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How did Romans heat their homes?Rich Romans liked to be warm and cosy. They had central heating at home, in villas and in public baths. The heating system was kept going by slaves, who kept a fire blazing in a furnace to heat warm air. The warm air moved around the building through spaces under the floors and between the walls. The underfloor space was made by raising the floor on top of piles of tile or stone. The Roman heating system was called a hypocaust.
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12y ago
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One of the most important medieval inventions was the chimney, which appeared in Norther Europe in the 11th or 12th century. It was expensive to build a chimney, and they were difficult to maintain, so the great majority of medieval people never saw a fireplace.

Those structures that were heated without fireplaces nearly all got their heat from open fires built in the middles of rooms. Clearly, without very special provision, this could only be done on the ground floor of a building, and the floor had to be incombustible. Stone or dirt hearths were used most often as a place to build the fires. Nearly always, the smoke was simply allowed to rise through the room to the roof. Well built structures had vents on the roof that allowed smoke to escape under a cover that prevented rain from getting in. In a simple cottage, there was often a hole in the roof or large vent holes under the gables to allow smoke out. I am told that a thatched roof will allow the smoke to pass right through it, but I am not sure how well this would have worked, and I do not know it was a preferred practice. But a fire under an unprotected thatched roof would have had to be in a very tall room to be safe.

There was a thing called a hanging chimney or smoke canopy that gathered smoke so it could be vented out through the roof or a hole in the wall. This was a rather light construction, and examples I have seen look like they were made of wattle and daub (sticks woven and covered with a mud plaster). They were not true chimneys because they had no draft. They are seen in medieval art where kitchens are portrayed, but it seems they were used much elsewhere. In a stone building, they could have been put against a wall, where they would have looked rather like a fireplace that projected into the room. There is a link to a related question on smoke canopies below.

Tenement buildings in town had tall central rooms so the smoke could vent to the roof, and great halls also had vents at the roof. Rooms that were off these tall rooms got their heat form the central fire.

Clearly, an attempt to heat a small individual room would have resulted in problems, including fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, which ancient Romans referred to as suffocation. For this reason, most people who lived in towns did not cook their own food. I have seen articles about inventories of possessions in estates of town people who had died, indicating that possibly as many as 90% of the people did not have cooking utensils. So heat from cooking was not available.

Fuel was most often wood. It could have been just about any combustible material, however, from peat to braided straw.

My guess is that most people dressed warmly and many went without heat altogether.

There is a link below to a painting of a woman cooking in the great hall of a longhouse. Though the painting was done in the 20th century of a contemporary scene in northern Germany, it is not all that different from what a similar scene would have looked like in the Middle Ages in the same area.

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13y ago

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

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9y ago

The houses of the rich, public buildings and public baths were heated though an underfloor heating system called hypocaust. An underground furnace produced hot steam. This was channeled though an underfloor cavity which was created by raising the level of the floor from the ground. The steam then went though flues which went up the walls. This way the upper floor could also be heated. It was then released into the atmosphere via vents on the roof.

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14y ago

They heated their houses with fire chambers which went every room

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Roman baths were heated by systems called 'hypocausts'.

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12y ago

Roman baths were heated by systems called 'hypocausts'.

Or they were also naturally hot due to the hot springs that they were built upon.

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Roman baths were heated using systems called 'hypocausts'.

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12y ago

well, most of the year they didnt really need to cos its Italy, but most of the time a decent fire, just like everyone else in the world

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13y ago

Yes, the Romans actually invented central heating.

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Q: How did the people in the middle ages heat their homes?
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How did medieval people keep their houses warm?

Answer:They most likely used a fireplace. they used fireplaces and chimneys to heat there houses and cook.Answer:Most people in the Middle Ages did not heat their houses with what we would call fireplaces because the chimney was not invented until the 11th or 12th century, and was too expensive for any but the wealthy for a long time after that. Most people dressed heavily and heated their houses with free standing fires on hearths that sat on dirt floors. The smoke was vented through a hole in the roof or high on the walls under the peaks of the roof. Some people had what are called hanging chimneys or smoke canopies to guide the smoke. In the homes of the wealthy, where the floors were likely to be wood or tile, braziers were used, and the holes in the roof were more elaborately set up so rain would not come in.


