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Plebeians in Ancient Rome


Plebeians were the working class of Ancient Rome. They typically lived in three-or-four story apartment houses called insulae. The insulae were often crowded where two families would have to share a single room. There were no bathrooms in the apartments, so a pot was often used. The pot would be emptied out of the window into the streets, creating very unsanitary and smelly conditions around the apartments. The apartments were built from wood and often badly constructed. It was not unheard of for a building to collapse or start on fire. Slaves in patrician households often lived in better conditions than was found in plebeian apartments.

Plebeian children would follow in the career of their parents. Schooling, if any, was usually only for a couple of years in order for them to learn to read, write and do basic math. Plebeian children usually did not have beds, but if they did, they often had to share it with others in their apartment. The apartments often had no kitchens, so families would pick up food at local take out restaurants or bars. Meals for these people consisted of coarse bread, bean or pea soup, and some porridge. It was a treat if once a month they could include a roasted chicken or rabbit with their meals (Williams 2003, pg. 21).


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