A glimpse of teenage life in ancient Rome - Ray Laurence | Summary and Q&A

October 29, 2012
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A glimpse of teenage life in ancient Rome - Ray Laurence


Experience a day in the life of a 17-year-old Roman, Lucius, as he celebrates his brother's coming of age amidst daily routines and historical significance.

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Key Insights

  • 🥶 The daily life of a 17-year-old Roman, Lucius, showcases a blend of family traditions, education, and future aspirations.
  • 🤕 Ancient Rome's emphasis on family rituals and the coming of age ceremonies portrayed significant cultural values.
  • 🍝 The visit to Forum Augustus provided a historical context for the Romans, connections to their past warriors, and life lessons.
  • 🍽️ The Baths of Agrippa and celebratory dinner highlighted social interactions, relaxation, and indulgence typical in Roman society.


Translator: tom carter Reviewer: Bedirhan Cinar It's March the 17th in A.D. 73. We're visiting ancient Rome to watch the Liberalia, an annual festival that celebrates the liberty of Rome's citizens. We're looking in at a 17-year-old named Lucius Popidius Secundus. He's not from a poor family, but he lives in the region known as the Subura, a poorer... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Lucius begin his day on the festival day of Liberalia?

Lucius began the day by performing family duties as his brother was coming of age, marking an important milestone in ancient Rome. He watched as his brother stood before the shrine with protective deities, completing the ritual with a prayer of thanks.

Q: What were Lucius's educational accomplishments at 17?

At 17, Lucius had almost completed his education, being proficient in public speaking, reading and writing Latin and Greek. He had also received practical training from his father in activities like running, swimming, and fighting.

Q: How did the visit to Forum Augustus impact Lucius and his family?

The visit to the Forum Augustus allowed Lucius and his family to witness statues of Rome's great warriors and generals, instilling a sense of pride and history in the young adults. Fathers and guardians narrated stories of Rome's past glory to impart life lessons.

Q: What were the evening rituals for Lucius and his family after a day in ancient Rome?

After enjoying the baths and a celebratory dinner, Lucius and his family continued drinking into the night. However, with hindsight, the uncertainty loomed over Lucius's future as history foretold the reign of terror by Emperor Domitian.


This video takes us back to ancient Rome on March 17th, A.D. 73, during the annual festival called Liberalia. We follow a 17-year-old named Lucius Popidius Secundus, who lives in the poorer neighborhood of Subura. Despite coming from a relatively well-off family, Lucius experiences the cramped living conditions and frequent fires that pose a risk to the tenants. We witness important milestones in Lucius' life, such as his brother's coming of age ceremony and his education, as well as the daily activities of Roman citizens, including their visits to the Forum and the baths. The video ends with a question about Lucius' future and whether he will survive the reign of Emperor Domitian.

Questions & Answers

Q: How does Lucius' living environment in the Subura impact his daily life?

Lucius' living environment in the Subura, known for its poorer conditions, has a significant impact on his daily life. The cramped apartments and frequent fires pose risks to the tenants. Lucius wakes up to the smell of ash and smoke, which is not uncommon in his neighborhood. Despite these challenges, Lucius and his family carry on with their daily activities, adapting to their circumstances.

Q: Why is his brother's coming of age ceremony an important milestone?

In ancient Rome, where half the children die before reaching adulthood, reaching the age of maturity is a significant milestone. Lucius' brother's coming of age ceremony is important because it signifies that he has survived to become an adult. It is a moment of gratitude and celebration for the family, as they recognize that their brother has defied the odds and made it to this stage of life.

Q: What skills has Lucius acquired by the age of 17?

By the age of 17, Lucius has almost completed his education. He has learned important skills such as public speaking, reading and writing in both Latin and Greek. Additionally, his father has taught him practical skills outside the classroom, including running, swimming, and fighting. These skills prepare Lucius for adulthood and potential roles within society.

Q: Why does Lucius' father make decisions regarding business deals and marriage for him?

