The Dacians - Ancient Rome Live

The Dacians - Ancient Rome Live

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The Dacians were a Thracian people that lived in modern-day Romania. They came in conflict with Rome as it expanded, but wars never reached their climax until Trajan (98-117 CE) declared war on Dacia in 102 CE. After Trajan won the wars, he introduced a steady, constant image of the conquered foe throughout his imperial monuments, including Trajan's Column, forum, arch, basilica. A number of these Dacians, with skull-cap Phyrgian cap. pants, boots, and unkempt beard (often depicted with colored marbles like pavonazzetto and bigio morato), were also reused as symbolic decorations in later monuments, most particularly on Constantine''s Arch by the Colosseum.

10 Facts About the Roman Games

The Ancient Romans loved their games. Roman leaders famously pacified the public by providing panem et circenses meaning ‘bread and circuses’. These circuses, or games, were more than just entertainment, they were also populist tools used to drum up political support.

Games also often featured at religious festivals, a typical Roman blending of state function and religion.

Here are 10 facts about the games of Ancient Rome.

Ancient roman games as a killing machine for wild animals

Hunting scene on granite board taken from Roman Amphitheater in Mérida (Spain). Current location of the granite: Nacional Museum of Roman Art in Mérida. Photo by Lorenzo Plana Torres

The games in the Roman arenas were above all a huge killing and extermination machine for wild animals. It was not the gladiatorial fights, not the chariot races or the theatrical performances that topped the popularity charts of the imperial townspeople. Rather, they were the so-called animal hunts, during which over the centuries tens of thousands of animals were slaughtered for the enthusiastic public. It started in 186 BC, when Roman General and consul Marcus Fulvius Nobilior organized ten-day’s games for his returning to Rome after the triumph over the Central Greek Alliance of Aetolians. Full details about the triumph were given by roman historian Titus Livius. For the first time a lot of lions and panthers were hunted in order to gladiators play deathly games against wild animals in the circus. Fulvius Nobilior set standards that his successors sought to outdo both in terms of the amount of animals used in circus and for the different type of performance in games. During the games organized by Fulvius Nobillior, around 170 wild animals were killed in the Roman arena including 63 African animals, 40 bears and elephants.

The dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla gave the Roman public a showcase of about 100 lions. The African hunters were usually captured by the Romans along with wild animals. In 58 BC, 150 leopards and for the first time an Egyptian hippopotamus and five crocodiles were transported to Rome for killing. Always new animal species, always new killing techniques and above all ever larger quantities of animals were brought in and used up for the so-called games. There was hardly found big wild animals that was not used in the Roman games. Tigers from India, seals from the North Sea coast, elephants and rhinos from Africa, deer from Gaul, hippopotamus and crocodiles from Africa or giraffes and ostrich from Ethiopia were victims of the Roman entertainment industry. Not to mention bears, all kinds of big cats, bulls and many more.
Finally, hippopotamus in Lower Egypt were completely eradicated in the 4th century. Likewise, the elephants in Libya and the lions in Thessaly were extinct.

During the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan around 11000 animals were slaughtered in the arena within 123 days in a single game period when he celebrated victory over the Dacians. An army of caretakers, transport workers, guards, veterinarians and trainers organized the preparation of spectacularly staged killing orgies. How many animals have already died in the hunt and on the transport, by accidents, ship sinking or epidemics, it impossible to know. The number may have been little less than in compare to those animals who have slaughtered as victim of the games eventually. Probably hundreds of thousands or millions, of animals have been subjected to systematic destruction in Roman games. Because the example numbers given above only refer to the games directly in city of Rome. But there were hundreds of venues throughout the Roman Empire, whose games, also including large number of wild animals in arenas.

For the Romans, killing large number of wild animals was no reason to regret. On the contrary, they were proud of these great achievements in their eyes. Areas in which the wild predators had previously lived, Romans thought they could be used for livestock breeding and agriculture. The liberation of entire regions from wild animals was regarded as a good achievement.
R everence for creation, responsibility for the environment were not central categories of antiquity, as can be demonstrated in the areas of war, forest management and, in general, natural resources.

