What was life like for a Roman family?
Life for women in Roman times was often hard. Mother was less important than father in the family. Father had the power of life or death over everyone. When a new baby was born it would be laid at its father's feet - if the father picked the baby up it would live, but if he ignored the baby it would be taken away to die. Women were expected to run the home, cook meals, and raise children. If they were wealthy, women were lucky; they had slaves to do the work.
Many girls were married at the age of 14. Marriages were often arranged between families. A man could divorce his wife if she did not give birth to a son. Many women died young (in their 30s), because childbirth could be dangerous, and diseases were common.
Did Romans go to school?
Most children in Roman times did not go to school. Only quite rich families could afford to pay a teacher. Most schools were in towns. Not many girls went to school, but some were taught at home by tutors, who were often educated slaves. Boys from rich families learned history, maths, and literature at school, to prepare them for jobs in the army or government. In poor families, girls and boys had to work, helping their parents.
What did Romans write with?
For short messages and at school, Roman wrote on soft wax tablets using a pointed metal stylus. To use the tablet again, or rub out a mistake you smoothed the wax over with the blunt end of the stylus. For important letters the Romans used a metal pen dipped in ink. They wrote on thin pieces of wood or on specially prepared animal skins. Books did not have pages, they were written on scrolls made from pieces of animal skin glued together and then rolled up.
We know that Roman women wrote letters, because some of their letters have survived. One was found at Vindolanda, a fort near Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland. It is a birthday party invitation from Claudia Severa to her friend Sulpicia Lepidina and was written about AD 100.
What did Romans eat?
Poor Romans ate bread, vegetable soup, and porridge. Meat was a luxury, unless they lived in the countryside and could go hunting or fishing.
Poor people's small homes had no kitchens. So they often took food round to the baker, to cook in his oven. Many people bought takeways, such as sausages or fried fish, from food-shops.
Rich Romans had food cooked at home in the kitchen by slaves. Most ate a light breakfast, and a snack at mid day - perhaps bread and cheese, or boiled eggs and salad. They ate dinner in late afternoon, with a starter, a meat course (such as hare, pig, beef, goat, chicken, fish or pigeon) followed by fruit or nuts. Ice cream was a treat. Lettuce was served at the end of a meal because Romans believed it helped you sleep.
What were Roman toys like?
Roman children had some toys very like ones we play with today - such as toy soldiers, rattles, balls, doll's houses, carts and pull-along animals on wheels. Even poor children had board games, using pebbles for counters, and wooden dolls. Some dolls had moveable arms and legs. Roman children had ivory letters to practise their spellings with. Favourite Roman pets were dogs, birds and monkeys.