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Living in Luxury in Ancient Rome

Life of Luxury

Life of Luxury

Ancient Roman Life was Fabulous for the Rich

How satisfying it must have been to live in Ancient Rome in the first few centuries of our era. But only if you were rich! For a rich Roman was fabulously wealthy, as is to be expected in an imperialist society based on slavery.

Sumptuous homes, imported fabrics, great works of art, excellent entertainment, the finest of food imported from all over the Empire and that very essence of wealth - time.on your hands.

Some of the many luxuries enjoyed by well-to-do Ancient Romans were theatre-going, gym workouts and delicious dining in beautiful surroundings. People haven't changed in a couple of thousand years.

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Born into the purple

Clothes were as important a part of ancient Roman daily life as they are for the people of Rome today

Ancient Roman clothing was a symbol of status and power and no other colour more clearly represented prestige than purple. Only the most expensive dyes were used to produce purple and so it became synonymous with wealth and power.

The dyes used for multicoloured tunics were made out of purple shellfish (with colours ranging from deep orange to a black purple) and was said to have left a faint odour that made the wearer "smell of money".

The purple dye from Murex

The purple dye from Murex

The Power of Purple

It took some 12,000 Murex shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure purple dye. Legend tells us that Hercules discovered the dye when his dog munched on some snails along the Levantine coast and ended up with a purple mouth.

Most of the clothing fabric was of wool, with some linen imported from Egypt and, later in the Empire, silks or "serica" imported from far-off China. A convincing Wild silk was woven on the Greek Island of Cos. These were extremely light, transparent fabrics in gorgeous hues.

You would have to be fabulously rich to wear these clothes!

The Women's World

The Culture of Beauty

Elegance, finery, and beautiful clothes are women's badges, in these they find joy and take pride, this is the women's world. (Livy)

Hairstyles, jewellery, cosmetics, skin-care and clothing were of great interest to Roman women. There's nothing unusual in trying to look your best, but the matrons of Rome spent inordinant amounts of time on self pampering.

Portraits of Ancient Roman Women

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Ancient Roman Cosmetics - From the History Channel

Ancient Roman style Jewellery

The Ancient Romans understood the allure of lovely jewellery

Roman Remains in Bath

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The Healing Springs at Aquae Sulis


Minerva, the "Goddess of a thousand works", was worshipped throughout Italy. As Minerva Medica, she was the Goddess of Medicine while in the city of Rome itself, she was honoured as the Goddess of War.

Minerva's worship was also taken out to the empire - in Britain, she was said to be Sulis, the local Goddess of Wisdom. She was the patron of the healing springs at Bath.

Bathing was a serious matter

Bathing was a serious matter

The Serious Matter of Bathing

Taking a bath was a serious matter. First, there was the cold bath (the frigidarium), then the warm bath (the tepidarium) and the hot bath (the caldarium). One of the public baths at Pompeii contains two warm baths, two hot baths, a large exercise area and a plunge pool.

A Roman would spend time in each one during a session at the baths before moving on to the exercise area (the palaestra), the swimming pool and the gymnasium.

Rich Romans. naturally, would have private baths installed behind the high walls of their homes, but a trip to the public baths, accompanied by slaves toting oils, unguents, hair rinses, mouth wash and skin creams was a social event. Friends would meet up for gossip and a great deal of networking was carried out in the relaxed atmosphere

Ancient Romans loved Colour

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Romans loved colour and used it extensively in their homes and on themselves.

We're used to thinking of Ancient Rome in terms of white - like the senator's togas and classical statues, but both statues and buildings were painted in bright colours. As colourful as the clothes, apart from the senatorial uniform.

A Day at the Races

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Polydorus, the Popular Charioteer

Polydorus, a chariot driver from the Reds, and his lead horse, Compressor, are immortalised on a tile mosaic as if they were Heroes of the State.

Chariot racing was the most popular sport in Rome, and the best drivers (agitatores) from the teams of Red, Blue, Green and White enjoyed the same adulation that celebrity film stars receive today.

The upper classes had the best seats in the Circus Maximus (the Big Oval) where they could cheer on their favourites and, while nibbling on dried figs and imported dates, could place discreet private bets on the outcome of the races.

After a long and tiring day of betting and eating, the upper crust would be carried home in canopied litters to discuss, over dinner in the garden, the race results and to philosophise on the rewards and hazards of the race-course as a metaphor for life.