Did people in the middle ages bathe in the winter?

Surprising as it might seem, "cleanliness is next to godliness" was a common idea in the middle ages, so people in towns and cities tended to bathe frequently. Physicians of the time connected bad smells with disease, clergy believed a clean body was an indicator of a good soul. People bathed in public baths in the towns and cities, and this was a bit problematical at the time, since it meant a certain amount of public nudity, which was not thought good. The public baths were equipped with wooded tubs or were in the ground. Hot springs provided hot water, where it was available. Where there were no springs, people could heat water and put it in the tub in winter, or they could bathe in the cold. Later, as the Renaissance set in, people had more access to perfume and clean clothes, and tended to clean only those parts of the body that showed, unless they got very dirty somehow.


In the later middle ages did women work in the kitchen?

Common homes in the middle ages did not have seperate kitchens. Fuel was a significant expense, and ovens were impractical for most individual homes. It was also impractical to maintain a seperate fire for cooking apart from the one used for heating and lighting a home. Cooking was most often done in the main hall or room, over the hearth, or at the fireplace if there was one. Home cooking was boiled, stewed, spit roasted, or cooked on a grill over the fire. Bread was purchased from a baker in towns, and in villages made in a common ovens owned by the lord for a nominal fee. Towns had cookshops that provided pies and filled pastries, both savory and sweet. Ale, a universal food in the middle ages, would have been purchased from an aleseller by townsfolk and brewed in small batches by villagers (both for sale and personal consumption.) Medieval ovens were primitive by modern standards. They were a stone or masonry chamber, usually with a domed top. A fire was built directly on the oven floor to heat it, and once hot the embers would be raked out, the floor cleaned with a cloth, items to be cooked were placed inside, and the front was closed up. The cost, both to build the oven, and also for the extra fuel required, made ovens most practical in situations where large amounts of cooking would be done, such as bakeries, food shops, or in places like castles or monestaries where large numbers of people needed to be fed. Private ovens were a sign of considerable wealth.


How often do people bath in the dark ages?

They didn't really. They would rub themselves down with herbs and flowers to kill the fleas and ticks. Maybe, if they felt like it, they would take a bath once a year. Bathing was not one of the things on the top of the list for people. There were many reasons why they didn't. It was hard to get enough water to fill a tub, and it was hard to heat up enough water to make it comfortable. Then, to get the privacy and the clothes they put back on were usually dirty. The people who did take a bath the most were Muslim and Jewish and that is something that set them apart. It was a stinky world.


What was London like in the middle ages?

