Ancient Rome is credited as one of the most advanced and influential civilizations to ever exist in human history. The Romans invented early versions of many modern technologies and practices that are still widely used today. If we look at the present-day city of Rome, we can see the influence of Italy’s ancient ancestors everywhere.
Rome may not have been built in a day, but the architectural practices developed in the ancient city still survive. As well as the more recognisable architecture like the Colosseum, the Romans also created the first residential apartment buildings. With a large, ever-growing population and not enough land to house them all, the obvious thing to do was to build upwards. This tactic encouraged Ancient Rome’s metropolitan atmosphere and gave the world a lasting solution to the housing problems caused by an expanding population. In modern Rome, you can still find examples of these apartment blocks or insulae, alongside their 21st-century counterparts.
Due to the city’s growing populace, Romans were big on mass entertainment, with the capital city regularly hosting large-scale sporting events like chariot racing and fights. They also staged grandiose drama productions based on those of their contemporaries the Ancient Greeks. On a smaller scale, playing dice and other forms of gaming were widespread forms of group entertainment. The infamous Emperors of Ancient Rome were committed dice enthusiasts, with Caligula even converting the imperial palace into a precursor of the modern casino. This passion for speculation sports and gaming is still evident in Rome today where you can find massive stadiums like football’s Stadio Olimpico and contemporary casinos.
When they weren’t entertaining themselves, the Ancient Romans liked to eat. So much so that they invented the idea of a meal with three courses rather than just sticking to one. The Romans’ gustatio, primae mensae and secundae mensae, which roughly correspond to the trio of starter, main and dessert, are still enjoyed by people all over the city and indeed the world in modern times. The difference is that where most Romans would have enjoyed this feast in the middle of the day, many contemporary Italians are more likely to eat their main meal in the evening.
The citizens of ancient Rome knew how to relax as well as party. Bathing was a part of daily life and was predominantly a social, public affair. Roman bathhouses were places for socialising and healing and became the blueprints for the spas that we still like to enjoy today. The typical treatments found in the bathhouses of Ancient Rome included a tepidarium or temperate bath, a caldarium or hot bath and a frigidarium or cold bath. This layout has not changed much in 2,000 years; you can still access a similar set of facilities in the city at places like Aquatherme Roma. Although you cannot swim in any of the surviving ancient baths, you can still visit them and marvel at their splendour.
While this list is by no means comprehensive, it just goes to show the real depth of Roman influence on current Italian life. Some of the things that Rome remains most famous for originated with their ancient ancestors. Keep that in mind during your visit, and you’ll soon feel like you’re walking among living history!