Life in Ancient Rome - A Virtual Tour

The Reality of Rome - virtually speaking.

A lovely tour through the ancient city

How about you?

© 2009 Susanna Duffy

Leave a message in the scroll

GrammieOlivia on March 04, 2014:

The caveat here is that I would have to be wealthy, knowing myself, I'd be a slave somewhere doing the toiling........

Richard from Surrey, United Kingdom on June 20, 2013:

Living in luxury during any age has got to be a plus ;) It would be great to be able to time travel back for a few weeks just to experience it first hand, though.

Marika from Cyprus on June 20, 2013:

Sometimes I wish I lived in Ancient Rome, but I'd have to be rich to really enjoy it there. And yep, I would have done all the things you mentioned in your poll!

anonymous on December 02, 2012:

Didn't they also attend gladiator training and the games itself? Being an ancient Roman woman would be a life of luxury and divinity. Even though it was a self-centered lifestyle, no one could just ignore the temptation of such fine living. Great information, I especially love the makeup video and the Minerva in Silver part.

In the shows Spartacus and Rome, with the city and the wealthy, it's like candy for me. It's all so beautiful and the clothing looks incredible!

WebMarketingPro on September 09, 2012:

Gosh, I just voted and missed the "all of the above" option. Can I change my vote?

Great lens! Thanks!

Shadrosky on August 07, 2012:

Those Romans had it made..

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 01, 2012:

Am just reading Iggulden's Emperor series and ancient Roman life is fascinating. It's luxurious and pathetic at the same time. Reminds me of the lifestyle of some very rich people in some parts of the world. I would have enjoyed this, too.

johnny6toes on June 23, 2012:

Excellent read. I have always fantasized about living a life of importance for a day as part of any notable ancient civilization, Rome included.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on May 22, 2012:

It would have been oh so wonderful to be affluent in ancient Rome (being of the lower slave class though would definitely have been not quite as much fun). You have certainly taught me a great deal, now I know where the saying to smell like money has come from, and also why purple is often considered the color of royalty. You truly do have a wealth of knowledge in your lenses.

Susanna Duffy (author) from Melbourne Australia on January 29, 2012:

@Science-Fiction-Fan: more likely plastered

Science-Fiction-Fan on January 29, 2012:

@anonymous: plaster board?

anonymous on January 29, 2012:

hi i am so board

WriterJanis2 on January 21, 2012:

It would so fun to live that life for a day.

anonymous on September 09, 2011:

Certainly an opulent lifestyle! Envious perhaps!? :)

CanAnybodySing on August 22, 2011:

Oh how the times have changed... ;)

Srena44 on August 03, 2011:

great lens

Valdacious on July 09, 2011:

Really interesting lens! Thanks!

CruiseReady from East Central Florida on July 04, 2011:

This is quite fascinating. I think i would have loved the baths... wonder if women had the same priveledgtes as men with regard to those?

anonymous on June 23, 2011:

Somewhere i read that The average Roman family consisted of father, mother, children,married sons, their family, and slaves. If you didn't get married by the age of 15-16, you were punished.

http://www.prontohotel.com/ita/rome/

Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on April 01, 2011:

I love reading about the Romans and this is no exception. What a life rich Romans had although it could be dangerous too - all that intrigue and plotting. I love the way you make them more real with the details of their lives. Blessed by an April Fools Day travelling Angel.

Indigo Janson from UK on March 30, 2011:

What a life... they really do seem to have invented la dolce vita. I listened to the Roman music while viewing this, which added to the atmosphere. Very interesting and blessed by a time-travelling History angel.

MisTikkal on February 25, 2011:

Whoo hoo pass me my silks but only after that luxury bath and massage thanks :)

Sent the poll onto FB

SandyPeaks on February 07, 2011:

Thoroughly enjoyed this lens, thank you! Blessed by a SquidAngel.

Vicki Green from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA on January 20, 2011:

Fascinating look into the life of the wealthy in ancient Rome - as you said in the beginning- times haven't changed that much.

scar4 on January 17, 2011:

So precious to see the luxury of ancient Rome. Then a sentence hit my head" Everything happens in haste just like floating clouds", leave it here.

anonymous on January 12, 2011:

We are so lucky that we can still see some of "ANcient Rome" today, it is a city I would love to visit. However, I do actually live very close to an Ancient Roman city where evidence of their occupation is still turned up on a regualr basis.

