Ancient Rome: Food, Jobs, and Daily Life

A typical Roman day started with a light breakfast and then work until the early afternoon. Many Romans would take a quick trip to the baths to bathe and socialize before dinner.

Ancient Rome was a complex society that required a number of different job functions. Slaves performed the menial tasks. Most of the Romans who lived in the countryside were wheat farmers. The Roman Army was large and needed soldiers. The army provided a way for the poor to earn a regular wage, gain valuable land at the end of their service, and move up in status. Merchants traded items from around the Empire. Craftsman made dishes and pots, and crafted fine jewelry and weapons for the army. Some worked in individual shops while others were slaves, who worked in large workshops. Ancient Romans liked to be entertained by musicians, dancers, actors, chariot racers, and gladiators. Educated Romans became lawyers, teachers, and engineers.

The government of Ancient Rome was huge, with a variety of government jobs from tax collectors and clerks to high-ranking positions like Senators. Senators were wealthy and powerful, serving in their position for life. At times there were as many as 600 members of the Senate.

The Roman family unit was very important. Legally, the father held all the power in the family while the wife handled the finances and managed the household.

Roman children started school at the age of 7. Wealthy children would be taught by a full-time tutor. Other children went to public school. They studied reading, writing, math, literature, and debate. School was mostly for boys, with some wealthy girls tutored at home. Poor children did not go to school.

For the wealthy, dinner was a major event starting at around three in the afternoon. They lay on their sides on a couch and were served by servants. They ate with their hands, rinsing them often in water. Typical food was bread, beans, fish, vegetables, cheese, dried fruit, and fancy sauces. Some of the food they ate would seem very strange to us, such as mice and peacock tongues.

The toga was a long robe made up of several yards of material. The wealthy wore white togas made from wool or linen. Some colors and markings on togas were reserved for certain people and occasions. For example, a toga with a purple border was worn by high-ranking senators and consuls, while a black toga signified mourning. The toga was generally only worn in public. In later years, the toga grew out of style and most people wore a tunic or long shirt. It was the regular dress of the poor.

Source: Ancient Rome: Food, Jobs, and Daily Life
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