I just watched Mary Beard's documentary about the Romans. One thing I'm curious about is that some of the models of living of the Romans seemed to be quite similar to today's: e.g. that there were multistory apartment buildings as well as middle and high class single homes.

  • Do we have an idea about the relative costs of these buildings? Do we now how much work was involved in creating standard apartment buildings vs more expensive homes for the wealthy?
  • Do we know how long it took to create either of them in terms of total hours of work?
  • Were the buildings made by request or commissioned by public demand, i.e. when needed?
  • Who paid for multistory buildings? What was the business model so to speak?

I don't know much about Roman history beyond my secondary school education and Mary's documentary. So I apologies if my questions don't make sense to someone who knows much more about this period and appreciate any corrections.


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    -1 for "leeching on the hard work of others". If you think that finding and matching buyer to a seller is easy work, you don't have to pay for it. Unless a real estate agent uses the power of state regulation to makes such a choice impossible, then he's not "leeching", but merely fulfilling a need.
    – DVK
    Dec 23, 2013 at 15:51
  • Hi @DVK. I acknowledge that there are different cultures in different firms and that different people approach their work in different ways: sometimes highly ethical, sometimes the opposite and most often somewhere in between. I'm dealing with real estate agents professionally. Based on this experience I feel that the majority of real estate agents in highly developed areas fulfill only one need, their own. This is highly subjective obviously and based on my personal experience. Nonetheless I stand to the wording above. Passionately. Thanks.
    – pandita
    Feb 21, 2014 at 14:27
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    unless they force you to use their services instead of looking for the estate on your own, they are fulfilling your (customer's) need. If you didn't need them you'd not pay them.
    – DVK
    Feb 21, 2014 at 15:39
  • I'm not paying them. Other's do. This causes real estate agents to have more influence in design/development than desired or useful. I'd recommend to work in the area, i.e. development or construction, before making judgements based on ideas/ideology or before writing in bold.
    – pandita
    Feb 21, 2014 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


In the Late Republic, Marcus Licinius Crassus organized the only Fire Brigade in Rome - but only fought fires that threatened buildings that Crassus owned. According to this translation of Plutarch:

Moreover, observing how extremely subject the city was to fire and falling down of houses, by reason of their height and their standing so near together, he bought slaves that were builders and architects, and when he had collected these to the number of more than five hundred, he made it his practice to buy houses that were on fire, and those in the neighbourhood, which, in the immediate danger and uncertainty the proprietors were willing to part with for little or nothing, so that the greatest part of Rome, at one time or other, came into his hands. Yet for all he had so many workmen, he never built anything but his own house, and used to say that those that were addicted to building would undo themselves soon enough without the help of other enemies.


Crassus, however, was very eager to be hospitable to strangers; he kept open house, and to his friends he would lend money without interest, but called it in precisely at the time; so that his kindness was often thought worse than the paying the interest would have been.

Note that there was not yet such a thing as the share-capital corporation, which still lay a sesquimillenium in the future, and the development of double-entry bookkeeping was still 500 years in the future. Thus the only available business structures were proprietorships and partnerships, and their size was limited by the absence of the accounting controls that are enabled by the use of double-entry bookkeeping.

  • @T.E.D.: What's the point of all those crosswords, scrabble games, and Latin classes if I can't show it off no and then. ;-) Did you see my use of priorcetic a couple of days ago re the Huns. Dec 15, 2013 at 19:48
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    Priorcetic? Before whales? Jan 12, 2014 at 6:27
  • @LennartRegebro: Oops! I meant poliorcetic: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poliorcetic. Too late to edit that comment now I guess. Jan 12, 2014 at 6:32

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