Roman Architecture: Living in an Insula

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In Ancient Rome the buildings referred to as Insula were as common as the modern apartment building. In Roman architecture an insula is a Latin word that means island. An insula was a kind of apartment building that housed most of the urban citizen population of ancient Rome, this included class types of lower or middle-class status. The wealthy families lived in an apartment called a domus, they were large and made for single-family residences. These two kinds of housing were intermingled in the city and not segregated by separate neighborhoods. Only the wealthiest could afford the luxury of living in private homes. The ground-level floor of the insula was used for shops and businesses with the space that they would live upstairs, some of the insula’s even had balconies. And just like modern day apartment buildings an insula would usually have a name, that name being the owner of the building. “The insulae were usually built around an open courtyard. Rooms would have windows without glass to let in light. These windows were also useful for throwing household waste (including excrement) out onto the street below – an antisocial practice that was common, even if it was not legal.” (Heritage Key) These buildings would have running water but were sometimes these houses were constructed at a minimal expense, which would result in poor construction and overall lead to many problems. They were built in timber, mud brick and later on concrete. They were also very prone to fires or collapsing. Actually, some people owned multiple apartment complexes kind of like chain hotel owners of today. The set up with these buildings were the rooms were the smallest in the buildings higher floors with the bigger more expensive apartments located on the bottom floors. There were height restrictions in the Imperial era, but despite these restrictions a few apartments reached eight or nin stories tall. A single insula could fit just over forty people. However, the entire...
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