Amazing Skills of the Roman Soldiers

The Roman soldier was not only expected to be an excellent fighter but he was required to be a competent builder, engineer and worker.

Fighting in the Roman army was competitive and done for the sake of virtus. Virtus, from which we get our word “virtue,” was manly courage and excellence. Disciplina, the handmaiden of virtus, meant self-control, determination and an orderly way of doing things. The Roman soldier strove to be confident, manly, courageous and resourceful in battle. But they were expected, also, to build roads and bridges, to clear forests and to build walls.

The soldiers were required to cut off the heads of important enemy fighters when killed. The severed heads of enemies encouraged the soldiers to work harder to build the roads they needed to further penetrate enemy territory. And to conquer, win the war.

Roman soldiers building a road. Notice the two heads of enemies impaled on stakes. Roman soldiers showing Emperor Trajan the heads of important dead enemies during the Dacian War in c. 102 AD on Trajan’s Column in Rome.

Roman soldiers competed with each other for the honors and recognition conferred for virtus and disciplina. During the Battle for Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Roman General Titus, frustrated by the time it was taking to conquer Jerusalem, decided the Romans had to build a wall around the whole city of Jerusalem:

“Titus determined that they must build a wall round about the whole city….(and) if any should think such a work to be too great…he ought to consider that it is not fit for Romans to undertake any small work.” Josephus, Wars 5.12.1 In only three days the Roman army built a five-mile wall around Jerusalem. Josephus says: “…it is incredible that what would naturally have required some months was done in so short an interval.” Ibid. 5.12.2

Roman soldiers building a wall. Relief from Trajan’s Column in Rome. Trajan’s Column

The wall was built in such a short time because each section of the wall was assigned to a specific Legion and each Legion competed with the other Legions for the awards of disciplina. Each Legion was divided into ten Cohorts. Each Legion assigned a portion of the wall to each of its ten Cohorts. Not only were the Legions competing against each other for pay and for glory, but the individual Cohorts within a Legion competed with each other. So all Cohorts in each Legion and all the Legions in the army were competing against each other for the money, the rewards and, most importantly, for the approval of their superiors and of their General, their supreme commander.

A Roman historian who would write about Rome’s military has a treasure-trove of ancient information about Roman military life artistically embedded in the bas reliefs of the 2nd century Trajan’s Column (Trajan was Emperor from 98-117 AD). The 115 foot high Column still survives and stands in Trajan’s Forum in Rome.

[CLICK HERE for article on Trajan’s Forum]

The Column, depicting scenes from Trajan’s Dacian wars (101-102 and 105-106), has 155 separate scenes on it. Notice the intimate details of the soldier’s lives depicted on just this small portion of Trajan’s Column.

The 620 foot Carrara marble frieze on the Column starts at the bottom and circles up to the top of the Column. The capital block of the Column weighs almost 54 tons and had to be hoisted 112 feet up to the top of the Column—in the 2nd century AD!

Roman soldiers did every thing that had to be done to wage a successful war. During the Trajan’s Dacian Wars a bridge had to be built over the Danube River in order to be able to reach Dacian territory (today a large part of eastern Europe). Soldiers were expected to be workers, implement construction designs and do every thing. Here they are (left) in c. 101 constructing a bridge to span the Danube River.

And here (below) is the Danube river god, Danuvius, watching the soldiers march over the bridge they built.

Trajans’ Greek architect Apollodorus designed the 2,724 foot bridge and Roman soldiers built it in 105 AD. It was a segmental arch bridge that helped win the war over the Dacians. For more than 1,000 years it was the largest arch bridge ever built.

Below is a relief of the bridge on Trajan’s Column showing the unusually flat segmental arches on high-rising concrete piers. Emperor Trajan is in the foreground with his soldier-construction workers.

When the army was in a country for a long time, the soldiers had to build their own fort (below).

Clearing forests, fjording rivers and streams, building bridges, roads, walls, forts—the amazing Roman soldiers did it all. Plus they fought and won the battles that made them masters of 70 million of the people in the ancient world.

