Having just finished a pleasant conversation with a friend in Rome…talking about the usual-reenacting, history, the business climate and recently, commiserating about the climate….oppressively hot, humid and generally miserable… I remarked that life in ancient Rome was quite possibly a great deal more miserable if one was not one of the fortunate few who had the finances to flee the foetid summer conditions and bail for Baiae, a Roman seaside resort on the Bay of Naples…. Already hot and near the close of business for him, I didn’t spell out the depressing detail, I’ll just put my thoughts down here: Ancient Rome during the mid 3rd Century B.C. to the beginning of the 5th Century A.D.. sweltered in a climatic punctuated equilibrium; the Roman Warm Period or the “Roman climatic optimum” is now regarded as a period of unusually warm weather in Europe and the North Atlantic that ran from approximately 250 B.C. to A.D. 400.
Selecting A.D. 100, two years into the reign of the emperor Trajan, the period of Rome’s biggest expansion, Rome would have been quite warm and humid during the summer months. The area of Transtiberium would have been exposed to flooding because the Aqua Traiana would be completed in A.D. 109 improving drainage in Transtiberim.
Now suppose you are Quintus Quotidianus and have a very small subsistance business of carting leather skins to several tanneries located [historically] in REGIO XIV, one of the fourteen administrative regions created under Augustus. Regio XIV-“Across the Tiber” contained Tiber Island and all the parts of Rome that extended west beyond the Tiber; today, this is the area of the city called “Trastevere.” Cartman Quintus would most likely have lived close to his route. Tanneries in ancient Rome were relegated to the outskirts of the city because of the stench and the great quantities of water they required. The remains of a tannery was excavated under the Church of St. Cecilia in Trastavere at the beginning of the 20th Century. Quintus and his family might have lived in an insula, an ancient block of flats near the River. A small lodging house called the Insula Bolani was located in Regio XIV west of the pons Aemilius, and a little north of the church of S. Cecilia. Oppressive heat, river-born miasma and little respite from the misery if one lived on the upper floors (keeping in mind that heat rises, the constant smoke from industrial furnaces would have added to the terrarium-like living conditions.)
In short, MUCH MORE MISERABLE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD, something for re-eanctors to remember when we relive the “glories” of the ancient world!