A presentation of the Roman Empire, suitable for Year 9 students, consisting in following: main periods, the Roman Republic, Patricians and plebeians, meals, bakeries, craft workers, reading and writing.
2. MAIN PERIODS
The Roman Republic (509BC - 27BC)
The Roman Empire (27BC - 475AD)
Europe after the Fall of Rome (475AD - 750AD)
The Holly Roman Empire (750AD - 1000AD)
3. THE ROMAN REPUBLIC (509BC - 27BC)
The Roman Republic (Res publica Romana) was the period of ancient
Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman
Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509BC, and ending in 27BC with the
establishment of the Roman Empire.
Photo: The flag of the Roman Republic
5. PATRICIANS AND PLEBEIANS
Roman citizens were divided into two groups. Those descended from
noble families were called patricians. All other citizens were plebeians.
Gradually a third class emerged, called equestrians (those with enough
wealth to provide their own horse). These citizens formed a middle
order between patricians and plebeians.
Photo: Patricians, slaves and plebeians
7. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN PATRICIANS AND PLEBEIANS
The distinction between patricians and plebeians in Ancient Rome was
based purely on birth.
The writers often portray patricians as rich and powerful families who
managed to secure power over the less-fortunate plebeian families,
but plebeians and patricians among the senatorial class were equally
The wealthiest Roman families lived in elegant townhouses, called domus, while
others lived in apartment blocks, called insulae. Slaves could not be citizens.
Photo: Cross-section of a Domus
9. THE APARTMENTS
Apartment buildings, called insulae, were several storeys high. Poorer
families lived in small rooms at the top, while the better-off had large,
comfortable rooms on the lower floors.
Shops and bars occupied the ground floors of buildings. Most apartments had
no running water or toilets, so people used public baths and lavatories, and
fetched fresh water from public fountains on street corners.
Apartments had no stoves for cooking either, because the risk of fire in these
buildings was too great.
For a hot dinner, Romans bought takeaways from a thermopolium (snack bar).
Photo: Cross-section of Insulae
11. HEALTH AND HYGIENE
Roman towns had drains and sewers, but waste was still dumped
straight into the street. People crossed streets using stepping stones to
avoid getting too dirty.
The wealthiest Romans travelled by carriage or in litters (portable chairs)
carried by slaves.
Clean water was brought into the town from a nearby river or lake
through a system of pipes and channels.
Because no one knew what caused diseases, Romans blamed evil spirits.
Pharmacists made medicines from herbs and minerals. Keeping healthy and
clean from frequent visits to the baths was the best remedy.
Photo: Roman baths
The Romans took three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Poorer families might have a breakfast of bread or biscuits. Better-off Romans
enjoyed fresh meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. They used honey to sweeten
Lunch was often a cold meal, eaten in the late morning. It usually consisted of
bread, fruit, nuts, cheese, olives and salad. After lunch, the Romans enjoyed a
midday rest, or siesta.
Dinner was eaten at sunset. For the poor, this meal might be a hot wheat
porridge, vegetables, fruit and—very rarely—meat. For the rich, dinner was a
lavish three-course meal with a variety of meats and fish, accompanied by fine
Photo: Roman meals
Bread was a very important part of a Roman’s diet. Roman bakers not
only baked and sold bread, but they also ground the grain to produce
their own flour.
The grain was poured into the funnel at the top of the mill. The upper stone was
turned by pushing against a wooden beam. The grain was ground between the
turning stone and a fixed one. The flour then fell on to a circular shelf ready for
making dough and baking.
Photo: Roman bakeries
Slaves did all the labouring work in a Roman town, so most ordinary
Roman citizens earned their living as shopkeepers or craftworkers.
Craft shops were run as family businesses. They produced a wide range
of goods and included clothmakers, basketweavers, carpenters, potters
Skilled Roman craftsmen also produced luxury goods from glass, gold
Most pottery was made locally. It was usually one colour, and decorations were
moulded into the clay. Pots were made on a potter’s wheel or by pushing the
clay into plaster moulds.
Photo: Roman craft workers, pot makers
19. READING AND WRITING
The ability to read and write was highly valued, although no more than
a third of people across the empire could do so.
The amount of documents, military records and public inscriptions
shows how important the written word was.
The abundance of graffiti on walls—often misspelled—is evidence that many
ordinary townspeople were literate. Although books were expensive (printing
had not been invented, so each was hand-produced), some wealthy collectors
built up personal libraries of codices: books made up of sheets of paper and
bound with spines.
Photo: Portrait of a young woman from 1st century.