Ask Mr. Donn
What were Roman houses like and what was an atrium?
The houses in Rome were of three basic types. Villas were for wealthy Romans. They were built around an open courtyard, called an atrium, and were spacious with many rooms. The family gathered to cook and eat meals in the atrium. Business people, like merchants, shopkeepers, and work foremen, lived in large spacious apartments usually over a street level business. Poor people lived in very tiny apartments with up to 20 people living in a one-room apartment, with just enough room for everyone to lay out their sleeping mat at night. If you were wealthy you would have running water piped into your house or apartment. If you were poor you would use water from one of the fountains which ran constantly in the city squares. Roman homes