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Daily life

City and country
In the ancient world, a city was viewed as a place that fostered civilization by being "properly designed, ordered, and adorned." Augustus undertook a vast building program in Rome, supported public displays of art that expressed the new imperial ideology, and reorganized the city into neighbourhoods (vici) administered at the local level with police and firefighting services. A focus of Augustan monumental architecture was the Campus Martius, an open area outside the city center that in early times had been devoted to equestrian sports and physical training for youth. The Altar of Augustan Peace (Ara Pacis Augustae) was located there, as was an obelisk imported from Egypt that formed the pointer (gnomon) of a horologium. With its public gardens, the Campus became one of the most attractive places in the city to visit.
City planning and urban lifestyles had been influenced by the Greeks from an early period, and in the eastern Empire, Roman rule accelerated and shaped the local development of cities that already had a strong Hellenistic character. Cities such as Athens, Aphrodisias, Ephesus and Gerasa altered some aspects of city planning and architecture to conform to imperial ideals, while also expressing their individual identity and regional preeminence. In the areas of the western Empire inhabited by Celtic-speaking peoples, Rome encouraged the development of urban centres with stone temples, forums, monumental fountains, and amphitheatres, often on or near the sites of the preexisting walled settlements known as oppida. Urbanization in Roman Africa expanded on Greek and Punic cities along the coast.
Aquae Sulis in Bath, England: architectural features above the level of the pillar bases are a later reconstruction
The network of cities throughout the Empire (coloniae, municipia, civitates or in Greek terms poleis) was a primary cohesive force during the Pax Romana. Romans of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD were encouraged by imperial propaganda to "inculcate the habits of peacetime". As the classicist Clifford Ando has noted:
Most of the cultural appurtenances popularly associated with imperial culture—public cult and its games and civic banquets, competitions for artists, speakers, and athletes, as well as the funding of the great majority of public buildings and public display of art—were financed by private individuals, whose expenditures in this regard helped to justify their economic power and legal and provincial privileges.
Even the Christian polemicist Tertullian declared that the world of the late 2nd century was more orderly and well-cultivated than in earlier times: "Everywhere there are houses, everywhere people, everywhere the res publica, the commonwealth, everywhere life." The decline of cities and civic life in the 4th century, when the wealthy classes were unable or disinclined to support public works, was one sign of the Empire's imminent dissolution.
In the city of Rome, most people lived in multistory apartment buildings (insulae) that were often squalid firetraps. Public facilities—such as baths (thermae), toilets that were flushed with running water (latrinae), conveniently located basins or elaborate fountains (nymphea) delivering fresh water, and large-scale entertainments such as chariot races and gladiator combat—were aimed primarily at the common people who lived in the insulae. Similar facilities were constructed in cities throughout the Empire, and some of the best-preserved Roman structures are in Spain, southern France, and northern Africa.
The public baths served hygienic, social and cultural functions. Bathing was the focus of  socializing in the late afternoon before dinner. Roman baths were distinguished by a series of rooms that offered communal bathing in three temperatures, with varying amenities that might include an exercise and weight-training room, sauna, exfoliation spa (where oils were massaged into the skin and scraped from the body with a strigil), ball court, or outdoor swimming pool. Baths had hypocaust heating: the floors were suspended over hot-air channels that circulated warmth. Mixed nude bathing was not unusual in the early Empire, though some baths may have offered separate facilities or hours for men and women. Public baths were a part of urban culture throughout the provinces, but in the late 4th century, individual tubs began to replace communal bathing. Christians were advised to go to the baths for health and cleanliness, not pleasure, but to avoid the games (ludi), which were part of religious festivals they considered "pagan". Tertullian says that otherwise Christians not only availed themselves of the baths, but participated fully in commerce and society.
Rich families from Rome usually had two or more houses, a townhouse (domus, plural domūs) and at least one luxury home (villa) outside the city. The domus was a privately owned single-family house, and might be furnished with a private bath (balneum), but it was not a place to retreat from public life. Although some neighbourhoods of Rome show a higher concentration of well-to-do houses, the rich did not live in segregated enclaves. Their houses were meant to be visible and accessible. The atrium served as a reception hall in which the paterfamilias (head of household) met with clients every morning, from wealthy friends to poorer dependents who received charity. It was also a center of family religious rites, containing a shrine and the images of family ancestors. The houses were located on busy public roads, and ground-level spaces facing the street were often rented out as shops (tabernae). In addition to a kitchen garden— windowboxes might substitute in the insulae—townhouses typically enclosed a peristyle garden that brought a tract of nature, made orderly, within walls.
