A princess gave birth to twin boys. Their uncle, the king, wanting to protect his throne ordered his servants to get rid of the boys. They were set in a basket and put next to the river. Since it was flood season the basket was carried away. Rather than drowning the boys, the basket was carried off and ended up back on the river bank. A wolf found the basket and suckled the boys until they were taken in by a shepherd and his wife. They were raised by the couple and the twins would eventually establish the Roman Empire. Their names were Romulus and Remus.
It was an empire that stretched from the Sahara, the moors of Britain, the Nile River, and the Rhine River. It shaped the European map.
Mary Beard takes us through the history of the Roman Empire through her series Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limits. She begins this series with that story and leads us through the story of the Roman Empire. She ends this series with Rome’s collapse. In this first episode, she covers the myths that surrounded the establishment of the empire.
She goes into the tombs of the early Romans and notes the graffiti that covers the walls. The graffiti and the tombs demonstrate what real Romans thought of themselves. The Tomb of Scipio talks about how he was wise, he was a handsome man, and he conquered South Italy. This epitaph is the first narrative from a Roman. It showed that they were keen on conquest and glory.
The wolf who rescued the twins was a fierce predator. Would this demonstrate that the Romans themselves were the fierce predators of the Roman world? Perhaps? This is also demonstrated by the fact that Romulus killed Remus over the location of the city. Brother killing brother also became part of the founding narrative. After this, Romulus established his city and turned it into a refuge for criminals and runaway slaves. It was a city that welcomed outsiders. Was this the basis of the desire to spread Roman citizenship around the world?
It was a city of men, and they needed women to build a future. Romulus invited a group of women to come to a religious festival. During the party, the Sabine women were kidnapped and taken as wives. The Sabines were not happy with this and fought the Romans. This was one of the first wars the Romans fought. They won against the Sabines and built monuments to the victory. The Ancient Romans were reminded of their mythical origins through these monuments.
Rome was eventually ruled by six kings after Romulus. However, the people got tired of the tyranny and changed their government from a monarchy to a democracy. This did not stop them from conquering their world. Originally, war was considered glorified raiding. Raiding meant that you just took slaves and cattle from the people. Rome took this a step further and incorporated its former enemies. The former enemies were to provide soldiers for the Roman Empire. Building relationships with their former enemies was the way that Rome was different.
Rome eventually would come into conflict with Carthage. An allied city had appealed to Rome for help against a Carthaginian city. Rome intervened with the city and came into conflict with the seafaring Carthaginians. They seized a Carthaginian ship and copied it to be able to battle on the sea. This was the start of the conflict between Carthage and Rome.
To learn more about the Roman Empire, continue to watch Empire Without Limits.
Mary Beard enthusiastically tells the story of Rome. She takes you to the places in the Roman Empire to fully flesh out Rome’s story.
You can access the YouTube video here.
Pompeii: Life and Death
I discovered a new historian who I want to share with the readers of this page. Mary Beard is an expert in ancient Roman history and specializes in the history of Pompeii. She is a lecturer at Cambridge. She is also a terrific narrator and I could listen to her in a classroom all day. After watching this video, you will agree with that assessment yourself. She uses the documentary to bust a few myths about Pompeii. The bones tell the story of Pompeii in a unique way.
Beard explores the poverty and the riches of Pompeii. Ancient Pompeii could be termed a combination of Las Vegas and Brighton. It was the playground of the rich. It was the popular place of the fast set. It was place where rich Romans would take their vacation. It was a place preserved by a volcano. The bodies that were preserved reveal the differences between the rich and poor of Pompeii.
In the cellars of Pompeii, the rich and the poor died together. They lived close together,trying to make their own lives. This was highlighted by the staining on the bones. The poor people had no staining because they did not have wealth to carry with them as they tried to make their escape. The rich people carried their jewelry and their coins. When they died and their bodies rotted away, the jewelry ended up staining their bones over time. The bones found in the cellar provided an opportunity for forensic specialists to study the bones. Bones in plaster casts could not be studied due to contamination.
