U RBAN L IVING
Angela pp. 76-110, 157-178, 236-241.
Population of Rome
• 1 million inhabitants; 7sq. miles
• Steady growth of empire had changed the way the city looked
• Insula (pl insulae) the apartment-block
• Poorest had no fixed address
• Rome was walled and bounded by gardens; buildings had to go UP
• Between 2-7 storeys
• At first wooden; later concrete added for more solidity
• Within the same building different sized apartments available
• Best apartments on the ground floor: airy spacious
• Worst on the top floor: small, dark, hot in summer, cold in winter.
• By the 4th century CE: 44, 300 insulae in the city of Rome (all but a few residence lived in them).
Annoyances and Dangers of Urban Living
• Privacy in the Insula
• One or more families to a room in poor insulae
• Poor ventilation, flimsy walls, no cookstoves or private latrines
• Neighbors and noise
• Windows only covered by a cloth
• Traffic congestion, narrow streets, processions, crowds of people.
• Public toilet sponge on a stick
Dangers in The Insulae
• Collapse of the building itself
• Rich tended to site their house on hills
• Insulae built in valleys close to the tiber; more likely to collapse
• Poor workmanship, shoddy foundations, and poor materials.
• No cookstoves: braziers used instead for cooking and warmth.
• Most dangerous for those on upper floors (no fire escapes).
• Fires most often occurred in the dense areas of the city.
• Construction features of insulae: shoddy construction, party walls, narrow streets, high building (falling
• narrow streets had no street lighting.
• burglaries, brawls, muggings frequent.
• Vignette of street life
• Full chamberpots flung from the windows of insulae.
• Seriously deficient
• Sewers: noxious gases backups, flooding
• Vermin lived in the sewer system
• “Pike caught between two bridges’
• I.e., near the mouth of the Cloac