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Author Topic: Ancient Roman Life 101 - A Quick Overview  

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Topic Modified: 30/12/12 (07:59) PM
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The key to ancient Roman role play is a basic understanding of what life was like in ancient Rome.

Here at Gods of Valor we attempt to role play as authentically as possible the way Ancient Romans would have lived in our time in history.  This article will try to explain a few of the basic elements in ancient Roman life to help in your role play here at Gods of Valor.  We hope you will find it useful in getting you involved and fitting in right off the bat.

Social Classes

The first topic we'll go over is the social classes in Rome.  Unlike today, Rome had definite social classes.  While moving  from one class to another was not impossible it was not all that easy.  Marrying into a class that was different from yours was also next to impossible. 

At the very top of the classes was the senatorial class the basis of which was political.  It included all men who served in the senate, and by extension their families.  These were the wealthiest of all Romans and a senator had to prove he was worth at least 1,000,000 sesterces. 

Below the senatorial class was the equestrian class the basis of which was economic.  A man could be formally enrolled in the equestrian order if he could prove that he possessed a minimum amount of wealth (property worth at least 400,000 sesterces); by extension his family members were also considered equestrians. 

Below these two classes lay the lower classes.

Next came the commons or freeborn Romans

Next came the freed people, slaves that had earned their freedom.  Freedom was either granted by a slave's owner outright or more typically after a slave had purchased their own freedom. 

At the very lowest of the classes were the slaves.  Now, while Gladiators were slaves, as they chalked up wins, proving their worth and value, they became a higher class of slave than say a house slave.  They could earn coin through their wins and eventually, buy their freedom.  At the top of the house slave food chain would be the Domina's body slave.  she was in charge of all the house slaves as her Domina's most trusted, but was still just a slave.


The next thing that you need to understand is ownership.  Holding title to property was strictly limited to the male figures of Roman society.  All property, live stock, business, slaves, etc. would always be held by men. 

In the event that a married man died, his property would not pass to his wife but rather to another male figure like a son or brother.  In such cases the individual inheriting the property would more than likely also be assigned the responsibility of caring for the surviving wife and family.


Another character you will see in ancient Roman role play is the gladiator. A gladiator was essentially sentenced to such a life either from being a criminal, a murderer, a prisoner of war, someone who could not pay their debits or, on occasion, a freed person who voluntarily signed up.  It is said that nearly 50% of gladiators, at the time of the inaugural games at THE Colosseum, nearly 50% were free men joining voluntarily for fame and fortune. 

Generally speaking however, Gladiators were owned by a Lanista who's business it was to buy and train men to be gladiators and then earn money by having them preform in the arena for entertainment. 

The place where gladiators lived was called a ludus, the gladiator school,  Typically, as is the case here in Gods of Valor, the ludus also contained a villa section where the Lanista lived.  It is important to remember that gladiators were prisoners and would do anything to gain their freedom including killing Romans.  In fact, they generally hated the Romans.  They were constantly under heavy guard day and night and it was extremely rare that anyone outside the ludus, citizen or slave, would speak to them or have any contact with them. 

Despite their lowest of all class rankings and the fact that they were virtually all criminals the Roman citizens held the better gladiators in high regard the same way we hold today's athletic superstars in high esteem.  In fact, gladiator sweat was sought after as it was considered an aphrodisiac.

Other ways Lanista's made money from their Gladiators:

Sponsoring: While gladiators were owned by the Lanista very wealthy citizens could "sponsor" a gladiator by paying toward their board and equipment.  In exchange the Lanista would share the gladiators winnings with his sponsor.  Also, the sponsor would be entitled to personal time with the gladiator usually for sexual purposes. 

Parties: It was not uncommon for exclusive private parties for the wealthy and influential of society to be held at the ludus.  Often these were paid for or sponsored by a wealthy citizen and generally they were orgies to include the slaves and gladiators, or whoever was in attendance.

Gladiatrix's (female gladiators)
These were considered the comic relief, never put up against a Gladiator unless a swift death was to be guaranteed.  Women were put into the arena opposing other women or dwarves, and were never kept in the same ludi as Gladiators.  They were kept in a special ludus called a circus as memory serves (may need to update that fact). 

In SL though, we generally do not keep to the above reality as 70% of the available role-players are women and a large percentage of those who wish to portray gladiators, are women and they actually fight with the meter very well.  As we role-play this inaccuracy, please be sure to note the reality, just for posterity's sake.


The main currency of ancient Rome was the denarii and the sesterce.  A denarii was worth four sesterce.  A more detailed explanation of Roman currency can be found here on our forum when you join and obtain a login.

How to Address Others

Another thing you will need to know in order to role play in Ancient Roman life is how to address others.  When addressing a male figure you would call him "Erus."  A women would be addressed as "Era."  These could be likened to "my Lord," "Lord," "my Lady," or "Lady." 

All peoples, free and slave alike, used the aforementioned terms.  However, a slave would address the man who owned him or her as "Dominus"  and would address his wife as "Domina."  By way of example, these terms could be likened to "my Master" and "my Mistress" from Gor.

To say hello you would say "ave" or "salve."  To say good-bye you would say "vale" or "valete".  So if you were walking down the street and encountered a man you might say to him, "Ave Erus."

This article touches just the tip of understanding ancient Roman life.  For more detailed information search the Internet as it is full of very useful information on ancient Roman life.  I hope you found this article useful.  Enjoy your role play!

Crito Galtier

Offline FilipaThespian

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