In the Middle Ages, cities ranged widely in size. While large cities such as Constantinople or Cordoba might have had populations that reached a million at times, the smallest cities were hardly the size of modern towns, and some might even have been so small there populations were less than a thousand when conditions were hard. Nevertheless, there are generalizations that can be made. First of all, in most places the defining feature of a city was the presence of a cathedral. This implied that there was probably an abbey or monastery, and there was a bishops palace. The abbey or monastery very likely included a library, monks who copied books, a school, and possibly a hospital. Most cities had inns, some of which were hostels associated with the local monastery, which were open for pilgrims and other travellers. Like towns (but not villages) cities had permanent market places. These had permanent shops and temporary stalls where all sorts of merchants plied their trade. Housing ranged from fine houses for wealthy people, to lodging rooms for those who were poor. The people of the Middle Ages had wealthy neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods, which seems perhaps an odd thing to say, but was a change from times in ancient Rome. Ancient houses were built around atriums, and urban houses often had no windows looking out on the street, which allowed them to be surrounded by apartments and shops on the street side, whose residents paid rent to the person own in the house. In the Middle Ages, the house had no atrium, and had street windows, so wealthy people liked to build their houses close to each other, keeping apart from the poorer folk. One of the things about the Middle Ages people don't think about much is that cooking was done over open fires, and this was very hard to do for ordinary people in an urban environment. The open fires had to be on ground floors for safety reasons, and the smoke was vented through louvers or vents at the top level of the roof. It was impossible for people living in lodging houses to do their own cooking, and there is some evidence that only about one person in ten had their own kitchens in cities. The result was that most people bought prepared food for their meals. The open fires had other implications in architecture, and this dictated building design to a great degree. The fire, with its hearth on the ground floor and vents at the roof, implied that the building have one very large heated room with a very high ceiling. Other rooms looked onto this at various levels and got what heat they had from it, or were detached and had no heat. This made it virtually impossible for poor people to have a heated apartment, even of a single room. Later in the Middle Ages, after the chimney was invented in the 11th or 12th century, it became possible to have heated rooms, but their introduction was very slow, and the house without the great hall was a defining feature of Tudor architecture, a Renaissance style. There were many different kinds of work. Trades and crafts that had high quality standards also had guilds associated with them. A child had to be an apprentice through long years to become a journeyman at a craft, and a journeyman had to produce a masterpiece acceptable to the guild to become a full guild member. The guilds regulated the trade in their own areas of interest, so if a person was a cordwainer (maker of expensive shoes and other fine leather products), or a fine baker, he was a guild member and had to conform to guild standards. People who worked at simple jobs, doing labor, had no protection from guilds, and often had to struggle to get by. In between were people who might or might not be guild members, depending on the conditions in the individual city, and these people included those who had skills, but whose clients were not wealthy; among them were people who prepared inexpensive food, potters, weavers, and so on. Serfs and villeins who ran off the manor usually settled in cities because there was work there. The story is that if they could remain undiscovered for a year, they were free. My guess is that things were a bit more complicated than that. On the manor, the serf was guaranteed a job, a home, and protection from crime, war, and famine. In the city, there were no guarantees, and the price of freedom was the risk it entailed. A serf who repented running off might return during that year, perhaps with a feeling of defeat; but a serf who remained away for a year had presumably found work, and the lord of his manor was free of his obligations to the serf at the same time the serf was free from the lord. People who were not members of guilds, had no marketable skills, were runaways, and such, were likely to turn to crime. Also, the manorial system had provisions for dealing with crime built into it, whereby people who were accused of crimes were the responsibility of their neighbors until they could be tried, and they were tried by people who knew them. In cities, the legal system could not function in this way, and it became very impersonal. Prisons were built because neighbors could not take responsibility for accused criminals, and the judicial system was comparatively uncaring. Punishments were modified in ways that became less a matter of compensation for victims and more a matter of intention to deter by example. There were cultural activities ranging from theater to games. The games of medieval Europe included jousting, as we all learn from popular history, but they also include such things as football. In a city, football was typically played in an open area, such as a large square, with sides of varying numbers of people. It is said to have been remarkably rowdy with less respect for passers by than one might like. I have read of problems developing because someone decided to use the main door to a church as one of the goals, to which the priests objected. People in cities always had to worry about sanitation. One thing misunderstood about the Middle Ages was the medieval people liked to be very clean. They had soap makers' guilds, and they had public bath houses in towns and even larger villages. The bath houses had schedules including days when the water was hot. In larger municipalities, they might always have had hot water. Rich people did not go to bath houses, but others did. They bathed in wooden tubs, and there is medieval artwork showing men and women bathing together. In fact, I have seen artwork in which a couple faced each other in the same tub, with the tubs lined up in a long row, long planks laid down across the middles of the tubs to form a table, on which a banquet was laid out. They wore their jewelry and nothing else. I have read the Church was a bit concerned by the nudity, but liked the idea of cleanliness being next to godliness, and so was puzzled about what to do. But the problem of a water supply was important, and this was addressed in cities. In London, for example, a public works project begun in 1247 produced a conduit bringing spring water into the city. I am not sure what the access to this water was, but I believe it had to be paid for, because it seems poorer people continued to take drinking water from the Thames, and continued occasionally to get sick from it. Many cities had walls, and others had large castles in them. Many had bustling ports. Some had industries associated with them, such as textiles, and some were known for their educational facilities. Cities with universities were particularly troublesome. Clerics had benefit of clergy which meant that they could only be tried in Church courts. The legal definition of cleric was anyone who could read. Students, of course, could read, and therefore could not be tried by civil authorities. Where there were large populations of students, there was also a large amount of rowdiness, but in university cities, this got to the point of licentiousness. Paris was known for having problems with students who committed crimes and went unpunished.

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