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Ancient Rome

Life in the City

History >> Ancient Rome

The hub of life in Ancient Rome was the city. The local city was the place to trade goods, be entertained, and meet important people. While Rome was the center of the empire, there were many large and important cities throughout the empire.

City Planning

The Romans built cities throughout their vast empire. When they built a new city, they typically used the same type of city plans. The streets were straight and on a grid. Through the center of the town were the two widest streets which went east-to-west and north-to-south. At the center of the town was the forum with the government buildings, temples, markets, and meeting area.

Surrounding the town was a tall fortified wall to help keep out invaders. These walls were especially important for towns near the borders of the empire. Aqueducts were built outside of the town to bring fresh water to the fountains and public baths.

The Forum

The most important area of every Roman city was the forum. The forum was the center of the local government and the main marketplace for the city. It was at the forum where politicians would give speeches when they were up for election.


The city served as a central point for commerce. Farmers could bring their produce into the city to trade for other goods or coins. In the forum there was generally a table where standard weights and measures could be verified. This kept people from being cheated when doing business.


There were two main types of housing in the cities. The poor and middle class people lived in large apartment buildings called insulae. The majority of the people lived in insulae. The wealthy lived in private homes. You can go here to read more about Roman homes.


Larger Roman cities all had some public buildings for entertainment. These included an outdoor amphitheatre (for events like gladiator fights), a circus (used for chariot races), a theatre, and public baths.

Public Baths

Keeping clean was important to Romans living in the city. Any large Roman city had public baths where people would go to bathe. Bathing was a popular pastime for the Romans. They would hang out with their friends and even hold business meetings at the bathhouses.

How many people lived in a Roman city?

Rome was the largest of the cities. Historians estimate that the population of Rome may have reached up to 1 million people at its peak. Other major cities such as Alexandria, Ephesus, Carthage, and Antioch had peak populations of 200,000 or more.

Interesting Facts About Life in an Ancient Roman City
Activities For more about Ancient Rome:

Overview and History
Timeline of Ancient Rome
Early History of Rome
The Roman Republic
Republic to Empire
Wars and Battles
Roman Empire in England
Fall of Rome

Cities and Engineering
The City of Rome
City of Pompeii
The Colosseum
Roman Baths
Housing and Homes
Roman Engineering
Roman Numerals
Daily Life
Daily Life in Ancient Rome
Life in the City
Life in the Country
Food and Cooking
Family Life
Slaves and Peasants
Plebeians and Patricians

Arts and Religion
Ancient Roman Art
Roman Mythology
Romulus and Remus
The Arena and Entertainment
Julius Caesar
Constantine the Great
Gaius Marius
Spartacus the Gladiator
Emperors of the Roman Empire
Women of Rome

Legacy of Rome
The Roman Senate
Roman Law
Roman Army
Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History >> Ancient Rome

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