Plebeians Daily Life in Ancient Rome under the Republic for Kids and Teachers Illustration

Daily Life in the Ancient Roman Republic

The plebeian group (nicknamed plebs) included everyone in ancient Rome from well-to-do tradesmen all the way down to the very poor, everyone except for the patricians, the nobility.

The family was structured in the same way as it was in patrician families. Everybody in one family lived under one roof.  Women had no authority except in the home. Old age was honored. The head of the family was the oldest male. That could be the father, the grandfather, or perhaps even an uncle. He was called the pater familias. In poor families, the head of the house might decide to put a sick baby out to die or to sell grown-ups in his family into slavery, because there wasn't enough food to feed everyone. That was his right. In ancient Rome, this was not a crime. The poor, unless they went out, went to bed as soon as it got dark. They could not afford to keep oil lamps burning. The poor worked constantly. 

For wealthy plebs, life was very similar to that of the patricians. Well-to-do tradesmen and their families lived in homes with an atrium. They had slaves who did the work. They dressed the same as the patricians. However, a wealthy plebeian family and a wealthy patrician family did not meet socially. Although in 445 BC, new law was written that said it was no longer illegal for plebs and patricians to marry.  

Many plebs (plebeians) lived in apartment houses, called flats, above or behind their shops. Even fairly well to do tradesmen might chose to live in an apartment-building compound over their store, with perhaps renters on the upper stories. Their own apartments might be quite roomy, sanitary and pleasant, occasionally with running water. But others were not that nice.  

In the poorer apartment houses, an entire family (grandparents, parents, children) might all be crowded into one room, without running water. They had to haul their water in from public facilities. Fire was a very real threat because people were cooking meals in crowded quarters, and many of the flats were made of wood. They did not have toilets. They had to use public latrines (toilets).  The lower class Romans (plebeians) might have a breakfast of bread, dry or dipped in wine, and water. Sometimes olives, cheese, or raisins were sprinkled on the bread.  

By comparison: Patricians (Upper Class, Nobility) Daily Life during the Roman Republic

Daily Life in the Roman Empire

Roman Family

Ancient Roman Daily Life