Rental housing and urban property: The archaeological and social analysis of insulae in Roman Ostia from the 1st to the mid-4th century CE.
Committee MemberOlson, Kelly
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AbstractRental housing was abundant in the Roman city. Evidence for this form of housing is found in almost every structural type: horrea, terme, balnea, insulae, etc. It stands to reason that the evidence for the relationship between the owners or operators of the buildings and the tenants would be visible in the archaeological record. The insulae of Ostia Antica confirm this suggestion through the amenity of upper floor toilets. Repairs to these features and their late addition to structures substantiate how important they were to the buildings’ function. Furthermore, they establish that there was a binding contractual relationship between those who owned/operated the buildings and their tenants. The legal texts, mainly found in the Digest of Justinian, provide very little corroborating evidence regarding these features. However, they do clarify that the contracts were reciprocal, under obligatio, and unique to each tenant, most likely because the agreement was verbal. The jurists were often circuitous when considering the rental housing contract, most likely embracing the fact that the dominus dictated the terms. Within the ambiguity of the contracts, the physical evidence of the upper floor toilets and their maintenance is situated, demonstrating not all rentals were a run-down derelict mess and that the tenants had some ability to enforce their right to use and enjoy their home. The reaction from those who owned and operated the buildings was to place the upper floor toilets in a stairway or corridor, a space outside of the living quarters, but still accessible for tenants and maintenance. There were many purposes for owning and participating in the urban housing market. Many times this property would have been mortgaged to raise funds for further investments or to secure a political position and even as housing for clientele, which suggests that these buildings were kept in good working order for more reasons than for the tenant’s use, but for property value and assessment. The image of rental housing and urban property in Ostia Antica is one of integration among a diverse collection of structures, which demonstrates coordination, progress and a genuine interest from those who participated in it.
CitationTipton, K. (2017). Rental housing and urban property: The archaeological and social analysis of insulae in Roman Ostia from the 1st to the mid-4th century CE. (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/27629
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