A fascinating lens Susanna :)

glenanail on January 09, 2011:

haha im on a roll i think i will read all of your lenses im have a kick for the roman times

polly72 lm on December 31, 2010:

Ah to be rich with luxury the romanic way

anonymous on December 20, 2010:

Who would pass up being carried home in a litter? Wonderful coverage of a fascinating time and people!

ICanCook on December 15, 2010:

My favorite part of living in Ancient Rome would be to have people bath and dress me.

BarbaraCasey on December 12, 2010:

Just had to add this link to my Latin Words and Sayings lens. Your ancient Rome lenses are so cool.

jolielaide75 on November 19, 2010:

Great lens! Ancient Roman living was decadent and intriguing. Thanks for shedding light on it!

anonymous on October 25, 2010:

Stunning lens on ancient Roman luxury, I wonder if any of us were among the ancient Romans enjoying the wealth and power and how much it will take to recreate the grandeur today.

LilliputStation on October 04, 2010:

Another great lens! I'm lensrolling you on my Ancient History Lessons page. Thanks for making life easier for homeschooling moms.

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on September 16, 2010:

I find this time period fascinating. I learned a little bit of Roman history when I was Israel, particularly when I was standing on top of Masada, looking down at the still-visible outlines of the old Roman camps. But that was hardly representative of the lifestyle you describe here. If I could travel back in time (temporarily that is) and be invisible too, this is one period I'd choose to see.

whatsreal12 on September 14, 2010:

Who knew? You've given me an education... thank you!

pkmcr from Cheshire UK on September 11, 2010:

I have no idea how I have managed to miss this lens which is amazing about a city and culture that I adore! Blessed by a passing Squid Angel :-)

Emily Tack from USA on July 12, 2010:

What a beautiful Lens! However, we wouldn't have you here, if you lived in ancient Rome! All of the marvelous things you have written - would not have existed. We'd rather have you here...

jolou on May 31, 2010:

That was such an interesting era. Great job on your lens.

Ellen Brundige from California on May 12, 2010:

I really need to make some new chitons. Though my garb is hopelessly anachronistic; I tend to wear more Greek than Roman, carry an Etruscan lyre, and then I wear combat boots! (I found a shoemaker who makes caligae).

(One of my early, lousy attempts at peplos over chiton:

http://sepdet.istad.org/album/purplegarb.JPG)

justholidays on May 12, 2010:

What a trip! And I am impressed by the quality of those portraits of roman women!

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on May 11, 2010:

A fascinating glimpse into the lives of wealthy Romans.

Addy Bell on May 11, 2010:

The music is really cool! When I went looking for ancient Roman music a few years ago, I couldn't find any. I'm so glad somebody's got it up on the Web.

anonymous on May 06, 2010:

You would have to be very rich of course - what a life!

natnickeep lm on November 30, 2009:

Very interesting lens! I loved it. A bit of history on beauty and ancient Rome at the same time. Nice work!!

CoolFoto on November 22, 2009:

I've been to Rome and stood in the Coliseum. It was a very moving experience after studying ancient Rome in school.

Ruth Coffee from Zionsville, Indiana on November 01, 2009:

I guess it wasn't that much different than today. I've been to Rome, love the history. I don't know that there is a period of history I would actually want to live in, but wow, to be able to time travel and spend just a bit of time here and there would be fantastic. Guess this lens is the virtual equivalent!

partyjulie on October 27, 2009:

What an amazing lens!!! So beautiful and interesting!!! 5*!

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on October 27, 2009:

This is a fascinating topic, even to someone like me who isn't a huge history buff. I really enjoyed this ... although I don't know that I'd have been too happy living in ancient Rome; I don't think women did much hiking or backpacking then. Did they? It would have been a drag in a skirt.

justholidays on October 27, 2009:

Indeed, this is a great lens! I'm fond of history so, your lens can only please to me! Please tell us more about living in the ancient Rome as a wealthy person :D

Thanks,

Dom.

norma-holt on October 26, 2009:

Lovely pictures and great information. It must have been a hard life for them in those day haha.

Poor slaves though. 5* and fav

Light-in-me on October 26, 2009:

Very interesting, I love Ancient Rome, I like this idea, kind of like lifestyles of the rich and famous. Ancient lifestyles of the rich and famous sounds like a great niche topic.

Take care,

Robin

Dianne Loomos on October 25, 2009:

Ancient Rome is quite interesting. Thanks for the peek into the lives of the ancient rich and famous! Blessed!