The Origins of Apartment Living

Whilst shared housing and facilities might be new to some of us, it is a far from new form of housing. Apartments date back to Roman times, when space was short and people lived vertically in stacks. The word apartment derives from the Latin verb partire meaning to divide or share.

If you were poor in Rome, you lived in simple flats or apartments – the inside of these places was symbolic of your lack of wealth. These flats were known as insulae and only contained two rooms at the most. People tended to use them only for sleeping. Their days were spent working, perhaps a visit to the baths (as their flats had no running water) and they usually ate in local inns as cooking in these flats was not safe.

Unlike modern apartment buildings where the very wealthy have the penthouse at the top of the block, in those days, the hierarchy was the poorest at the top, the least poor closest to the street – they were the first out in the event of fire if somebody did try to cook!

All of this of course means that multi dwelling complexes are a thing of the past, a thing of the present and a thing of the future.

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