypt. The seats were arranged as in the theatre. Six kinds of games were celebrated: 1st, chariot racing; 2d, a sham-fight between young men on horseback; 3d, a sham-fight between infantry and cavalry; 4th, athletic sports of all kinds; 5th, fights with wild beasts, such as lions, boars, etc.; 6th, sea fights. Water was let into the canal to float ships. The combatants were captives, or criminals condemned to death, who fought until one party was killed, unless saved by the kindness of the Emperor.


The Imperator, when he returned from a successful campaign, was sometimes allowed to enjoy a triumphal procession, provided he had been Dictator, Consul, or Praetor. No one desiring a triumph ever entered the city until the Senate decided whether or not he deserved one. When a favorable decision was reached, the temples were all thrown open, garlands of flowers decorated every shrine and image, and incense smoked on every altar. The Imperator ascended the triumphal car and entered a city gate, where he was met by the whole body of the Senate, headed by the magistrates.

The procession then proceeded in the following order: -

1. The Senate, headed by the magistrates. 2. A troop of trumpeters. 3. Carts laden with spoils, often very costly and numerous. 4. A body of flute-players. 5. White bulls and oxen for sacrifice. 6. Elephants and rare animals from the conquered countries. 7. The arms and insignia of the leaders of the conquered enemy. 8. The leaders themselves, with their relatives and other captives. 9. The lictors of the Imperator in single file, their fasces wreathed with laurel. 10. The Imperator himself, in a circular chariot drawn by four horses. He was attired in a gold-embroidered robe, and a flowered tunic; he held a laurel bough in his right hand, a sceptre in his left, and his brow was encircled with a laurel wreath. 11. The grown up sons and officers of the Imperator. 12. The whole body of infantry, with spears adorned with laurel.

The OVATION was a sort of smaller triumph. The commander entered the city on foot, or in later times on horseback. He was clothed in a purple-bordered robe. His head was crowned with laurel, and a sheep ( ovis) was sacrificed, instead of a bull as in the case of a triumph.


The Pomoerium was the sacred enclosure of the city, inside of which no person holding the Imperium was allowed to enter. It did not always run parallel to the city walls.


Every man in Rome had three names. The given name (praenomen ), as Lucius, Marcus, Gaius. The name of the gens (nomen), as Cornelius, Tullius, Julius. The name of the family (cognómen), as Scipio, Cicero, Caesar. To these names was sometimes added another, the agnomen, given for some exploit, or to show that the person was adopted from some other gens. Thus Scipio the elder was called AFRICÁNUS, and all his descendants had the right to the name. Africánus the younger was adopted from the Cornelian gens into the Aemilian gens; therefore he added to his other names AEMILIÁNUS.

The women were called only by the name of their gens. The daughter of Scipio was called, for example, CORNELIA, and to distinguish her from others of the Cornelian gens she was called Cornelia daughter of Scipio. If there were more than one daughter, to the name of the eldest was added prima (first), to that of the next, secunda (second), etc.


Intermarriage (connubium) between patricians and plebeians was forbidden previous to 445, and after that the offspring of such marriages took the rank of the father. After the parties had agreed, to marry, and the consent of the parents or persons in authority was given, the marriage contract was drawn up and signed by both parties. The wedding day was then fixed upon. This could not fall upon the Kalends, Nones, or Ides of any month, or upon any day in May or February. The bride was dressed in a long white robe, with a bridal veil, and shoes of a bright yellow color. She was conducted in the evening to her future husband's home by three boys, one of whom carried before her a torch, the other two supporting her by the arm. They were accompanied by friends of both parties. The groom received the bride at the door, which she entered with distaff and spindle in hand. The keys of the house were then delivered to her. The day ended with a feast given by the husband, after which the bride was conducted to the bridal couch, in the atrium, which was adorned with flowers. On the following day another feast was given by the husband, and the wife performed certain religious rites.

The position of the Roman woman after marriage was very different from that of the Greek. She presided over the whole household, educated her children, watched over and preserved the honor of the house, and shared the honors and respect shown to her husband.


When a Roman was at the point of death, his nearest relative present endeavored to catch the last breath with his mouth. The ring was removed from the dying person's hand, and as soon as he was dead his eyes and mouth were closed by the nearest relative, who called upon the deceased by name, exclaiming "Farewell!" The body was then washed, and anointed with oil and perfumes, by slaves or undertakers. A small coin was placed in the mouth of the body to pay the ferryman (Charon) in Hades, and the body was laid out on a couch in the vestibulum, with its feet toward the door. In early times all funerals were held at night; but in later times only the poor followed this custom, mainly because they could not afford display. The funeral, held the ninth day after the death, was headed by musicians playing mournful strains, and mourning women hired to lament and sing the funeral song. These were sometimes followed by players and buffoons, one of whom represented the character of the deceased, and imitated his words and actions. Then came the slaves whom the deceased had liberated, each wearing the cap of liberty. Before the body were carried the images of the dead and of his ancestors, and also the crown and military rewards which he had gained. The couch on which the body was carried was sometimes made of ivory, and covered with gold and purple. Following it were the relatives in mourning, often uttering loud lamentations, the women beating their breasts and tearing their hair.

The procession of the most illustrious dead passed through the Forum, and stopped before the Rostra, where a funeral oration was delivered. From here the body was carried to its place of burial, which must be outside the city. Bodies were sometimes cremated, and in the later times of the Republic this became quite common.


In early times the education of the Romans was confined to reading, writing, and arithmetic; but as they came in contact with the Greeks a taste for higher education was acquired. Greek slaves (paedagogi ) were employed in the wealthy families to watch over the children, and to teach them to converse in Greek.

A full course of instruction included the elementary branches mentioned above, and a careful study of the best Greek and Latin writers, besides a course in philosophy and rhetoric, under some well known professor abroad, usually at Athens or Rhodes.


The most common material on which books were written was the thin rind of the Egyptian papyrus tree. Besides the papyrus, parchment was often used. The paper or parchment was joined together so as to form one sheet, and was rolled on a staff, whence the name volume (from volvere, to roll).

Letter writing was very common among the educated. Letters were usually written with the stylus, an iron instrument like a pencil in size and shape, on thin slips of wood or ivory covered with wax, and folded together with the writing on the inside. The slips were tied together by a string, and the knot was sealed with wax and stamped with a signet ring. Letters were also written on parchment with ink. Special messengers were employed to carry letters, as there was no regular mail service. Roman letters differed from ours chiefly in the opening and close. The writer always began by sending "greeting" to the person addressed, and closed with a simple" farewell," without any signature. Thus "Cicero S. D. Pompeio" (S. D. = sends greeting) would be the usual opening of a letter from Cicero to Pompey.