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Roman Towns and Villas

Roman villas were built in rectangular shapes with stone walls and tiled roofs. They usually had a range of rooms all coming off a long corridor. This gave the owners much more privacy and comfort than in the old Celtic roundhouses.

GNM - Römische Villa

Villas were often built in the countryside in places that not only looked attractive but that also had: good farm land, a good supply of running water and shelter from the cold north winds.

The important rooms would have been decorated with mosaics - patterns and pictures on the floor made from tiny coloured pieces of stone called tesserae.


Larger villas might have had a special under-floor heating system called a hypocaust in which hot air from a fire would flow around under the floor to heat the rooms above it up.

Hypocaustum

Roman houses in towns would be smaller and have an atrium in the middle. This was a small open courtyard where the children would play and in which there was a pool to collect rainwater.

Domusitalica

At night and in bad weather, wooden shutters covered up the glassless windows so that the rooms were usually dark and gloomy inside. The only lamps were made of clay or metal and burned oil or fat.

Wealthy Romans would likely own some slaves to do jobs for them. In the town, slaves were used for both unskilled and skilled work. They were: cooks, gardeners, general servants, labourers in factories, secretaries, musicians, actors and entertainers. Slaves belonged to their master or mistress from whom they had to follow orders - they were not free to make decisions for themselves and: could not marry, could not own personal possessions and were not protected by the courts of law. In the south of Britain, probably a quarter of the people were slaves.

Roman towns were neatly laid out like a grid. The streets would be lined with: shops, workshops and taverns (selling cold drinks such as wine, stored in large jugs called amphora). There would be stepping stones across them for people to cross on when it was wet, spaced out so that cart wheels could still pass between them.


The forum or market-place was the most important public area in a Roman town. It was a large courtyard where the townspeople would gather to listen to speeches and where local farmers and tradesmen could set up their stalls. At one side of the forum would be the basilica which was the a law court and a town hall.

Pompeii - William Gell - Forum

Every town with a name ending in 'chester' or 'caster' or ' cester' was once a Roman town - for example: Colchester, Manchester and Doncaster.