According to Roman customs and traditions, young men like Lucius are not trusted to make important decisions regarding business deals and marriage until they reach the age of 25. Until then, their fathers are responsible for arranging such matters. This system ensures that young men receive guidance and support from their elders, who have more experience and knowledge.

Q: What activities can be observed on the streets of Rome during the Liberalia festival?

During the Liberalia festival, the streets of Rome are bustling with activity. The shops are open, and itinerant traders sell trinkets to the population. People are busy going from one place to another, creating a lively atmosphere. Fathers and uncles take their children to the Forum Augustus to see statues of Rome's famous warriors and leaders, such as Aeneas and Romulus. These excursions provide an opportunity for families to bond and share stories about Rome's glorious past.

Q: What sense of history do the Romans feel at the Forum Augustus?

The Forum Augustus holds a sense of history that is relevant to the present for the Romans. As they visit this ancient site, they are reminded of Rome's past achievements and the great men who shaped its history. Fathers and guardians retell stories of Rome's glory and the good deeds and sayings of past leaders. Lessons on how to live well and overcome the follies of youth are conveyed through these narratives, connecting the present generation with their ancestors and instilling a pride in their Roman identity.

Q: What campaigns and wars are taking place during this time in ancient Rome?

In A.D. 73, wars and campaigns are a fact of life in ancient Rome. There are ongoing campaigns in the north of England, Scotland, Romania (north of the River Danube), and the frontier between Syria and Iraq to the east. The Roman Empire is constantly expanding and defending its territories through military conquests. This period reflects the Roman Empire's widespread influence and the continuous warfare that sustains its dominance.

Q: What are the highlights of Lucius' visit to the baths?

After a long day, Lucius and his family head to the Baths of Agrippa in the Campus Martius. The bath experience involves moving from cold rooms to tepid ones and finally to very hot rooms. The Romans' mastery of window glass allows these rooms to have natural light. After spending more than an hour in the baths, the bathers leave feeling refreshed, massaged, oiled, and having been scraped down with a strigil to remove any remaining dirt. This bathing ritual is a vital part of Roman hygiene and socialization.

Q: How do the Romans dine and celebrate after returning from the baths?

After leaving the baths, the men return home for a celebratory dinner. The dinner is an intimate affair, with nine people reclining around a low table. Slaves attend to their every need, responding to gestures for more food and wine. As they dine, the diners discuss and share stories, creating a sense of camaraderie and enjoyment. The dinner serves as a time for relaxation and bonding among family and friends.

Q: How does the day come to an end for Lucius and his family?

As the day comes to a close, the rumble of wagons outside can be heard. The clients and freedmen, who have enjoyed a meal but have a lower social status, head to the now tepid baths before returning to their apartment blocks. At Lucius' house, the drinking continues into the night. However, Lucius and his stepbrother appear unwell, and a slave stands by in case either of them needs to vomit. This scene hints at the uncertainties and potential dangers that lie ahead for Lucius and his family.


This video offers a glimpse into the daily life of a young Roman named Lucius in ancient Rome. It showcases the challenges and privileges he experiences, highlighting the importance of milestones such as a coming of age ceremony and education. The video also emphasizes the bustling streets of Rome during festivals, the significance of historical sites and stories, and the ongoing wars and campaigns that shaped the Roman Empire. Through the portrayal of bathing rituals, dining customs, and nighttime activities, we gain insight into the social dynamics and routines of ancient Roman society. Finally, the ending leaves us with a question about Lucius' future and the potential hardships he may face under Emperor Domitian's reign, reminding us of the uncertainties of life in ancient Rome.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Lucius, a 17-year-old Roman from a poorer neighborhood, celebrates his brother's coming of age.

  • Lucius is almost done with his education, considering becoming a military tribune, but still treated as a child in some aspects.

  • The day includes family rituals, visits to the Forum Augustus, baths, and ends with a celebratory dinner.

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