Grade level: 6-8 subject area: Ancient History credit

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Rome's Influence


One class period



Ancient History

George Cassutto, social studies teacher, North Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown, Maryland.


Students will understand the following:

1. The Roman Empire, even after its decline, had massive influences on the rest of the world—from city planning to daily vocabulary.


For this lesson, you will need:

Several college-level dictionaries

1. Impress upon students that although the Roman Empire did decline and fall, its influence on everyday life in the United States is never ending. Remind students that Rome, for example, has influenced the form of government we've chosen, the buildings we build, and the language we speak, read, write, and hear. Explain that in this activity students will concentrate on the major influence the language of ancient Rome—Latin—has had on our daily English vocabulary.

2. List the following 40 English words on the board or on a handout for each student:








































3. Divide the class into several small groups, and assign each group an equal number of words from the list. One member of each group should act as secretary, dividing a piece of paper into four columns. Have the secretary list the words assigned to that group in the first column on the left. Give the students a three-part assignment:
- Look up each English word in a college-level dictionary in order to determine what Latin word or word part the English word comes from. (The secretary should write that Latin word or word part in the second column.)
- Learn the English meaning of the Latin word or word part. (The secretary should write the meaning in the third column.)
- Come up with another English word that derives from the same Latin word or word part. (The secretary should write that word in the fourth column.)
Some groups may prefer to rotate these three tasks, besides writing up the list, among themselves as they proceed from word to word; other groups may prefer assigning roles that students will keep throughout the project.

4. You may opt to use the term rootin this lesson. You can define rootas a word part that cannot stand alone as an English word but that, rather, takes a prefix or a suffix or both to form an English word. Make sure students understand that not only Latin but Greek and many other languages have influenced English vocabulary; the focus in this lesson, however, is on the influence of Latin.

5. Make copies of each group's work to distribute to all students in the class. That is, all students should wind up with 40 words—the Latin from which they derive, the English meaning of the Latin, and 40 other English words related to the initial 40.

6. .


Adaptations for Older Students:

Give the students an opportunity to figure out for themselves how to divide the 40-word list among themselves in order to finish the activity as efficiently as possible. Consider, also, asking older students to come up with two related English words, not one, for every word on the list.

1. By what standards do historians consider a nation to be a world power? At what point in its history did Rome become a world power? What are some of the potential responsibilities of such a label?
2. Many of the world's large cities—from ancient Rome to modern-day New York City—have developed in similar ways and for similar reasons. What features do most large cities share? How do many cities develop in terms of layout, economy, and population? Discuss possible reasons why people have chosen to live in cities throughout history.
3. Speculate about one psychological or sociological explanation why Rome had gladiators and why Roman citizens enjoyed watching “the games.” Hypothesize what forms “the games” take today. Why have these activities evolved into their modern-day counterparts?
4. What was the effect of having paved roads on everyday life in Rome and its provinces? Discuss what life would be like if there were no roads or highways between American cities today.
5. How did the growth of the slave economy ultimately damage the empire and its livelihood? How was Roman slavery different from the kind of slavery that existed in the United States during the 1800s?
6. The imperial government provided “bread and circuses” to keep the Roman masses happy. What steps do modern governments like that of the United States take to prevent uprisings by the people?

Before photocopying and distributing the lists, check each group's work, indicating which columns and rows each group may have to adjust. You may want students to use the 40 words and the related words over the course of a few days and then give a spelling and vocabulary test.

Tour Guide

Have the students develop a map that shows the layout of a typical Roman city. Instruct them to include all of the common structures and elements one might find in a city under Roman rule during the first century B.C. Then instruct students to imagine that a Roman travel agency has hired them to lead tourists through the city. Ask students to write the script for a guided tour of the Roman city they laid out. If time allows, have students locate photographs or draw sketches of the sites marked on their map. (An alternative to two-dimensional paper-and-pencil maps is three dimensional wood or clay maps.)

An Economic Atlas of the Roman Empire

Have your students create a single, large wall map of the Roman Empire at its height. Then break students into small groups, and have them research the economy of one of the nations that Rome conquered and absorbed into its empire. Have the students identify the products that their assigned nation contributed to the Roman economy. Allow students to present their findings to the class by labeling the wall map with symbols that identify the primary products of the region they were assigned. For example, they can create symbols for wine, barley, wheat, slaves, olive oil, water, and so on.

Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome

Chris Scarre. Penguin, 1995.

This detailed atlas traces the rise and fall of the “first great multinational state.” Through maps, charts, pictures, and text, the reader can study the provinces, cities, trade, economy, building and construction, arms, frontier defenses, and wars of the Roman Empire. You can use the detailed timelines to gain an overview of the empire.
Ancient Rome: History of a Civilization That Ruled the World

Annamaria Liberti and Fabio Bourbon. Stewart Tabori & Chang, 1996.

Read this oversized, magnificent book to learn about the rise of ancient Rome. Learn about Rome's architecture, politics, culture, customs, legal and building systems, and town-planning problems and successes. You will begin to understand Rome's lasting social, cultural, military, and political influence.

ArtsEdNet: Exploring Ancient Worlds

Four online resources from the Getty Education Institute for the Arts which features a middle school interdisciplinary unit on based on Trajan, a virtual reality tour of Trajan's forum, an online exhibit of art from Greece and Rome, and more.
The WebChronology Project

This collection of hyperlinked chronologies developed by students and instructors at North Park University shows a nice example of what students can create. Offers great basic information on Roman History under the “Mediterranean Basin” heading.
Dead Romans

Contains information about Roman coins and architecture and allows you the opportunity to tour Roman ruins.
Pompeii Forum Project

An architectural and archaeologically based look at Pompeii urban design with lots of pictures and descriptions of Pompeii.
Roman Ball Games

This site will allow teachers to glean ideas for teaching students how to play ball games from the ancient Roman times.


The process of absorbing one cultural group into another so that they have a common identity.


Rome had a genius for assimilating different peoples into the empire, a skill dating back to its beginnings.


To Romans, any group of people found outside the Roman world, usually on the fringes of the empire.


Rome had a talent for assimilating barbarians into its diverse culture.


In ancient times, the city-state was any urban center that maintained its own political identity, leadership, and sovereignty. It is the forerunner to the modern nation-state.


Before long, the empire expanded well beyond the limits of a modest city-state.


The act of taking the place of another, especially using underhanded tactics.


The returning soldiers were forced into the cities due to the slave labor being used to tend their farms, resulting in a massive peasant displacement.


Inhabitants of the area now covered by modern-day France.


One hundred thousand Gauls were taken prisoner and enslaved by Roman forces as the empire expanded.

Grade Level:

6-8, 9-12

Subject Area:

world history


Understands how major religious and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean basin, China, and India from 500 B.C. to A.D. 300.


Benchmark 6-8:

Understands shifts in the political framework of Roman society (e.g., major phases in the empire's expansion through the first century A.D.; how imperial rule over a vast area transformed Roman society, economy, and culture; the causes and consequences of the transition from republic to empire under Augustus in Rome; how Rome governed its provinces from the late republic to the empire; and how innovations in ancient military technology affected patterns of warfare and empire building).

Benchmark 6-8:

Understands the significant individuals and achievements of Roman society (e.g., the major legal, artistic, architectural, technological, and literary achievements of the Roman Republic; the influence of Hellenistic cultural traditions; the accomplishments of famous Roman citizens [e.g., Cincinnatus, the Gracchi, Cicero, Constantine, Nero, Marcus Aurelius]).

Benchmark 9-12:

Understands the political legacy of Roman society (e.g., influences of the Roman constitution on the modern U.S. political system).

Grade Level:

6-8, 9-12

Subject Area:

world history


Understands major global trends from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 300.


Benchmark 6-8:

Knows the different forms of slavery or coerced labor in various empires (e.g., the Han Empire, the Maurya Empire, the Greek city-states, the Roman Empire).

Benchmark 9-12:

Understands shifts in the political framework of Roman society (e.g., major phases in the empire's expansion through the first century A.D.; how imperial rule over a vast area transformed Roman society, economy, and culture; the causes and consequences of the transition from republic to empire under Augustus in Rome; how Rome governed its provinces from the late republic to the empire; how innovations in ancient military technology affected patterns of warfare and empire building).
Copyright 2001

Teachers may reproduce copies of these materials for classroom use only.

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