Roman Empire in Red under Emperor Trajan

The Roman Empire at its height extended 2.2 million miles. Roman soldiers had to walk those miles and fight those wars to make Rome one of the biggest empires in the history of the world.—Article by Sandra Sweeny Silver

The dangerous streets of ancient Rome

Ancient Rome after dark was a dangerous place. Most of us can easily imagine the bright shining marble spaces of the imperial city on a sunny day – that’s usually what movies and novels show us, not to mention the history books. But what happened when night fell? More to the point, what happened for the vast majority of the population of Rome, who lived in the over-crowded high-rise garrets, not in the spacious mansions of the rich?

Remember that, by the first century BC, the time of Julius Caesar, ancient Rome was a city of a million inhabitants – rich and poor, slaves and ex-slaves, free and foreign. It was the world’s first multicultural metropolis, complete with slums, multiple-occupancy tenements and sink estates – all of which we tend to forget when we concentrate on its great colonnades and plazas. So what was backstreet Rome – the real city – like after the lights went out? Can we possibly recapture it?

The best place to start is the satire of that grumpy old Roman man, Juvenal, who conjured up a nasty picture of daily life in Rome around AD 100. The inspiration behind every satirist from Dr Johnson to Stephen Fry, Juvenal reminds us of the dangers of walking around the streets after dark: the waste (that is, chamber pot plus contents) that might come down on your head from the upper floors not to mention the toffs (the blokes in scarlet cloaks, with their whole retinue of hangers on) who might bump into you on your way through town, and rudely push you out of the way:

“And now think of the different and diverse perils of the night. See what a height it is to that towering roof from which a pot comes crack upon my head every time that some broken or leaky vessel is pitched out of the window! See with what a smash it strikes and dints the pavement! There’s death in every open window as you pass along at night you may well be deemed a fool, improvident of sudden accident, if you go out to dinner without having made your will… Yet however reckless the fellow may be, however hot with wine and young blood, he gives a wide berth to one whose scarlet cloak and long retinue of attendants, with torches and brass lamps in their hands, bid him keep his distance. But to me, who am wont to be escorted home by the moon, or by the scant light of a candle he pays no respect.” (Juvenal /Satire/ 3)

Juvenal himself was actually pretty rich. All Roman poets were relatively well heeled (the leisure you needed for writing poetry required money, even if you pretended to be poor). His self-presentation as a ‘man of the people’ was a bit of a journalistic facade. But how accurate was his nightmare vision of Rome at night? Was it really a place where chamber pots crashed on your head, the rich and powerful stamped all over you, and where (as Juvenal observes elsewhere) you risked being mugged and robbed by any group of thugs that came along?

Outside the splendid civic centre, Rome was a place of narrow alleyways, a labyrinth of lanes and passageways. There was no street lighting, nowhere to throw your excrement and no police force. After dark, ancient Rome must have been a threatening place. Most rich people, I’m sure, didn’t go out – at least, not without their private security team of slaves or their “long retinue of attendants” – and the only public protection you could hope for was the paramilitary force of the night watch, the vigiles.

Exactly what these watchmen did, and how effective they were, is a moot point. They were split into battalions across the city and their main job was to look out for fires breaking out (a frequent occurrence in the jerry-built tenement blocks, with open braziers burning on the top floors). But they had little equipment to deal with a major outbreak, beyond a small supply of vinegar and a few blankets to douse the flames, and poles to pull down neighbouring buildings to make a fire break.

While Rome burned

Sometimes these men were heroes. In fact, a touching memorial survives to a soldier, acting as a night watchman at Ostia, Rome’s port. He had tried to rescue people stranded in a fire, had died in the process and was given a burial at public expense. But they weren’t always so altruistic. In the great fire of Rome in AD 64 one story was that the vigiles actually joined in the looting of the city while it burned. The firemen had inside knowledge of where to go and where the rich pickings were.

Certainly the vigiles were not a police force, and had little authority when petty crimes at night escalated into something much bigger. They might well give a young offender a clip round the ear. But did they do more than that? There wasn’t much they could do, and mostly they weren’t around anyway.

