Ancient Times: Case Study of the Ancient Romans

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Ancient Times:

Case Study of the Ancient Romans

History of the Civilized World: “My Most Important Notes”

I. Ancient Times -

i) Ancient Roman

ii) Ancient Greeks

The _____ of _____ marked the end of Ancient Times and the beginning of the ________ Ages.

II. Middle Ages -

The _________________ marked the beginning of the Modern Era.

III. Modern Times –

  1. Renaissance

  1. Reformation

  1. Imperialist Era

Case Study: The Ancient Roman Empire

The Romans were an extremely advanced society.

Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian Peninsula looks like a boot sticking out into the middle of the water. This was the center of the Roman Empire. And the most important city in Italy is Rome itself, right in the middle of the boot.

Imagining beginning in the heart of the city at Rome’s prime. At the heart of the city, the roads were paved and crowded with people. They wear white robes, draped over their shoulders and caught up around their waist with leather belts; they wear cloaks of red, blue, and other bright colors. Tall buildings rose up; these ancient apartment buildings were made up of concrete. The Coliseum was located downtown. Standing outside, it was an enormous circular wall that curved away from you and would loom high over your head. On the other side of that wall, was the sound of the clash of metal against metal and the roar of an excited crowd. This is the huge amphitheater where gladiators fight to the death chariot racers careen around a track, and lions battle with Roman soldiers for the entertainment of the Roman spectators.

In the richest part of town, marble columns with the status of Roman generals and emperors rise up while slaves pass by, staggering under the weight of litters – beds on which important Roman citizens lie to be carried through the city. Suddenly, you might hear music and a loud voice announcing, “Clear the way! Make way for the Emperor!” A litter comes into view, draped in purple (the most expensive dye) and surrounded by guards. Gold rings are on his fingers and a green laurel wreath crown is on his head.

If you followed a smooth paved road out of Rome it would go on and on all the way off the Italian Peninsula. You’d cross a bridge, built of tall stone arches, crowded with other travelers and pack animals. The Romans build hundreds of these paved roads to link the different parts of their empire together. None of these travelers on the roads seem to worry about bandits or highway robbers. After all, the Romans are careful to keep peace all over their kingdom. The was called the Pax Romana, or the Roman Peace, and it means that all the parts of the empire obey the laws of Rome. You see, the laws are very strict and the punishments very severe.

Hundreds of miles from the capital, the Roman Empire extended. Over the Alps, you’d be in Gaul (modern-day France), which was one of Rome’s provinces, or conquered countries. Throughout Gaul you’d see Roman towns. And outside every town is a garrison, or an army camp. Soldiers cook meals over open fires, practice sword fighting, and exercise their horses, waiting for trouble. If the people of Gaul were to revolt, the soldiers would immediately go to war against them.

In Britain, the Pax Romana wasn’t working quit as well. There, crowds of fierce warriors gathered, planning to attack the Roman army huddled on the shore. The fierce warriors were known as the Celts. They were painted blue; their hair greased with animal fat so that it sticks up in points all over their heads; and they carry great, two-sided axes and razor sharp spears. Better get out of there.

The rest of the Roman Empire was massive: toward the Atlantic Ocean; over the Pyrenees Mountains; down through the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal); into Northern Africa; and back around the Mediterranean into the Middle East and Greece. In Africa, there were great trading cities built by the Romans. With busy ports, these cities accommodated many ships sailing in and out, carrying spices, silks, salt, lumber, and other goods. The Pax Romana was working all across northern Africa, even into Egypt – the land of pharaohs, pyramids, and mummies. In the Middle East, massive cities trade with lands as far away as India and China. And the eastern city of Constantinople is a huge as any Roman city you’d see; in fact, there were over a million people (unheard of in those times) in that one city alone. Constantinople was filled with beautiful shops selling silks, jewelry, and all kinds of food – peaches, almonds, peanuts, grapes, fish, bowls of hot lentil soup, and cups of kidney beans. The smells of fruit, meat, and soup mix together and float out into the street.

No wonder Roman Emperors were called “The Rulers of the Whole World”. But they had a problem: The world was too big to rule!

The Roman Empire was so large that the army couldn’t protect its borders. And there were plenty of people outside the Roman Empire that wanted to come in and take parts of it away.

Imagine that you’re standing in an orchard filled with apple trees. Ripe, juicy apples hand from every branch, and hungry animals are roaming in herds all around the edges. Three starving deer rush in to eat. You rush at them, waving them away. The deer dash off – but while you’re chasing them, two enormous cows start snatching apples on the opposite side of the orchard. While you run at them, a dozen squirrels slip in a steal some fruit.

All alone, you’ll never keep all these animals out of your orchard. And that’s how the Roman emperors felt about their empire. Wandering tribes from other parts of the world wanted to come into Rome, conquer Roman villages, use Roman roads, eat Roman crops, and share in Roman wealth. The Romans called these tribes, barbarians. The barbarians didn’t live like the Romans at all: they didn’t live in houses (instead they camped); they didn’t cook their food (instead they ate it raw); and they road on horseback. The Romans thought these barbarians were no better than animals.

Thousands of these barbarian invaders – called Huns, Goths, Vandals, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths – swept down on Rome’s borders. The emperors sent their armies to protect the borders, but there weren’t enough soldiers to guard all sides of the Roman Empire.

