16 Questions About Ancient Rome Even History Buffs Don't Know The Answer To

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Vote up these common Q&As that shed some light on ancient Rome.

Few civilizations have achieved quite the level of success as ancient Rome. At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from what is today the United Kingdom to the Middle East. It has also had quite an enduring legacy, and it continues to exert a hold on the collective imagination.

Both historians and laypeople continue to find themselves drawn to ancient Rome, trying to understand what made it work, who built it, and how it endured for so long. There are, in fact, many fascinating aspects of this culture, many of which pose questions even history buffs might not know the answer to. These range from what daily life was like in ancient Rome to why the Roman emperors were so deranged and unpredictable in their behavior.

Vote up the ancient Roman Q&As that you find most fascinating.

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    80 VOTES

    Why Has Roman Concrete Stood The Test Of Time?

    Among their many accomplishments, the Romans were especially famous for their buildings. From aqueducts to palaces, amphitheaters, and the roads knitting the empire together, they were always building. What’s more, many of their structures remain intact today. The secret to their durability lies in Roman concrete.

    Though Roman concrete is significantly weaker than its modern equivalent, one of its key ingredients, volcanic ash, ensures its ability to withstand the ravages of time. This is especially true of the particular type of ash used in the concrete the Romans used to construct harbors; when combined with seawater, it becomes even more durable. 

  • 2
    64 VOTES

    How Did Romans Heat Their Public Baths?

    The Romans left behind many architectural legacies, but one of the most notable is the bath. The Romans loved their baths, and these facilities provided both hot and cold water to bathers.

    The water was heated by means of a device called a hypocaust, which was a furnace located beneath the floor of the baths. The warm air from the hypocaust would circulate beneath the floor, which would in turn heat the water.

  • Did The Romans Have Good Hygiene?
    Photo: Diego Delso / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
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    50 VOTES

    Did The Romans Have Good Hygiene?

    As with so many questions about the Romans, this is a tricky one. Yes, the Romans were devoutly committed to hygiene in its various forms: They had public baths, they built latrines and sewage systems, and many cities had piped water. All of these helped to contribute to public health.

    However, as recent research shows, Romans still suffered from a number of parasites, including whipworms. 

  • 4
    50 VOTES

    Why Did Romans Have Such Long Names?

    Anyone who reads about the ancient Romans notices very quickly just how complicated - and long - their names were. This is especially true of members of the upper classes and among the imperial family, who often added names as they achieved military success.

    Typically in Roman nomenclature, a man would have at least two names, a praenomen (a given first name) and nomen (the family, or gens name). However, many also had a third and sometimes a fourth name, the cognomen and agnomen, respectively. The former often represented a nickname or particular branch of a given family, while the latter would often signify a particular achievement, often military in nature.

    Unsurprisingly, female nomenclature in Rome was simpler. A woman would typically be named by the feminine form of the gens name of her father. If, however, a family had two daughters, the elder would have “Major” added to her name, and the younger would have “Minor.” If there were three or more daughters in a family, numerical adjectives would be added to their name (e.g., Tertia, meaning "third").

  • 5
    63 VOTES

    How Common Was Divorce In Ancient Rome?

    While some might think divorce is a mark of the modern age, in fact, it was relatively common (and easy to obtain) in ancient Rome.

    Though at first divorce was largely restricted to men - who could divorce their wives for a host of reasons including infertility, adultery, or bad behavior - it gradually became more and more accessible. It ultimately became possible for either party to divorce the other, and the process was an informal one.

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    37 VOTES

    Why Do So Many Romans Share The Same Names?

    Studying ancient Roman history can often be confusing for a modern reader, especially because so many of them seem to have the same name (or a variation of the same name). This is due in large part to the limited number of praenomina available.

    It’s estimated a mere 17 names constituted 98% of male praenomina. However, research also suggests this began to change during the Principate, when it became more fashionable for men to be called by a cognomen.