Ancient Rome Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about ancient Rome.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Ancient Rome. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Help children explore ancient history and understand what life was like thousands of years ago. This movie will explore the history and culture of ancient Rome and how it has influenced modern life. We encourage screening the movie several times throughout your ancient Rome unit or even spreading it across several days and watching only small sections of the movie at a time. We also encourage exploring all the activities and features to get the most out of the movie.

Remind children that the city of Rome was founded over 2,700 years ago, in about 753 BC. You may wish to use a timeline as well as a map of modern day Rome. Over a thousand years, the civilization grew to one of the largest in history.

Help children understand what life was like in ancient Rome. Many ancient Romans were farmers, growing wheat, barley, grapes, and olives. Plebians, or common people, often lived in large apartment buildings. They wore simple tunics made out of dark, rough cloth. Wealthy Romans owned a lot of land and often lived in houses with many rooms. Most owned slaves, though some slaves were paid. Upper-class men and women wore light-colored togas and stolas over their tunics. The way ancient Romans dressed showed their age or their status in society.

Romans often gathered in the Colosseum, a large arena where they gathered to listen to government leaders or watch gladiators battle each other or wild animals for entertainment. They also gathered in the Forum, which is a public square in the center of the city. There they sold and traded goods in the marketplace and gathered to listen to government and religious leaders. Help children understand that ancient Romans honored different gods and goddesses and passed down stories about them. For example, Neptune was the god of water and the sea, Mars was the god of war, Venus was the goddess of love, and Jupiter was the king of all the gods and goddesses. Guide children to realize that many of the bodies in our Solar System are named after Roman deities.

Review with children that for over two hundred years, different kings ruled Rome. People did not get to choose their leaders. Eventually, people overthrew the king and created a republic. Help children understand that a republic is a government where people can elect their leaders and have representation in their government. The Roman Republic followed a constitution and was separated into three branches. Guide children to understand that today many democratic governments are set up in the same way, including the United States government. The Roman Republic lasted almost five hundred years. Then, a general named Julius Caesar rose to power. He built up a strong army and conquered neighboring lands through war, expanding Rome’s control and eventually seizing power over the government. Explain to children that he became a dictator, or someone who has total power over the government. Over hundreds of years, Rome continued to grow and expand its empire. Remind children that an empire is a large area ruled by a single person, such as an emperor or an empress. It was not until 473 that the Western Roman Empire collapsed, and in 1453, the Eastern Roman Empire fell.

Explain that we know a lot about ancient Rome because of the things the Romans left behind. Many parts of ancient Roman cities and towns still stand today, including the Colosseum and parts of the Forum. We can still see ancient Roman aqueducts, which brought in fresh water and removed waste. Explain that arches are a common part of Roman architecture, which is the art and science of constructing buildings. The Pantheon is an ancient Roman temple that is over 1,500 years old. We recommend researching pictures on the Internet to take a tour of ancient Rome and observe how ancient Roman architecture has influenced modern buildings.

Inspire children to learn about what life was like thousands of years ago. Some children may wish to watch BrainPOP’s movies on the Roman Republic, the Rise of the Roman Empire, Pax Romana, and the Fall of the Roman Empire. We highly recommend previewing the movies before sharing them with children to make sure they are of an appropriate level. Help connect ancient history to our lives today. What do we owe to the ancient Romans? Discuss and explore!