If you were a crime victim, it was a matter of self-help – as one particularly tricky case discussed in an ancient handbook on Roman law proves. The case concerns a shop-keeper who kept his business open at night and left a lamp on the counter, which faced onto the street. A man came down the street and pinched the lamp, and the man in the shop went after him, and a brawl ensued. The thief was carrying a weapon – a piece of rope with a lump of metal at the end – and he coshed the shop-keeper, who retaliated and knocked out the eye of the thief.

This presented Roman lawyers with a tricky question: was the shopkeeper liable for the injury? In a debate that echoes some of our own dilemmas about how far a property owner should go in defending himself against a burglar, they decided that, as the thief had been armed with a nasty piece of metal and had struck the first blow, he had to take responsibility for the loss of his eye.

But, wherever the buck stopped (and not many cases like this would ever have come to court, except in the imagination of some academic Roman lawyers), the incident is a good example for us of what could happen to you on the streets of Rome after dark, where petty crime could soon turn into a brawl that left someone half-blind.

And it wasn’t just in Rome itself. One case, from a town on the west coast of modern Turkey, at the turn of the first centuries BC and AD, came to the attention of the emperor Augustus himself. There had been a series of night-time scuffles between some wealthy householders and a gang that was attacking their house (whether they were some young thugs who deserved the ancient equivalent of an ASBO, or a group of political rivals trying to unsettle their enemies, we have no clue). Finally, one of the slaves inside the house, who was presumably trying to empty a pile of excrement from a chamber pot onto the head of a marauder, actually let the pot fall – and the result was that the marauder was mortally injured.

The case, and question of where guilt for the death lay, was obviously so tricky that it went all the way up to the emperor himself, who decided (presumably on ‘self-defence’ grounds) to exonerate the householders under attack. And it was presumably those householders who had the emperor’s judgment inscribed on stone and put on display back home. But, for all the slightly puzzling details of the case, it’s another nice illustration that the streets of the Roman world could be dangerous after dark and that Juvenal might not have been wrong about those falling chamber pots.

But night-time Rome wasn’t just dangerous. There was also fun to be had in the clubs, taverns and bars late at night. You might live in a cramped flat in a high-rise block, but, for men at least, there were places to go to drink, to gamble and (let’s be honest) to flirt with the barmaids.

The Roman elite were pretty sniffy about these places. Gambling was a favourite activity right through Roman society. The emperor Claudius was even said to have written a handbook on the subject. But, of course, this didn’t prevent the upper classes decrying the bad habits of the poor, and their addiction to games of chance. One snobbish Roman writer even complained about the nasty snorting noises that you would hear late at night in a Roman bar – the noises that came from a combination of snotty noses and intense concentration on the board game in question.

Happily, though, we do have a few glimpses into the fun of the Roman bar from the point of view of the ordinary users themselves. That is, we can still see some of the paintings that decorated the walls of the ordinary, slightly seedy bars of Pompeii – showing typical scenes of bar life. These focus on the pleasures of drink (we see groups of men sitting around bar tables, ordering another round from the waitress), we see flirtation (and more) going on between customers and barmaids, and we see a good deal of board gaming.

Interestingly, even from this bottom-up perspective, there is a hint of violence. In the paintings from one Pompeian bar (now in the Archaeological Museum at Naples), the final scene in a series shows a couple of gamblers having a row over the game, and the landlord being reduced to threatening to throw his customers out. In a speech bubble coming out of the landlord’s mouth, he is saying (as landlords always have) “Look, if you want a fight, guys, get outside”.

So where were the rich when this edgy night life was going on in the streets? Well most of them were comfortably tucked up in their beds, in their plush houses, guarded by slaves and guard dogs. Those mosaics in the forecourts of the houses of Pompeii, showing fierce canines and branded Cave Canem (‘Beware of the Dog’), are probably a good guide to what you would have found greeting you if you had tried to get into one of these places.

Inside the doors, peace reigned (unless the place was being attacked of course!), and the rough life of the streets was barely audible. But there is an irony here. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that some of the Roman rich, who ought to have been tucked up in bed in their mansions, thought that the life of the street was extremely exciting in comparison. And – never mind all those snobbish sneers about the snorting of the bar gamblers – that’s exactly where they wanted to be.