The villa by contrast was an escape from the bustle of the city, and in literature represents a lifestyle that balances the civilized pursuit of intellectual and artistic interests (otium) with an appreciation of nature and the agricultural cycle. Ideally a villa commanded a view or vista, carefully framed by the architectural design. It might be located on a working estate, or in a "resort town" situated on the seacoast, such as Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The programme of urban renewal under Augustus, and the growth of Rome's population to as many as 1 million people, was accompanied by a nostalgia for rural life expressed in the arts. Poetry praised the idealized lives of farmers and shepherds. The interiors of houses were often decorated with painted gardens, fountains, landscapes, vegetative ornament, and animals, especially birds and marine life, rendered accurately enough that modern scholars can sometimes identify them by species. The Augustan poet Horace gently satirized the dichotomy of urban and rural values in his fable of the city mouse and the country mouse, which has often been retold as a children's story.
On a more practical level, the central government took an active interest in supporting agriculture. Producing food was the top priority of land use. Larger farms (latifundia) achieved an economy of scale that sustained urban life and its more specialized division of labour. Small farmers benefited from the development of local markets in towns and trade centres. Agricultural techniques such as crop rotation and selective breeding were disseminated throughout the Empire, and new crops were introduced from one province to another, such as peas and cabbage to Britain.
Maintaining an affordable food supply to the city of Rome had become a major political issue in the late Republic, when the state began to provide a grain dole (annona) to citizens who registered for it. About 200,000–250,000 adult males in Rome received the dole, amounting to about 33 kg. per month, for a per annum total of about 100,000 tons of wheat primarily from Sicily, north Africa, and Egypt. The dole cost at least 15 percent of state revenues, but improved living conditions and family life among the lower classes, and subsidized the rich by allowing workers to spend more of their earnings on the wine and olive oil produced on the estates of the landowning class.
The grain dole also had symbolic value: it affirmed both the emperor's position as universal benefactor, and the right of all citizens to share in "the fruits of conquest". The annona, public facilities, and spectacular entertainments mitigated the otherwise dreary living conditions of lower-class Romans, and kept social unrest in check. The satirist Juvenal, however, saw "bread and circuses" (panem et circenses) as emblematic of the loss of republican political liberty:
The public has long since cast off its cares: the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things: bread and circuses.
Food and dining
Most apartments in Rome lacked kitchens, though a charcoal brazier could be used for rudimentary cookery. Prepared food was sold at pubs and bars, inns, and food stalls (tabernae, cauponae, popinae, thermopolia). Carryout and restaurant dining were for the lower classes; fine dining could be sought only at private dinner parties in well-to-do houses with a chef (archimagirus) and trained kitchen staff, or at banquets hosted by social clubs (collegia).
Most people would have consumed at least 70 percent of their  calories in the form of cereals and legumes. Puls (pottage) was considered the aboriginal food of the Romans. The basic grain pottage could be elaborated with chopped vegetables, bits of meat, cheese, or herbs to produce dishes similar to polenta or risotto.
An Ostian taberna for eating and drinking; the faded painting over the counter pictured eggs, olives, fruit and radishes
Urban populations and the military preferred to consume their grain in the form of bread. Mills and commercial ovens were usually combined in a bakery complex. By the reign of Aurelian, the state had begun to distribute the annona as a  ration of bread baked in state factories, and added olive oil, wine, and pork to the dole.
The importance of a good diet to health was recognized by medical writers such as Galen (2nd century AD), whose treatises included one On Barley Soup. Views on nutrition were influenced by schools of thought such as humoral theory.
Roman literature focuses on the dining habits of the upper classes, for whom the evening meal (cena) had important social functions. Guests were entertained in a finely decorated dining room (triclinium), often with a view of the peristyle garden. Diners lounged on couches, leaning on the left elbow. By the late Republic, if not earlier, women dined, reclined, and drank wine along with men.
