In the ancient city of Rome, only the very wealthy could afford to live in a domus, what we might call a large home or mansion. Most average Romans of the day lived in back rooms off their ground floor shops. This makes Rome the first urban apartment-based society. And, amazingly, some Romans lived in apartment buildings that were seven or eight stories tall! These apartment buildings were called insulae which literally means island. A few lodging-houses also existed. They were called diversoria. This is where residents lived in cellar rooms.
We know the different types of accommodations these ancient Romans had so now let's look at apartment terminology. Individual apartments in the insulae were called cenacula (plural is cenaculum) at least according to Imperial records. If we look at the word cenacula, it is formed from the Latin word cena which means meal. Cenaculum, then, mean, dining area. But the cenaculae was a place for more than simply eating your meals. Many apartments had balconies and/or windows which became the center for social life; people-watching was big even then. Upper-story windows were also used for illegal dumping. Most early Roman apartments had three rooms; 1. the cubicula or bedroom, 2. The exedra or sitting room, and 3. The medianum or corridors facing the street.
And just like real estate moguls of today Romans, including Cicero, could become quite wealthy through the ownership of rental property. Slumlords and other property owners could, through rental fees, accumulate enough wealth to enter the Senate and move to Palatine Hill (Rome's wealthy neighborhood). Sound a familiar?
I hope you enjoyed this useless information on Roman apartments. The more I read about the ancient civilizations, the more I realize how little actually changed. Sure, there have been significant improvements but, generally, much of what happened in daily life a thousand years ago is still happening today. Well, that does it for me today. I invite you back here again tomorrow to close out this first full work week of the new year.