Rome’s mean streets were where you could apparently find the Emperor Nero on his evenings off. After dark, so his biographer Suetonius tells us, he would disguise himself with a cap and wig, visit the city bars and roam around the streets, running riot with his mates. When he met men making their way home after dinner, he’d beat them up he’d even break into closed shops, steal some of the stock and sell it in the palace. He would get into brawls – and apparently often ran the risk of having an eye put out (like the thief with the lamp), or even of ending up dead.

So while many of the city’s richest residents would have avoided the streets of Rome after dark at all costs – or only ventured onto them accompanied by their security guard – others would not just be pushing innocent pedestrians out of the way, they’d be prowling around, giving a very good pretence of being muggers. And, if Suetonius is to be believed, the last person you’d want to bump into late at night in downtown Rome would be the Emperor Nero.

Mary Beard is professor of classics at the University of Cambridge. She will be presenting her series Meet the Romans with Mary Beard in April on BBC Two.

The Life of a Poor Man in Ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, the agricultural poor were viewed rather differently from the urban poor. (Image: S.Borisov/Shutterstock)

Agricultural Poor in Ancient Rome

The Romans took considerable pride in tracing their descent from hardy Italian peasants, and told uplifting stories of their past that celebrated the virtues of the simple life lived on the land.

A famous example is Cincinnatus, a farmer—admittedly not destitute but a simple, hard-working farmer—who was summoned from his farm to be the dictator for six months, and who, having saved Rome, quit his office and returned to his farm just 10 days later.

It is believed that the agricultural poor were viewed rather differently from the urban poor. The agricultural poor, so the conventional argument ran, supported themselves by the dint of hard work, whereas the urban poor leeched off the state by accepting free hand-outs of corn.

This is a transcript from the video series The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World. Watch it now, Wondrium.

Poor Romans in the Army

Roman general Gaius Marius allowed poor Romans to join the army. (Image: Morphart Creation/Shutterstock)

Very rarely, the Roman authorities do seem to have acknowledged the plight of the poor and sought to do something about it.

In 107 B.C., Roman General Gaius Marius permitted citizens who did not own any land and were excluded from service in the army to join as volunteers for his campaign against Jugurtha in North Africa. And the poor population volunteered in large numbers in order to escape destitution.

However, it must be mentioned here that Marius was not a social reformer, he didn’t really care about the poor. He merely wanted to solve a manpower crisis in the Roman Army.

Occupation of the Poor in Ancient Rome

The poor people generally had to work as unskilled workers, getting themselves hired on a daily basis to perform a variety of menial jobs.

They were known as a mercenarius—the modern equivalent word being ‘mercenary’—meaning a person who works for money. The decent folk despised them because, like the Greeks, they thought that working for someone else was equivalent to being a slave.

Beggars in Ancient Rome

When a poor Roman man could not work any longer, he had to live on charity. Beggars were a feature of both the urban and rural landscape in the ancient Roman world. There were tens of thousands of them and they accosted people in the street all the time.

The lucky ones managed to attach themselves to a wealthy house. Household slaves dished out scraps to them, either on their own initiative or sometimes at the bidding of their masters.

Professional Beggars in Ancient Rome

There were also professional beggars. These included priests devoted to the eastern goddess Cybele, who depended in part for their livelihood on alms from the general public.

Another kind of professional beggars were the so-called Cynic philosophers. The Cynics had rejected all worldly goods. Their name, kunikos in the Greek, meant ‘little dog’. It gave way to the modern word ‘cynic’. These beggars aggressively accosted passersby to spread their philosophy of poverty and to make them give alms.

Philanthropy in Rome

The Roman world did witness the beginnings of what might be called philanthropy.

The Roman author Seneca the Elder actually argued that it was wrong not to give to a beggar because ‘everyone has a right to charity’. Seneca belonged to the school of philosophy known as Stoic, which promoted the virtue of humanitas.

He told of a particularly horrifying practice that still happens in certain parts of the world today, namely that of deliberately maiming children, so as to make them appear more pathetic, and then sending them out to beg. His description provided not only a haunting image of those poor children condemned to a life of beggary, but also of the vulnerability of children to extortion and exploitation.