And Rome had problems too. In some places, food was running short and Roman citizens were going hungry. A terrible sickness called the plague killed many of Rome’s strong fighters. And many of the emperors who inherited the job weren’t very good at running an empire. (One of them went mad and tried to make his horse a government official!)

Finally, an emperor named Diocletian came to the throne. He decided that the empire was too big for one ruler and one army to protect. So he divided the Roman Empire into two parts: He kept the western part; and he gave the eastern part to another emperor, a man named Maximillion. For now on, Rome would be two.

Two hundred years after Diocletian’s death, the Western Roman Empire was finally conquered by those persistent barbarian tribes. They burned Rome and carried away all of its treasures. Nothing was left but the Roman roads and bridges. And slowly, even those began to crumble away.

Ancient Rome: Engineering and Construction

The Romans were excellent engineers and builders. Many of the buildings and engineering projects they designed are still around today and some are still being used. Here are some of the projects that the Romans excelled in:

Roads: Roman Roads were important to the economy and the military of the Romans. They allowed for easier commerce between towns and cities and also allowed the Roman Legions to move quickly around the expanding empire. The roads were designed to last despite the environment. They were built using many layers of masonry including concrete. These durable roads are still used today. They were also built with a hump making water flow to the edges. This kept the roads from flooding and allowed them to be used in rainy weather.

The Colosseum: The Colosseum in Rome is a great example of Roman engineering and construction. The Colosseum was a large outdoor stadium that could seat around 50,000 people for various forms of entertainment such as gladiator games, mock battles, and dramas. The huge Colosseum is free standing and built with multiple arches to give it strength. Much of it still stands today, although earthquakes have knocked portions of it down. It is 615 feet long and 510 feet wide and took around 131,000 cubic yards of stone to make.

Aqueducts: Aqueducts were long channels that the Romans built to carry water into the cities. Many of the Roman aqueducts were below ground. The water that was carried into the cities was used for drinking water, baths, and sewers. It was generally carried to a public fountain where people could then use buckets to get their water. Roman plumbing became so advanced that many of the large wealthy houses had running water.

Architecture: Roman engineering had a large influence on Roman architecture. Arches were used a lot due to their strength. The Romans also used domes as they enabled them to build large ceilings with wide open spaces.

Fun Facts about Roman Engineering

  • The Romans built over 400,000 km of roads including 29 highways that lead to the city of Rome.

  • The Latin word for road is via. The plural of via is viae. Roman roads generally had the name via in them, like the Via Appia or the Via Flaminia.

  • All the aqueducts in the city of Rome together totaled around 500 miles in length.

  • The Romans were among the first civilizations to harness water power.

  • It is estimated that the Romans built over 900 bridges in their empire.

Ancient Rome: Roman Army

The Roman army was the backbone of the Roman Empire and one of the most successful armies in world history. It was well-trained, well-equipped, and well-organized. In order to guard such a large empire, the army took advantage of well built Roman roads to move about the empire quickly.

Who were the soldiers? The soldiers in the Roman Legionary were all Roman citizens. They signed up to fight for 20 years. At the end of the 20 years they were generally awarded land and/or a large sum of money. This way the army was made up of trained and experienced soldiers. It also put land in the hands of loyal soldiers. There were also non-citizen soldiers called auxiliaries. They joined for 25 years and were awarded Roman citizenship at the end of the 25 years. Roman citizenship was a big deal and came with lots of privileges.

How was the Roman Army organized? The army was divided up into Legions of around 5400 soldiers. Legions were led by a Legate who was usually a Senator or a Governor. Legions were made up of ten groups of soldiers called cohorts. Cohorts were then further divided into groups of 80 men called centuries. The officers, or leaders, of each century were called centurions.

Armor: The government knew the importance of the Roman army and provided them with good armor and weapons. Roman soldiers had armor made of strips of strong iron. The iron made the armor strong and the strips made it flexible. They also had iron helmets which protected their heads and neck, but still let them have good vision for fighting. All of this iron armor was heavy, so they needed to be strong and in good shape. They also carried tall shields in some cases.


The Roman soldiers used a variety of weapons including a pugio (dagger), gladius (sword, see picture to the right), hasta (spear), javelin, and bows and arrows. The soldiers were trained to fight with their weapons and practiced on a regular basis. They would sometimes spar with each other using wooden swords.
Fun Facts about the Roman Army

  • Officers, such as centurions, wore large crests on their helmets. This allowed the soldiers to see them better in battle.

  • The average legionary carried at least 90 pounds of weight and often had to march 20 miles a day.

  • At its largest, the Roman army was made up of 30 legions, or over 150,000 soldiers. Counting the auxiliary soldiers, some estimate there were well over 1 million soldiers in the Roman army.

  • Gaius Marius, Roman consul and general, is largely credited with transforming the Roman army into the powerful group that conquered much of the civilized world.

  • The Romans used catapults to throw huge rocks which could knock down walls. They also used large crossbows called ballistas to fire arrows that were more the size of spears.


In a minimum of 250 words (approximately ½ typed page or one hand-written page), argue in support or against the source:

Rome was a great society.”

  • Thesis Statement which clearly states your argument;

  • At least three specific reasons supporting or disputing the source

  • At least three specific details, quotes, examples, or facts (properly cited) that support your reasons

  • Conclusion Statement clearly summarizing your opinion; and finally,

  • Strong vocabulary and a variety of sentences structure.

Use a separate sheet of paper for your good copy!

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