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Resident of Roman tenement house

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


The life of a Roman living in a insulae – tenement house – did not differ much from the one we drive today. Also, you had to remember to pay the rent, which caused a lot of stress to some and worried about whether it would land on the pavement.

A great example is the epitaph of one of the tenants of the tenement house – Ancarenus Nothus, a liberator – who died at the age of 43. His ashes were in a mass grave outside the city. The inscription on the tombstone says:

My body knows no longer hunger or gout; now it is no longer a deposit on the rent, but enjoys for free an external lodging.

Certainly it was one of the inhabitants of the upper floors of the insul. In ancient Rome, the higher you lived, the greater the risk of death in the event of a fire. The tenant did not have a chance to escape if the fire started lower (and it exploded very rarely). Juvenal joked that “the roof would only cover such inhabitants”.

The principle of cheaper apartments in the upper floors of Roman buildings is completely different from today’s standards of offering the most luxurious apartments in the highest parts of skyscrapers.

  • Beard Mary, SPQR. Historia starożytnego Rzymu, Poznań 2016

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