After watching The Legacy of the Roman Empire , ask students to discuss what they learned about the Roman Empire. Ask them to describe the government in Rome before the empire was established. (It was a republic, in which elected senators made laws.) Who is the general who helped build the empire by conquering Gaul (modern-day France) and became a powerful dictator of Rome? (Julius Caesar) Who was the emperor in 27 B.C. at the beginning of the Roman Empire? (Augustus) What effect did the growing empire have on Rome? (It became powerful and wealthy.) What was Pax Romana? (The first 200 years of the empire, in which the empire grew, but there were no major wars.)
Show students a map of the Roman Empire at this Web site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/romans/map.html. Compare it to your classroom map and name some of the modern-day countries included in its farthest borders, such as Britain, Spain, Egypt, Morocco, Israel, and Turkey. Ask students to describe the Roman Empire's army. (It was a large, powerful army made of paid soldiers.) Why were the soldiers important? (It took a large, efficient army to conquer, control, and protect such a vast empire.)
As a class, review Vindolanda. It was a fortress built in Britain, the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. Archaeological excavations have uncovered small wooden writing tablets. They include military documents, lists, and letters to and from the soldiers, officers, slaves, and others staying at the fort.
Share some of the tablets from Vindolanda available online at thisWeb site. For a good sample of tablets, go to "Browse by Highlights" and select "All highlights." You'll find images of eight tablets, and their English translations. Although most of these tablets are lists or short excerpts from letters, they give a rare insight into life at Vindolanda.
Tell students that they are going to use what they learned from the program and their own research to write a letter as if they are Roman soldiers stationed at Vindolanda. The letters should address different aspects of their life at the fort, from their military responsibilities to daily life. You may want to provide the following questions to guide their research:
Have students use print and online sources. The following Web sites provide information about life at Vindolanda and the Roman army.
Life at Vindolanda
Life in the Roman Army
When students have completed their research, allow another class period to write their letters, or assign as homework.
Have students exchange letters. After they have read the letters, ask them to share something new or interesting they learned about the life of a Roman soldier.
Then discuss Augustus, the first official emperor of Rome, and subsequent emperors. Finally, have students research major achievements and influences of the Roman Empire, which include aqueducts, an extensive road system, bridges, style of architecture (such as the Pantheon and Colosseum), language (Latin, from which Spanish, French, and Italian derive), and its political system.
For the "Ancient Rome's Decline" segment: Ask students to discuss problems that lead to the fall of Rome. What caused Rome's political turmoil and violence? Why was the leadership so unstable? What was life like for the common people? Why was there a need for such high taxes? Who were some of the "barbarians" that eventually brought down the Roman Empire in Western Europe? (the Huns, Vandals, and Visigoths)
For the "Inside Byzantium segment: Discuss the emergence of the Byzantine Empire. Ask students these questions: When and how did it begin? Where was the capital of the empire? What was the new name of the city once it became the capital? What was the official religion of the empire?
Have students explore Hagia Sophia, the church in Constantinople. Ask how it reflected Greek, Roman, and Eastern styles? How did it influence future architecture in the region? What empire eventually conquered Constantinople? Why did the name of the city change? How did Hagia Sophia change? The following Web site provides a good starting point: http://www.focusmm.com/civilization/hagia/welcome.htm
Definition: A military post or fort where soldiers live
Context: Vindolanda was a Roman garrison in northern Britain.
Definition: A unit of Rome's army of career soldiers
Context: The well-trained soldiers in the army legions were Roman citizens who volunteered and served for about 20 years.
Definition: A political system in which people elect representatives
Context: The Roman republic had no king, queen, or emperor.