When we think of Ancient Rome, we often think of the cities of Rome filled with people, large buildings, and senators walking around in togas. However, most of the population of the Roman Empire lived in the countryside. Life in the countryside was very different from that in the city.
What did the people do in the country?
Most of the people who lived in the countryside were farmers. They worked very hard. They got up early in the morning and worked the fields or did chores until dusk. Some people had other more skilled jobs like blacksmiths, carpenters, innkeepers, and bakers.
The countryside played an important role in the economy of the Roman Empire. Different kinds of food was grown in different areas and then shipped throughout the empire. One of the most important crops was grains. A lot of grains were grown in Egypt and then shipped to large cities such as Rome. Other major crops of the Roman Empire included grapes (mostly for making wine) and olives (for olive oil).
Small Farms and Big Estates
The Roman countryside was made up of farms of all different sizes. Some farms were large estates run by wealthy Romans who often had a house in the city and a large villa in the country. These farms were usually managed by servants and the fields were worked by slaves. There were smaller farms, too, which were worked by poorer farmers. Small farmers often worked the fields themselves, sometimes with the help of a few slaves.
There were many small villages in the countryside throughout the Roman Empire. Families often lived in a village near their farm. The village provided some security as well as local craftsmen. Villages were very different in different parts of the empire. Many of the people living on small farms and in villages knew little of the Roman Empire and the city of Rome.
Farmhouses were different depending on where they were in the empire. They were typically very small huts made from the local materials. Most homes had only one or two rooms. Often farm animals lived in the huts with the farmers in order to keep them safe. Wealthier farmers might have a separate building for the kitchen, workshop, or even a bath house.
Wealthy Romans had large country homes called villas. These homes were much larger than the homes they had in the city. They had multiple rooms, servants' quarters, pools, and gardens. Romans often visited their villas to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The army of Rome, the Roman legions, were usually stationed somewhere out of the city and in the countryside. They lived in forts and helped to maintain the peace or conquer new lands. When the soldiers retired, they were often given a small farm as part of their retirement. This helped to keep the soldiers happy and also kept former Roman soldiers living in lands throughout the Roman Empire.
Interesting Facts About Life in the Ancient Roman Countryside
One of the favorite pastimes for people visiting the country was hunting.
Food for poor farmers was pretty boring. They usually ate beans and porridge.
It is estimated the city of Rome had to import around six million sacks of grain each year to feed its large population.
The wives of poor farmers worked very hard from sunup to sundown. They spent their day doing chores, preparing food, and making clothes.
Olives were grown in Spain and North Africa and then imported to Rome.