During the reign of Augustus (27 B.C.) 1,000,000 people lived in Rome. As you can imagine, the streets of Rome were jam packed with people, merchants, and horse drawn carriages. Historians tell us that it was very noisy 24 hours a day. However, most people did not go out at night because it was very dangerous. It was dangerous because unruly gangs roamed the streets at night. This was in spite of the fact that Rome had a huge police force.
Much of the city of Rome was made up of densely populated multi-story apartment buildings that were stacked so closely together that the streets barely received any sunlight at all. The construction was so poor that the buildings were subject to collapse. Landlords routinely built higher and higher in attempts to make more money from rents. Buildings were packed so tightly that if a fire broke out it was difficult to stop. Eventually, under Emperor Nero, the Roman Republic began instituting a variety of building codes.
Over 1/3rd of Rome was made up of the slave class. Some of these people were treated well while others were treated horribly. The poorest of them lived in ghetto slums, where they survived packed like sardines in wooden boxes. There were no sewage facilities, so disease was common. Overall, the living conditions were appalling.
The wealthiest class of Romans were the aristocrats. Many of the very wealthiest Romans lived in amazing hillside villas just outside of the city. These homes were very spacious, and usually architecturally designed. It was not unusual for the very wealthy to have more than one villa. Aristocratic homes within the city of Rome, had a open courtyard or atrium in the center of the house. Many of these homes were constructed with the idea of future expansion. All the rooms were clustered around the courtyard, including the kitchen, bedrooms, and family rooms. Most of these houses did not contain an enormous amount of furniture, they contained a bed, a few small tables, a couch, and some cabinets.
The Forum Romanum was the social, economic, and political center of Rome. It was also the architectural showcase of the empire. It contains several amazing arches, including the honorary arch of Septimus Severus, and two Augustus triumphal arches. One of the most important buildings found here was the enormous Basilica Nova which was constructed between 306-330 A.D. It served as a trade center, courtroom, as well as location of public speeches. Caesar's temple stood at the eastern end of the Forum.
Romans especially loved their baths. Bathhouses were everywhere and they were very inexpensive. One of the largest bathhouses was 37 acres in size. These baths were very luxurious. They contained a series of cold, hot, and sweat baths. In the center, was a large bathing pool. The Romans used elaborate systems to create steam. Some of the bath complexes included libraries, parks, doctors offices, and houses of prostitution. Roman citizens loved sports, and they loved participating in them. They boxed, wrestled, played sports, participated in foot races, and loved blood sports.
Everywhere in the Roman Empire, there were taverns where man and beast could rest.