Handouts at Elections

Emperor Augustus had divided Rome into 14 regions comprising 265 wards for administrative purposes. And no Roman election took place without a healthy dose of bribery and corruption, and even the abject poor stood to benefit as a result.

Also, there were the periodic handouts of the corn dole, especially at election time, although these were intended for the entire populace and not exclusively for the poor.

How Did the Poor Enjoy in Ancient Rome?

Not everything was bleak for the poor population in Ancient Rome. There were things that gave the lives of poor Romans something of quality and enabled them to flourish, albeit within modest limits.

Enjoyment of the amenities of life in the city was by no means limited to the wealthy. For instance, a visit to the baths cost only a nominal sum. One could find shelter from the heat or the cold in the baths any day he wished. He could also stay there as long as he liked, idling away his time gossiping with his friends or indulging in a variety of pastimes.

The poor Romans could go to the amphitheaters for free, but they had to climb high to sit in the tiers above the senators and the knights. (Image: Noppasin Wongchum/Shutterstock)

If someone wanted something a bit more stimulating, then, on public holidays, he could watch exotic animals tearing Rome’s enemies to pieces or see gladiators fighting to death in the arena.

Admission to the Colosseum, like other amphitheaters, was free. As an ordinary citizen, a man would have to sit in the tiers above the senators and the knights. A woman would have to climb even higher and sit beside slaves and foreigners. But it was probably worth the climb. The spectacle would have distracted the poor people temporarily from the challenges and misery of the daily grind.

If one could not get a seat in the Colosseum, he could go to Circus Maximus to watch a chariot race. The Circus Maximus could accommodate about 250,000 spectators, so virtually the whole of Rome could attend.

Common Questions about the Life of a Poor Man in Ancient Rome

The poor Romans would work as unskilled workers, doing a variety of menial jobs on a daily wage basis.

The professional beggars in ancient Rome included priests devoted to the eastern goddess Cybele, who depended in part for their livelihood on alms from the general public. Another kind of professional beggars were the Cynic philosophers. These beggars aggressively accosted passersby to spread their philosophy of poverty and make them give alms.

The poor Romans could visit the baths for a nominal sum and find shelter from the heat or the cold. They could visit arenas and amphitheaters for free and watch gladiators fight. Else, they could go to Circus Maximus to watch a chariot race.

Ancient Rome, thumbs up & thumbs down meant the opposite of what many think

Must of us have got his wrong. It is widely believed that the thumbs up gesture originates from the gladiatorial fights of ancient Rome, in which the destiny of a losing gladiator was decided by the crowd. Thumbs up, he lived, thumbs down -he died. If this is what you believe – then you would be wrong, and here’s why.

Thumbs down, signified “swords down,” which meant the losing gladiator was worth more to them alive and was to be spared to fight another day.

The belief that the ‘thumbs-up’ and ‘thumbs-down’ gestures gave approval or disapproval respectively entered the public consciousness with Jean-Léon Gérôme’s 1872 painting ‘Pollice Verso’. The ‘thumbs down’ gestures of the crowd in Gérôme’s popular picture were interpreted by the 19th century public as signs of disapproval. Actually, the artist probably never intended that, as ‘pollice verso’ just means turned thumb.

Pollice Verso (Thumbs Down) by Jean-Léon Gérôme, the 19th-century painting that inspired Ridley Scott to tackle the project. source

Sadly his art work became so popular that Gérôme’s mistake became the accepted definition. What is even more sad is that Hollywood has its part to play too. Since Ridley Scott made Gladiator, it has totally transformed tourism in Rome. The Colosseum is now the city’s largest attraction. There are men dressed as gladiators offering to pose for pictures with you. HOWEVER, the painting had a strong influence on the film Gladiator. The producers showed director Ridley Scott a reproduction of the painting before he read the script “That image spoke to me of the Roman Empire in all its glory and wickedness. I knew right then and there I was hooked”, commented Scott

Scholars before Gérôme gave support to the view that “thumbs down” among the Romans, meant the hapless gladiator was to be spared, not killed.

