Few apartment buildings from ancient times survive in Rome. This image shows a road in Ostia, the harbor town near Rome.
A busy street in modern Naples.
A street with apartment buildings from Ostia.
This image shows a 100 ft high firewall built from nearly indestructible volcanic rock. The wall separated the Forum of Augustus, of which the remains can be seen in the foreground, from the Subura. The wall ensured fires couldn’t spread to the Forum from the apartment blocks of the Subura, and also created a physical barrier between the grand, marble Forum and the cramped and dirty Subura behind it.
Seneca, a well-known Roman intellectual, was tutor and adviser to the young Emperor Nero during the early part of his reign.
Replica Roman roof tiles.
The inhabitants of the insula would have used oil lamps to light their rooms. They usually burned olive oil, as it was widely available.
This ceramic oil lamp is decorated with a charioteer driving a two-horse chariot.
Sanitation was poor. Although some first-floor and possibly second-floor apartments had lavatories, for the most part people used chamber pots (like the one pictured), urinated in the street, or went to one of the public lavatories. There were giant clay pots in the street for collecting urine and emptying chamber pots, and other waste went into the sewer.
The inside of the remains of an insula in Rome, built just a short distance from the temples of the Capitoline Hill.
There was often no running water in the insula, so people would have to collect water from public fountains (like this one from Pompeii, in Italy).
Sign advertising wines for sale at a popina in Herculaneum, in Italy. The popina is called ad cucumās (at the cooking pots).
Four different wines are sold, at 4, 3, 4, and 2 assēs (pence) per sextārius (about half a liter).
A popina in Pompeii, with vats sunk into the bar.
A wall painting from Pompeii, showing people playing dice in a popina.
Gold coin with the head of Nero, from AD 66. It is printed with the words IMP NERO CAESAR AVGVSTVS. IMP is an abbreviation of imperātor, which means ‘emperor’.