Ancient Rome!

At the height of its power, the Roman Empire covered much of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, including places like France (which the Romans called “Gallia” or Gaul), Spain ("Hispania"), and Iraq ("Mesopotamia"). They were able to conquer and keep so much territory because of their amazing military capabilities. Their capital was in Rome, in what is now Italy.

Click on an image below for more information about that topic.

A gladiator (meaning “swordsman” in Latin) was an armed fighter who entertained audiences in the Roman Empire. They might fight other gladiators, wild animals, or condemned criminals. Gladiators were often prisoners of war, slaves, or criminals; many were also volunteers called Auctorati. A man from a low social class might sign up to be a gladiator to learn military discipline and courage, to earn a decent living or get his family out of debt, or to earn respect and admiration. Gladiators might wear just a leather shoulder cover, leather arm and leg bands, and maybe a helmet. They dressed lightly (not much armor) to be light on their feet and keep the fight exciting. They carried a net, a trident, a short dagger, and a small square shield.

Latin was the language of Rome. Over time, the Latin spoken in various places in what was the Roman Empire changed into what we call the “Romance” languages: French, Spanish, Italian, and others. The word “Romance” here means “having to do with Romans.” We English speakers have borrowed about 60% of our words from Latin and the Romance languages. A few examples from Latin: plus meaning more, minus meaning less, vice versa meaning with the position reversed, circus meaning a circle, percent meaning out of a hundred.

Aqueducts were large structures built to bring in fresh water to a Roman city. They worked by gravity alone. The aqueduct in the picture is in southern France ("Gaul").

A toga was a long white sheet (between 12 and 20 feet long), draped over the shoulder and wrapped around the body. The type of toga worn showed a person’s rank in society. It was considered Rome’s national costume, but was hard to put on and wear, and uncomfortable. Eventually it was just used on formal occasions. In the picture, you can see Emperor Tiberius wearing a toga in the 1st century AD.

Men were in charge in all things in ancient Roman government and society. Women generally had little power or influence. Marriage was all about transferring wealth or sealing partnerships between families, and also about having kids; romance played no role, as in many cultures around the world. Women might learn to read and write, but it was usually just to make their husbands look good. In wealthy houses, the women had to do less housework, since there were slaves to do it.

Map: Tataryn [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]; Men and Women: Sailko [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]; Aqueduct: Benh LIEU SONG [CC BY-SA 3.0 (];