The gesture meant “Throw your sword down”. A 1601 translation of Pliny equates the gesture with “assent” or “favor”, and John Dryden’s 1693 version of Juvenal’s Satires gives the thumb being bent back,not down, as the death signal.

Whenever a combatant was seriously wounded, the presiding judge, or referee, was called upon to determine whether the man should live or die, depending on how well he had put up a fight.

Bit like modern day ‘talent shows’ a judge usually based his decision on the passions expressed by the crowds in the stadium whether they would cheer, applaud, and give the thumbs down if they liked the man,. If they didn’t then they would give the thumbs up and his opponent would dispatch the fatal blow. Some scholars suggest the thumbs up meant to thrust a sword up into the heart.

Technology and Control in Ancient Rome

Students view and describe Roman technological innovations and analyze how technology helped the Romans control a growing empire.

English Language Arts, Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, World History

This lists the logos of programs or partners of NG Education which have provided or contributed the content on this page. Program

1. Have students use the think-pair-share strategy to discuss the importance of technological developments in history.

Ask: What do you believe the quote “Necessity is the mother of invention” means today? Can you provide a concrete example of this from another period in history? Have students think independently for one minute, discuss the questions with a partner, and then share their ideas with the class. Next, project the provided map of the Roman Empire. Give students one minute to read the legend and figure out what the color-coding indicates. Ask:

  • What does the legend tell you about the Roman Empire?
  • Based on the legend, when did the Roman Empire expand to include Britannia?
  • Imagine you’re the emperor of the Roman Empire and live in Rome. As emperor, you need to send a message to the governor of Britannia. How would you send this message?
  • Are you relying on technology to send the message? Why or why not?
  • As emperor, what specific challenges would you encounter in controlling all of this territory?

After discussing those questions as a class, explain to students that in this activity they will learn about inventions that occurred out of necessity in the Roman Empire as it expanded.

2. Have students analyze one Roman technology and explain its impact on the Roman political system.

Distribute a copy of the Roman Technology worksheet to each student and project the aqueduct image at the front of the classroom. Have students take notes in the worksheet as you explain that aqueducts were a major Roman technological innovation that provided Roman cities with freshwater. An aqueduct would start near a source of freshwater and gradually lower itself, letting gravity help the water travel down to the cities. Some Roman aqueducts still function today. After this explanation, check for understanding by asking: What is an aqueduct? Then, ask:

  • Why would people be happy with the Roman government for building this? Why would an aqueduct be a major technological improvement for Romans?
  • As a citizen, would you be more or less likely to support the Roman Empire after they built an aqueduct? Why or why not?
  • Overall, how do you think the Roman Empire used technology to maintain control of its growing empire?

3. Conduct a gallery walk of Roman technology.

Explain to students they will participate in a gallery walk. Divide students into small groups and have them travel from site to site with their group, completing the relevant section in Part 1 of the Roman Technology worksheet at each station. As groups progress through the walk, monitor their progress, answering any questions that arise and ensuring students remain on task.

4. Have students make connections between technology and control in the Empire.

After all students have returned to their seats, have them work independently to complete Part 2 of the worksheet, writing their answers in complete sentences.

5. Have a whole-class discussion about Roman technology.

Regroup as a class and have a whole-class discussion about the questions from Part 2 of the worksheet:

  • How did these technologies help the Roman Empire maintain control of their territory?
  • For the Romans, was “necessity the mother of invention?” Why or why not?
  • For the Romans, do you think the road was as important a technology to them as the mobile phone is to us today? Why or why not?
  • Do you think the Roman political system would have been able to survive without these technologies? Why or why not?

Informal Assessment

Collect students’ completed Roman Technology worksheets and use the provided answer key to check their understanding and progress toward the learning objectives.

Extending the Learning

Distribute a blank sheet of paper to each student. Explain that students will individually write a request to the Roman governor of a region of their choice (allow students to review the map used earlier in the activity to choose their region), asking that the governor bring one new technology to their city. In their request, students will need to explain to the Roman governor the following:

  • the key features of this new technology
  • why this new technology will improve the quality of life for the Romans living in this region
  • why this technology will be beneficial to the overall peace and stability of the Roman Empire

When students have finished, invite a few volunteers to share their ideas and then collect all student writing.