Beard explores the jewelry that the rich wore at the time of their death. She explains what was found and explores the possibility of the rich taking their life savings with them as they tried to make their escape. Then she explores the comparisons of Pompeii to modern day Naples. Pompeii may have been cleaner than Naples as bathing was a daily part of life. There were a large amount of baths found in Pompeii. It was a great leveler of society. It was a place to escape.
If you want to learn more before you show this to a classroom continue to watch. The bones are the items that really tell the tale of Pompeii. It also shows that studying History may be more complicated than you think it is. You may want to show this documentary to older students as there are some images that are not for younger eyes. There is a discussion of sex and brothels in this documentary. You could use pieces of the documentary in the classroom if you do not want to show it all.
You can highlight, copy, and paste the questions into a Word, GoogleDoc or Google Classroom document for use in school or home school. Format it the way you want to. All questions after formatting should fit onto one page with enough space for the student to write their answers.
You can access the video here.
Pompeii: Life and Death of a City Questions
1. What two cities did Mary Beard compare Pompeii to?
2. Why was the person called "Green Bones" green?
3. Did the poor people of Pompeii have the green staining on them?
4. Where were the bodies found?
5. How long was the swimming pool?
6. What was the name of the volcano Pompeii was next to?
7. What piece of jewelry was Mary told not to wear?
8. Where did people live in Pompeii?
9. What did Pompeii have in common with Naples?
10. What was an important part of life of Pompeii?
Pompeii: Life and Death of a City Answers
1. What two cities did Mary Beard compare Pompeii to? - Las Vegas and Brighton
2. Why was the person called "Green Bones" green? - Stained by copper or bronze
3. Did the poor people of Pompeii have the green staining on them? No
4. Where were the bodies found? - Cellar
5. How long was the swimming pool? - 200 Foot/Olympic sized
6. What was the name of the volcano Pompeii was next to? - Vesuvius
7. What piece of jewelry was Mary told not to wear? - A chain
8. Where did people live in Pompeii? Above the shop
9. What did Pompeii have in common with Naples? Graffiti, Imagery on the street
10. What was an important part of life of Pompeii? Bathing
Lost World of Pompeii
What was Pompeii like before Vesuvius covered it? In this documentary, archaeologists, historians, and scientists are working to discover Pompeii as it has never been discovered before. The Lost World of Pompeii brings together different experts together to try to learn about Pompeii to preserve the city.
Scientists come together to explore how the people died. When the original archaeologists found voids in the pumice they decided to pour plaster in the voids. After they did that, they found that the voids were bodies, the bodies of the victims of Pompeii. Today, those plaster casts of the bodies are being examined to find out who these people were. On top of the study of the bodies, graphic software is being used to fill in the missing features of these people. This helps scientists figure out what they look like. Another group of scientists will take over to discover what these people went through.
Pompeii is also under threat from the tourists, weather, and Mount Vesuvius again. Another threat is the potential explosion of Vesuvius. Technology is being used to scan and document the city to preserve Pompeii virtually. Architects are being brought in to survey and scan the city. These scans will help with the preservation and maintenance of the city. Future generations will also be able to use the scans to see what Pompeii looked like. Most importantly, when pollution and tourists damage the walls of Pompeii these scans will preserve the buildings. They will also be able to plan archaeological expeditions in Pompeii.
Pompeii is still revealing its secrets. Archaeologists are seeing new details in the city with these scans. They are learning new things about the buildings in Pompeii. An assumed gladiator barracks is now being reexamined. Perhaps it is not a barracks for gladiators. Archaeologists are learning how complex the buildings are. It also shows how Pompeii citizens decorated their buildings. Scholars are using scans of charred and preserved papyrus scrolls to see if there were words that were preserved. If someone touched those scrolls, they would crumble to dust. With technology, scholars can virtually unwrap them. Would there be classic works be hidden in those papyrus scrolls? Technology is helping reveal Pompeii’s hidden details.