The most famous description of a Roman meal is probably Trimalchio's dinner party in the Satyricon, a fictional extravaganza that bears little resemblance to reality even among the most wealthy. The poet Martial describes serving a more plausible dinner, beginning with the gustatio ("tasting" or "appetizer"), which was a composed salad of mallow leaves, lettuce, chopped leeks, mint, arugula, mackerel garnished with rue, sliced eggs, and marinated sow udder. The main course was succulent cuts of kid, beans, greens, a chicken, and leftover ham, followed by a dessert of fresh fruit and vintage wine. The Latin expression for a full-course dinner was ab ovo usque mala, "from the egg to the apples," equivalent to the English "from soup to nuts."
A book-length collection of Roman recipes is attributed to Apicius, a name for several figures in antiquity that became synonymous with "gourmet." Roman "foodies" indulged in wild game, fowl such as peacock and flamingo, large fish (mullet was especially prized), and shellfish. Luxury ingredients were brought by the fleet from the far reaches of empire, from the Parthian frontier to the Straits of Gibraltar.
Refined cuisine could be moralized as a sign of either civilized progress or decadent decline. The early Imperial historian Tacitus contrasted the indulgent luxuries of the Roman table in his day with the simplicity of the Germanic diet of fresh wild meat, foraged fruit, and cheese, unadulterated by imported seasonings and elaborate sauces. Most often, because of the importance of landowning in Roman culture, produce—cereals, legumes, vegetables, and fruit—was considered a more civilized form of food than meat. The Mediterranean staples of bread, wine, and oil were sacralized by Roman Christianity, while Germanic meat consumption became a mark of paganism, as it might be the product of animal sacrifice.
Some philosophers and Christians resisted the demands of the body and the pleasures of food, and adopted fasting as an ideal. Food became simpler in general as urban life in the West diminished, trade routes were disrupted, and the rich retreated to the more limited self-sufficiency of their country estates. As an urban lifestyle came to be associated with decadence, the Church formally discouraged gluttony, and hunting and pastoralism were seen as simple, virtuous ways of life.
Personal training and play
Boys and girls playing ball games (2nd century relief from the Louvre)
In the plural, ludi almost always refers to the large-scale spectator games. The singular ludus, "play, game, sport, training," had a wide range of meanings such as "word play," "theatrical performance," "board game," "primary school," and even "gladiator training school" (as in Ludus Magnus, the largest such training camp at Rome).
Activities for children and young people included hoop rolling and knucklebones (astragali or "jacks"). The sarcophagi of children often show them playing games. Girls had dolls, typically 15–16 cm tall with jointed limbs, made of materials such as wood, terracotta, and especially bone and ivory. Ball games include trigon, which required dexterity, and harpastum, a rougher sport. Pets appear often on children's memorials and in literature, including birds, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, rabbits and geese.
After adolescence, most physical training for males was of a military nature. The Campus Martius originally was an exercise field where young men developed the skills of horsemanship and warfare. Hunting was also considered an appropriate pastime. According to Plutarch, conservative Romans disapproved of Greek-style athletics that promoted a fine body for its own sake, and condemned Nero's efforts to encourage gymnastic games in the Greek manner.
Some women trained as gymnasts and dancers, and a rare few as female gladiators. The famous "bikini girls" mosaic shows young women engaging in apparatus routines that might be compared to rhythmic gymnastics. Women in general were encouraged to maintain their health through activities such as playing ball, swimming, walking, reading aloud (as a breathing exercise), riding in vehicles, and travel.
Stone game board from Aphrodisias: boards could also be made of wood, with deluxe versions in costly materials such as ivory; game pieces or counters were bone, glass, or polished stone, and might be coloured or have markings or images
People of all ages played board games pitting two players against each other, including latrunculi ("Raiders"), a game of strategy in which opponents coordinated the movements and capture of multiple game pieces, and XII scripta ("Twelve Marks"), involving dice and arranging pieces on a grid of letters or words. A game referred to as alea (dice) or tabula (the board), to which the emperor Claudius was notoriously addicted, may have been similar to backgammon, using a dice-cup (pyrgus). Playing with dice as a form of gambling was disapproved of, but was a popular pastime during the December festival of the Saturnalia with its carnival, norms-overturned atmosphere.
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