The Fall of Ancient Rome

The fall of Ancient Rome started from about AD 190. The Roman Empire was attacked by tribes such as the Goths and the Vandals. Civil wars in parts of the empire further weakened the rule of Rome and respect for Roman law dwindled as a result.

Why was the empire attacked by fierce tribes people? Tribes such as the Goths wanted to move south into parts of Europe that experienced a better climate that would assist their farming. This could only bring them into conflict with the Romans. At about AD 190, Rome also experienced a succession of poor emperors who simply were not capable of doing the job.

The Roman Army was spread throughout Western Europe. Each part of the army had its own idea as to who should be emperor. When one part of the army succeeded in putting its own man into the position of emperor, another part of the army would fight to put its own man in power. Between AD 211 and AD 284, there were twenty-three ‘soldier-emperors’ – and twenty of these men were killed by rivals! Clearly law and order and respect for that, within Rome itself was at fault.

in AD 284, the emperor Diocletian realised that something had to be done or Rome and its empire would disintegrate. He decided to divide the Roman Empire in two to make it easier to rule – he created the Western Empire and the Eastern Empire, each with its own leader. This split geographically was all but a north to south divide between the empire with Spain, France, England, Italy and parts of Germany forming the Western Empire and all areas to the east of this were in the Eastern Empire.

However, Diocletian faced more than just administrative problems. More and more military defences had to be built across the whole empire. This cost money that Rome did not have. To pay for these, taxes were increased and extra coins were minted. This lead to inflation causing prices to rise. Therefore, the people of Rome were less than favourable towards those who led them.

With threats from tribes in northern Europe, financial problems in Rome itself and a civilian population becoming more and more discontented, Rome could ill afford further major issues.

In AD 307, Constantine became emperor. He ruled from AD 307 to AD 337. Constantine was Rome’s first Christian emperor and he is considered to have been a strong ruler.

He believed that Rome as a city was too far away from vital areas of the empire to be of value from a governmental level. Constantine, therefore, moved the capital of the empire to a new city – Constantinople. This was a new city that was built on the old city of Byzantium. Whatever the motives were, Constantine’s decision was a poor one. Constantinople was much further east than Rome and firmly in the eastern empire. This left the western empire very vulnerable – though the eastern empire was hardly free from attacks.

The Ostrogoths attacked the western empire via the eastern empire. The Huns, a fierce tribe from Asia, attacked the western empire. The Franks, Visigoths,and Burgundians all made large inroads into the western empire.

The glory days of the Roman Army had passed and the Romans were forced into making deals with the tribes. The Vandals and Visigoths were allowed to live in the Roman Empire as long as they gave a promise to protect the empire from the Huns.

However, in AD 398, the leader of the Visigoths, Alaric, realised that the Roman Army was so thinly spread, that Rome itself was for the taking. Alaric moved cautiously south but in AD 410 he captured the city of Rome. The city was sacked. Roman held territory in Spain, France, northern Africa and England all fell to the various tribes that attacked them.

The ruins of Ancient Rome

In AD 455, Rome was attacked again. This time the damage was done by the Vandals. The city suffered serious damage. In AD 476, the last Roman emperor in the west, Romulus Augustulus, was removed from power by Odovacar, leader of the Goths. This date is usually used by historians as the year the Roman Empire ended. However, Roman rule continued in the eastern empire for a number of years after this date – in modern Greece, Turkey, the Middle East and northern Egypt.

Where Was Ancient Rome Located?

At its height, the empire of Ancient Rome covered large chunks of Southern Europe, Western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Rome was the founding city and government hub of Ancient Rome and was located in what is now known as central Italy.

As a republic, Ancient Rome was composed of the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. As an empire, Ancient Rome contained the lands of Britannia, Gaul, Pannonia, Dacia, Dalmatia, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Cappadocia, Egypt, Cyrenacia, Numidia, Hispanica and Aquitania. At its peak, the empire of Ancient Rome covered around 2.5 million square miles in area. As Ancient Rome began to collapse, the Eastern Roman Empire was composed of the lands of modern-day Greece, Syria, Egypt, the Balkans and Asia Minor.



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