Wine specialists are learning about the wines the local Pompeiians drank. They are learning what kind of wines they drank. They are also learning how they drank wine. Frescos show how Pompeiians made wine. Wine drinking was not limited to the home, they drank wine in bars. They drank in the evening and played games. Gambling was illegal, but the law was not enforced.
The road network is also being documented as well as the drainage network. The stepping stones show that people used them so they would not get their toga wet. The roads also show how the traffic flowed through the city. Pompeii had a system of traffic control that contained a lot of one-way streets. Pompeii was also laid out in a grid system. It helped people reach the amphitheater.
To learn more about the preservation of Pompeii continue to watch the documentary.
With this documentary, you are not limited to a history class. This would be an excellent show to share with a technology class, especially since they talk about using technology to preserve Pompeii. Technology has undergone major changes in the past decade and students can explore how technology can be used to preserve history. You can also share this with a science classroom as well. How you share this documentary in the classroom is limited by your imagination. You can show the full documentary or show clips of it.
You can access the YouTube Documentary here.
Caligula: Rome's Cruelest Emperor
Here is another video to put into your files for the future. This time, we are exploring the history of Ancient Rome. Mary Beard takes us through the life of Caligula. Was he Rome’s cruelest emperor? Why has he gone down into history as Rome’s Biggest Villains?
Caligula’s story starts in Germany, in the Rhine Valley. His father was Germanicus, he was heir to the throne, and his mother was the granddaughter of the first Roman Emperor. Caligula was born Gaius Caesar Germanicus, it sounds like he was the thrasher of the Germans. Caligula traveled through the German lands while his father was on the campaign. He grew up in a war zone. The most intriguing artifact connected to Caligula’s childhood was a pair of boots, the Caggiula. His mother dressed the young Caligula as a miniature soldier. The soldiers around him nicknamed him Caligula or “little boots” or “bootikins.” It was a nickname he would hate.
In 19 AD, Germanicus suddenly died, while Caligula was seven years old. Romans were grief-stricken with the news of Germanicus' death. Germanicus’ death was possibly ordered by the Emperor and the person who poisoned him committed suicide before the trial. The Emperor was not seen as grieving for his nephew’s death. Germanicus was not given a state funeral when his ashes were returned to Rome. The Emperor made sure that every important city knew that he was not responsible for Germanicus’ death. Caligula’s mother felt the Emperor was responsible. Knowing this Caligula’s mother was exiled.
When Caligula was 19, the emperor summoned the boy to his palace at Capri. Why did the Emperor summon Caligula to Capri? Nobody knows. It could be theorized that the Emperor taught Caligula how to be a dictator. During his time, Caligula’s family was under attack. His mother starved to death and his brothers were violently murdered. Caligula would have learned that anyone close to power was in danger of dying. He also learned never to show any emotion.
When the Emperor died the Roman Senate declared Caligula Rome’s third emperor. When he was declared emperor, Caligula had a young cousin murdered as he was seen as an alternative to his reign. His second act as emperor was to put on a play to demonstrate his family connections and his right to rule Rome. He then had his mother’s ashes brought to Rome and buried her next to his father Germanicus. The coins he minted had his image on them and he would scatter coins out to the people. The coins hammered home the message of Caligula’s bloodline. It also hammered home the message that Caligula had the support of the army.
Caligula started many building projects around Rome. He built aqueducts, the imperial palace, an obelisk was shipped from Egypt. Caligula showed off his wealth. However, there were shadows underneath the Emperor’s show. The only people Caligula was his servants’ and the servants played a role in the palace games. They helped Caligula keep control over the empire. The servants did not represent a direct threat to him. Caligula was a man paranoid about security, especially after what happened with his family.
He was right to be worried, there were people after him. One group came from his family because one of them wanted to be emperor. The second group came from ordinary people who wanted to not have an Emperor. These threats would turn him into a monster.
You could always use clips from this documentary in the classroom as there is some discussion that is targeted at an older audience. Mary Beard is a fantastic narrator of Roman history. You can continue to watch this documentary to find out more about Caligula.
You can access the documentary on YouTube here.
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