Romulus is given the credit for founding Ancient Rome – so legend has it. Children in Roman schools were taught the story and it became almost set in stone. What is legend of Romulus and Remus?
Romulus and Remus were twin brothers. They were abandoned by their parents as babies and put into a basket that was then placed into the River Tiber. The basket ran aground and the twins were discovered by a female wolf. The wolf nursed the babies for a short time before they were found by a shepherd. The shepherd then brought up the twins.
When Romulus and Remus became adults, they decided to found a city where the wolf had found them. The brothers quarrelled over where the site should be and Remus was killed by his brother. This left Romulus the sole founder of the new city and he gave his name to it – Rome. The date given for the founding of Rome is 753 BC. This story, of course, is only a legend. The actual growth of Rome is less exotic and interesting. The city of Rome grew out of a number of settlements that existed around seven hills that were near the River Tiber. The settlements were near the river for the obvious reasons of a water supply. The Tiber was also narrow enough at this point to be bridged. However, the area also suffered because of the nearness of the river. Each settlement was separated from the other by marshland. Each individual settlement was vulnerable to attack as a single settlement. By joining together they were stronger. To join together, the marshland had to be drained. This was something that took years to do. The legend of Romulus and Remus gives the impression that Rome was created very quickly; the truth was very different. The early people of Rome were from a tribe called Latins. They were from the Plains of Latium. The Latins were successful farmers and traders and they became rich and successful. Therefore, Rome from its early days was a rich city. This was to create jealousy and to bring the city of Rome into conflict with areas surrounding the city. In particular, the Romans fought against the Etruscans and the Samnites. For this reason, the leaders of Rome invested in an army. This skilled force both protected the city and expanded its power. By 300 BC, the Romans controlled most of the Italian peninsula. Roman Entertainment
Roman entertainment, like Roman roads, Roman baths, Roman villas etc, is etched in people's minds today as a result of recent films. Many people will know of the Roman gladiators, chariot racing, the Colosseum in Rome as we have a great deal of writing and other evidence about these things from the times of the Romans themselves.
One of the most famous buildings in Rome is the Colosseum. This building is now a major tourist attraction on Rome. In Ancient Rome it was also a major attraction for those who wanted to see the various events that were put on at this vast building. The Colosseum could hold over 50,000 people and the viewing public were well looked after by the authorities. The temperature in Rome in the summer could be very hot and the audience at the Colosseum was protected from the sun by a huge canopy that was put over the top of the stadium when needed.
Inside the ruins of the Colosseuem|
The events staged at the Colosseum were many. Nearly all of them involved death and destruction. There were the well known gladiator fights and the feeding of Christians to lions. There were also a number of lesser known events such as mock sea battles involving ships, animal circus acts, animals fighting animals and animal hunts. All sorts of animals were kept in cages below the Colosseum. Wild cats, buffaloes, bears and elephants would all be kept and then made to fight one another. In some parts of the Roman Empire, certain animals died out because their type was in such demand by those who ran entertainment in Rome itself. It is thought that on the day the Colosseum opened, over 5,000 animals were killed. However, animals were the secondary part of the 'show'. Those who came to the Colosseum came to see people fight. Famous gladiators had a huge following but many gladiators were the Roman equivalent of 'canon fodder' - there to entertain and be killed. Many of these gladiators were slaves or prisoners-of-war. The casualty rate per 'show' was massive - near enough 50% died each show. Those gladiators who had fought well but had not won their fight could be spared by the emperor if he was present at an event - a thumbs up meant life, and a thumbs down meant death. The Roman writer Seneca wrote that for a gladiator "the only exit is death." These shows were usually free to the public. The emperors believed it was a good way to keep the people of Ancient Romehappy and content with the way the city was being governed. The government provided free bread and free entertainment - a combination they believed would keep happy the many unemployed people in Rome. The Colosseum was the greatest building in Ancient Rome but much smaller amphitheatres were built in Roman Britain and gladiatorial fights may have occurred in these. Cirencester had an amphitheatre. Chariot racing was put on at the Circus Maximus. This was equally popular with the people of Ancient Rome and going to a race was seen as a family event. To many people today, Roman entertainment was cruel. However, not all forms of entertainment involved violence. Many educated Romans were appalled by the cruelty of the events put on at the Colosseum. They went to the theatre. However, records from the time indicate that theatres rarely put on serious works, preferring to show what we would now call farces and comedies. Poetry readings were also given in theatres. Roman Education
Education was very important to the Ancient Romans. The rich people in Ancient Rome put a great deal of faith in education. While the poor in Ancient Rome did not receive a formal education, many still learned to read and write. Children from rich families, however, were well schooled and were taught by a private tutor at home or went to what we would recognise as schools. In general, schools as we would recognise them, were for boys only. Also, Roman schools were rarely an individual building but an extension of a shop - separated from the crowd by a mere curtain!
