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Young Roman men came of age about the age of 17, when he became liable for military service.

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In early times all men would be expected to fight in the army, and could be called up to do so for some of each year, until he was 40 years old. From the late Republic onward, however, serving in the army became a full-time profession, so unless they volunteered, ordinary citizens would not expect to serve. Parents arranged the marriages of their children. A man would usually move to his own house when he married.

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Although boys could marry 14, and girls at 12, most did not do so until they were older. In poorer households they would be needed in the family workshop. Young children of both sexes, and from a wide range of social backgrounds, attended small schools run by slaves or ex-slaves; in better-off households, they were taught at home, also by a slave or freedman. Schools were held in public places, such as the portico open colonnaded area of the forum.

Children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic, by rote learning — reinforced by regular beatings! Older girls were excluded from formal education — though some Roman women were noted for their learning, and must have continued their education at home. For boys, schooling continued with mastering Latin and Greek grammar.


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Often, cities paid for a public teacher to perform this task — this was a well-respected post even if often occupied by an ex-slave , and such teachers sometimes went on to take important jobs in the civil service. The sons of wealthy families who wanted them to take up a career in public life then progressed onto higher education. Here they would learn the art of public speaking — a vitally important skill if they were to persuade citizens to vote for them, or sway juries in court, or influence decisions taken in city councils or even the Roman senate. Like grammar teachers, these were important men in the city, and could go on to high government office later on.

Some teachers attracted students from all over the empire, with their schools becoming a kind of university. The two institutions of higher education in Athens, in Greece , the Academy originally founded by Plato and the Lycaeum by Aristotle , continued to flourish under Roman rule, and specialized in the study of Greek philosophy. The earliest Roman houses were essentially small wattle-and-daub cottages with thatched roofs. This is hardly surprising as Rome originated as a collection of rural villages.

By the time of the end of the monarchy, however, houses designed along Etruscan lines were being built. Early Roman dwellings were one-story buildings erected around a courtyard.

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The main reception room the atrium gave out onto smaller rooms — dining room triclinium , office tablinum , bedrooms, kitchens and other domestic areas. Many of the family rooms had painted walls. Later, under Greek influence, the courtyards of larger houses became small colonnaded peristyle gardens, complete with fountains and ponds.

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Later, some houses became larger in size and more complex in design, with two stories. The area around the atrium expanded to become a main block, and the garden was moved to the back but still surrounded by wings with kitchens, servants quarters, storerooms and so on. All Roman town houses had toilets, which were built above sewers which discharged into a large public sewer to take the waste away from the town. In the cities, the poor lived in rooms above or behind their places of work.

Craftsmen and shopkeepers rented out shops, workshops or cafes, plus the living accommodation which went with them. Some large houses were completely converted into either workshops or apartments. In large cities such as Rome, apartment blocks as high as five stories or even more, before the emperor Augustus imposed housing regulations were built, divided into many rooms.

These would have had no water or toilets above the first floor, and life in them would have resembled living in the midth century slums of London or New York.

The lower stories were sometimes divided into larger suites of rooms, for well-off families. The main building material for houses was fired brick.

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Stone, marble and even an early form of concrete were used in the palatial mansions of the rich. Roofs were made of wood covered with terracotta tiles terracotta is a type of clay. Houses had small windows, without glass but with wooden shutters.

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In apartment blocks, however, the windows were larger, as they were usually the only source of light. They sometimes had glass panes in them. The rooms were furnished with sparse furniture, mostly wooden chairs, couches, stools, benches and tables. Cupboards similar to those of today were also to be found, as well as chests of various sizes. The dwellings of the rural poor were small huts and cottages, with tile or thatched roofs.


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  5. They were normally huddled together in hamlets or villages. The focus of Roman community life was always in the city, and so country villages were low-status places to live, despised by the city-dwellers. However, one type of country house was very desirable: the villa. Many of these were more or less large farmhouses, the center of a working farm. Indeed, most villas were the headquarters of a large farm or country estate. Some, however, were mansions designed primarily for a leisured lifestyle.

    Such houses, owned by wealthy families, were often located within easy reach of a city, and were used as retreats from the stresses of urban living. Villas were similar in design to large urban dwellings, but were more spacious. Some were laid out with three wings, others completely enclosed a large inner space.

    This was often used as a luxurious garden. The rooms were likely to boast mosaic floors and painted walls. Roman clothing was almost identical to that of the Greeks. Men wore a tunic tied at the waste.


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    On formal occasions they would also drape a large piece of cloth, called a toga , around themselves. Only Roman citizens were allowed to wear this. For most citizens, the toga was a plain white cloth. A depiction of a Roman Toga. Towards the end of the Roman Empire, although togas continued to be worn by senators and high officials, they went out of fashion for everyone else by this time all free people were Roman citizens, so it had ceased to be a mark of distinction.

    Barbarian influences began to be felt, with long-sleeved tunics and trousers became popular. Highly decorated cloaks fastened by a broach also came into vogue. Most men wore their hair short. Throughout the republic and early empire, they were clean shaven. From the second century onward, older men adopted the Greek fashion for growing a beard.

    In the later Empire men of all ages wore beards. Women wore a stola , a long tunic tied at the bust and falling to the ankles. They too could drape large pieces of cloth, looking like a toga but called a palla , over themselves. In earlier times, women grew their hair long, then gathered it into a bun. Later, hair styles were more elaborate still, with many curls piled high on the head.

    Wealthy Roman women also wore a lot of make-up, at least during the empire; face creams and perfumes, red ocher for the lips and cheek and soot for eyeliners were all applied with the aid of a polished metal mirror plus slave. Romans of all classes, like people of all races and times, enjoyed dining with friends, eating, drinking and chatting in the privacy of their own homes.

    In wealthy household, large and elaborate banquets were the norm under the Empire. Books — or rather, scrolls — were expensive. They were copied by hand this was long before the days of printing by groups of slaves laboring in the workshop of a book publisher. In Roman times, only the well-off could afford this pastime. All Roman, of both sexes and all classes, enjoyed visiting the public baths. These were not just places to go and bathe, but also to take exercise, have a massage and above all to socialize.

    Public entertainment was to be had at theaters, where plays by Greek and Latin playwrights were staged. Chariot races were put on at the racecourse, or circus the most famous of these was the Circus Maximus, at Rome. At frequent intervals, bloody shows were put on at the amphitheater.

    Here, armed men fought animals, or gladiators swordsmen fought each other; or unarmed criminals condemned to death were put into the arena to be eaten by lions. It was only with the coming of Christianity as the official religion of the empire, towards the end of the Roman period, that the worst of these shocking shows — gladiatorial combats — were abolished.

    The Roman Republic governed Rome as it changed from single city-state to enormous empire. The stresses and strains of growth eventually led to the breakdown of the Republic, but the Augustan settlement which opened the curtain on the Empire was a masterpiece of practical adaptation. The Republican government involved a mix of different institutions — the magistrates, above all the two annually elected consuls; the senate, a council of state composed of the most important men in Rome senators ; and the popular assemblies, which elected the magistrates and had the final say as to whether Rome went to war or not.

    Click here for more on government under the Roman Republic. Most of these institutions carried over into the Empire. However, they were adapted to give the emperor supreme command over the army, as well as the final say in what legislation was permitted. They were also fine-tuned more to the needs of governing a large empire than of running a single city-state, which is how they had originated.

    Click here for more on government under the Roman Empire. The Roman army was the most formidable fighting force of its day. It changed considerably over the long period of Roman history, but for most of this time it was based around the legion.