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Remains of the top floors of an insula near the Capitolium and the Aracoeli in Rome.

In Roman architecture, an insula (plural insulae) was a large apartment building where the Plebs (lower class) and Equates (middle class) of Romans dwelled. The floor at ground level was used for tabernas, shops and businesses with living space on the higher floors.

The urbanization of the larger Roman cities caused a great demand for housing which was within a comparable vicinity of the city center and real estate was therefore at a premium. As such, private houses were a luxury which only the wealthy could afford. This led to a majority of the inhabitants of the inner city living in apartment and tenement housing called insulae.

Contents

Construction

An insula dating from the early 2nd century A.D. in the Roman port town of Ostia Antica.

These houses were often constructed at minimal expenses for speculative purposes. The insulae were therefore of poor construction (timber, mud brick, and later primitive concrete) and prone to fire and collapse, as described by Juvenal. Because of the inherent safety issues and extra flights of stairs, the uppermost floors were the least desirable, and thus the cheapest to rent. Often those floors were without heating or running water and only sometimes had lavatories, necessitating the use of public latrines by their residents. Living quarters were typically smallest in the building's uppermost floors, with the largest and most expensive apartments being located on the bottom floors. The insulae could be up to six or seven stories high (some were even 8 or 9 stories high- these very tall buildings were being built before the height restrictions).[citation needed] A single insula could accommodate over 40 people in only 3,600 sq ft (330 m2), however the entire structure usually had about 6 to 7 apartments, each had about 1000 sq ft[citation needed]

Rome

Because of the dangers of fire, and collapse, the height of the insulae were restricted by Emperor Augustus to 70 Roman feet (20.7 m), and again by Emperor Nero down to 60 Roman feet (17.75 m) after the Great Fire of Rome. There may have been up to 50,000 insulae, as compared to only 2000 domus in the late 200 A.D, when the city was in decline, and the population was smaller.

Marcus Licinius Crassus

The Roman Crassus was a notorious slum landlord who owned numerous insulae in the city. When one collapsed from poor construction, Cicero purportedly stated that he was happy that he could charge higher rents for a new building than the collapsed one. [1]

Like upper class homes, many insulae did have running water or sanitation as described by Strabo. Despite accords against it, many residents would pour trash and human excrement out the windows and into the surrounding streets and alleys.

The name of the "insulae" was derived from the Latin word for islands. They were called so because of the way they looked from a bird's eye view.[citation needed] It would appear these buildings were spaced out like islands (hence the name), while being surrounded by road.

The Romans were the first civilization to utilize flats and apartments.

References

  1. ^ [Aldrete, Gregory "The Roman City p 80]

External links

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near the Capitolium and the Aracoeli in Rome.]] In Roman architecture, insulae (singular insula) were large apartment buildings where the lower and middle classes of Romans (the plebs) dwelled. The floor at ground level was used for tabernas, shops and businesses with living space on the higher floors.

The urbanization of the larger Roman cities caused a great demand for housing which was within a comparable vicinity of the city center and real estate was therefore at a premium. As such, private houses were a luxury which only the wealthy could afford. This led to a majority of the inhabitants of the inner city living in apartment and tenement housing called insulae.

Contents

Construction

.]]These houses were often constructed at minimal expenses for speculative purposes. The insulae were therefore of poor construction (timber, mud brick, and later primitive concrete) and prone to fire and collapse, as described by Juvenal. Because of the inherent safety issues and extra flights of stairs, the uppermost floors were the least desirable, and thus the cheapest to rent. Often those floors were without heating or running water and only sometimes had lavatories, necessitating the use of public latrines by their residents. Living quarters were typically smallest in the building's uppermost floors, with the largest and most expensive apartments being located on the bottom floors. The insulae could be up to six or seven stories high (some were even 8 or 9 stories high- these very tall buildings were being built before the height restrictions).Template:Fact A single insula could accommodate over 40 people in only 3,600 sq ft (330 m2), however the entire structure usually had about 6 to 7 apartments, each had about 1000 sq ftTemplate:Fact

Rome

Because of the dangers of fire, and collapse, the height of the insulae were restricted by Emperor Augustus to 70 Roman feet (20.7 m), and again by Emperor Nero down to 60 Roman feet (17.75 m) after the Great Fire of Rome. There may have been up to 50,000 insulae, as compared to only 2000 domus in the late 200 A.D, when the city was in decline, and the population was smaller.

The great Roman orator Cicero was a notorious slum landlord who owned numerous insulae in the city. When one collapsed from poor construction, Cicero purportedly stated that he was happy that he could charge higher rents for a new building than the collapsed one. [1]

Like upper class homes, many insulae did have running water or sanitation as described by Strabo. Despite accords against it, many residents would pour trash and human excrement out the windows and into the surrounding streets and alleys.

The name of the "insulae" was derived from the Latin word for islands. They were called so because of the way they looked from a bird's eye view. It would appear these buildings were spaced out like islands (hence the name), while being surrounded by road.

The Romans were the first civilization to utilize flats and apartments.

References

  1. [Aldrete, Gregory "The Roman City p 80]

External links


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