Boys being educated|
Learning in Roman schools was based on fear. Boys were beaten for the slightest offence as a belief existed that a boy would learn correctly and accurately if he feared being caned if he got something wrong. For boys who continued to get things wrong, some schools had a policy of having pupils held down by two slaves while his tutor beat him with a leather whip. There was not a great deal of subject choice in a Roman school. Therefore a boredom threshold must have been quickly reached by children. This must have been made worse, by the fact that the school day was longer than children now are used to. It seems likely that during the school day, a child would rise at sunrise (not wanting to be late as this would lead to a caning), work all day with a short break at lunch, and then home to be in bed by sunset for the next day. Lessons were simply learned by heart. Children did not need to know why something was right - only to know that it was right and that they would escape a beating. Lessons were also simply dictated as there were no books as they were simply too expensive. There were two types of schools in Ancient Rome. The first type of school was for younger children aged up to 11 or 12 where they learned to read and write and to do basic mathematics. At these schools, children worked on an abacus to learn basic mathematics. For writing, they used a stylus and a wax tablet. Older children would go to more advanced schools where they did specific studies on topics such as public speaking. They would also study the writings of the great intellects of Ancient Romesuch as Cicero. Girls rarely went to these schools as they were allowed to get married at the age of 12 whereas boys had to wait until they were 14 to get married. Children worked a seven-day week - there was no break for the weekend! However, this was not as dire as it appears. There were many school holidays - religious holidays (and there were many of them) meant that children did not have to go to school. Market days also resulted in school closures and children also had a summer holiday! In general, girls did go to school. Girls from rich families did receive an education, but this was done at home. Here they were taught how to run a good household and how to be a good wife in general - in preparation for the time they got married. Part of their education would have been music, sewing and the competent running of a kitchen. For boys, practice made perfect. They were not allowed to write on what we would consider to be paper as it was very expensive. Boys first practised on a wax tablet. Only when they had shown that they could write well, were they allowed to write on paper - which was made on the Ancient Egyptian method of papyrus reeds. Their 'pens' were quills and their ink was a mixture of gum, soot and, sometimes, the ink from an octopus. Rome and Christianity
Religion was very important to the Romans. Within the Roman Empire, Christianity was banned and Christians were punished for many years. Feeding Christians to the lions was seen as entertainment in Ancient Rome.
A Roman mosaic which is said to be the head of Christ|
The message of Christianity was spread around the Roman Empire by St. Paul who founded Christian churches in Asia Minor and Greece. Eventually, he took his teachings to Rome itself. The early converts to Christianity in Ancient Rome faced many difficulties. The first converts were usually the poor and slaves as they had a great deal to gain from the Christians being successful. If they were caught, they faced death for failing to worship the emperor. It was not uncommon for emperors to turn the people against the Christians when Rome was faced with difficulties. In AD 64, part of Rome was burned down. The Emperor Nero blamed the Christians and the people turned on them. Arrests and executions followed. "Nero punished a race of men who were hated for their evil practices. These men were called Christians. He got a number of people to confess. On their evidence a number of Christians were convicted and put to death with dreadful cruelty. Some were covered with the skins of wild beasts and left to be eaten by dogs. Others were nailed to the cross. Many were burned alive and set on fire to serve as torches at night."Tacitus| The dangers faced by the Christians in Rome meant that they had to meet in secret. They usually used underground tombs as these were literally out of sight. Rome had a large number of poor people within its population and Christianity continued to grow. In AD 313, the Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal and for the first time, they were allowed to openly worship. Churches were quickly built not just in Rome but throughout the empire. In AD 391, the worship of other gods was made illegal.
Julius Caesar, one of Ancient Rome's most famous individuals, was born in 100 BC - or near to that year. Julius Caesar joined the Roman Army in 81 BC and was the first Roman army commander to invade England which he did in 55 BC and again in 54 BC. Caesar was born into a wealthy family and he was a well educated child who was good at sport.
After serving in the Roman Army, Caesar developed an interest in politics. He became a driven man who wanted to get to the highest positions in Roman politics. In 65 BC, Caesar was appointed an 'adele' and put in charge of public entertainment in Rome. This was a very important position as the citizens of Rome expected quality entertainment. It was believed by those who ran Rome that the people could be kept happy and content if they had access to varied and enjoyable entertainment. Caesar took to the post with zeal. He borrowed large sums of money to ensure that the entertainment he provided was the best money could buy. He put on games and festivals for the people. As a result, he became very popular with the poor of Rome - a considerable part of the city's population. He also courted the friendship of Rome's richest man, Crassus. In 59 BC, Caesar was appointed a consul and in 58 BC he went to Gaul (France) where he served as governor. He was successful in this position and conquered even more land for the Roman Empire. Caesar was a brilliant general and commanded an army of over 50,000 loyal men. His success at a military level all but guaranteed the loyalty of his soldiers. But he was seen by some as a cruel man solely driven by expanding his own personal power. As a result, he made enemies of important politicians in Rome itself. Some senior army generals, such as Pompey, were also very concerned about Caesar's intentions. In 49 BC the Senate ordered Caesar to hand over his army to their control. He refused. Instead Caesar advanced on Italy but paused at the line that divided France (Gaul) and Italy - the River Rubicon. Roman law said that a governor was not allowed to leave his province. Caesar ignored this law, crossed the Rubicon and advanced to confront his enemies in Rome. The Senate considered this to be a treasonable offence but there was little they could do. Caesar had a very powerful and experienced army and his opponents were fragmented. Pompey was killed in Egypt in 48 BC. For the next three years he picked off his enemies one by one whether they were in North Africa, the Middle East or Europe. Caesar returned to Rome in 45 BC as a dictator. However, he allowed the Senate to continue working - except that he replaced disloyal senators with his own appointments of loyal men. Caesar should have used his position to make powerless those he had removed from the Senate - but he did not. Caesar did not take away their wealth and these men plotted against him. In 44 BC, Caesar was murdered by those politicians who feared that he was too obsessed with his own importance. His murder took place at the Senate House in Rome. After his murder, Rome was divided as to whether it was a good thing or not. "Our tyrant deserved to die. Here was a man who wanted to be king of the Roman people and master of the whole world. Those who agree with an ambition like this must also accept the destruction of existing laws and freedoms. It is not right or fair to want to be king in a state that used to be free and ought to be free today." Cicero."People blame me for mourning the death of my friend. They say my country should be preferred to my friends, as if they had proved that killing him was good for the state. I did not abandon him as a friend however much I disapproved of what he was doing." Gaius Matius.|