If Rome was the center of the empire, the Forum was the center of Rome. The word forum means “gathering place.” The original Forum was an open area used for merchants' stalls, and for viewing races, games, and plays. Eventually, the Forum became a sprawling complex of government buildings, meeting halls, temples, theaters, and monuments. This place was the heart of life in Rome.
For dinner, poor Romans might have chunks of fish along with some asparagus and a fig for dessert. Wealthy Romans consumed more elaborate dinners. Besides the main part of the meal, they had special appetizers. Some favorites were mice cooked in honey, roasted parrots stuffed with dates, salted jellyfish, and snails dipped in milk.
Nearby, many of the poor crowded into tall apartment buildings. Others lived in small apartments above the shops where they worked. Without proper kitchens, the poor cooked their meals on small portable grills, which filled the rooms with smoke.
Romans watched gladiators fight in large public arenas, like the Colosseum. Both men and women were gladiators. Usually, they were slaves or prisoners of war, although some won or bought their freedom eventually. The crowd shouted as the gladiators fought each other and wild animals to the death. Many thousands of gladiators died bloody and painful deaths for the entertainment of the spectators.
Once at school, students sat on small stools around the tutor and used a pointed pen, called a stylus, to copy down lessons on small, wax-covered wooden boards. When the lesson was over, they rubbed out the writing with the flat end of the stylus so they could use the board again. The school day lasted until two or three o'clock in the afternoon.
The empire's farms provided much of the food for Rome and other cities. They produced grain for bread, grapes for wine, and olives for oil. Goats and sheep provided cheese, and their skins and wool were made into clothing. Cattle and pigs were raised for their meat. Farmers also kept bees for making honey, the sweetener used by the Romans.