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Lesson Plans Library 8-12 > World History
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Gladiators: Rome's Violent Past
Grade level: 8-12 Subject: World History Duration: One or two class periods

lesson plan support
Students will
  • discuss the role of public entertainment in ancient Rome;
  • imagine themselves as a participant at a gladiator games at the Roman Colosseum; and
  • write an personal account of the games.
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Print resources about the Roman Empire and the gladiator games
  1. Discuss the role of public entertainment in ancient Rome. Explain that life was difficult for most Romans, who made of the lower class. Because they lived in poverty, Rome's emperor provided free food. Held in large arenas or amphitheaters, gladiator games and chariot races provided public entertainment. The Colosseum, still standing today, was one such arena.
  2. Explain to students that their assignment is to imagine themselves in ancient Rome. The emperor has declared a public holiday and ordered gladiator games to take place in the Colosseum. Students should use the Internet and print resources to research the gladiator games and the Roman Colosseum. They will write a personal account of the games from the point of view of a spectator, the emperor, a lanista (an owner of the gladiators), or a gladiator himself. The accounts must answer the following questions:

    • Describe the Colosseum.
    • Describe the gladiator. What type of gladiator is he? How do you know? (What is he wearing? What type of weapons is he using?)
    • Describe what happened during the event. Who or what other than the gladiator was present?
    • Describe the spectators. How do they react? How many are in the arena? What role do they play?
    • Where is the emperor? What role does he play in the games?
    • Describe the life and training of the gladiator.

  3. The following Web sites provide helpful information:

    The Gladiator

    Roman Gladiatorial Games

    Gladiator: History and Times

    Roman Colosseum

    Rome: Colosseum

    The Colosseum of Ancient Rome

  4. 4. Have students share their accounts with the class. How are the perspectives different? What have they learned about the people of ancient Rome from the gladiator games?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:Students were highly engaged in class discussions; created clear and detailed accounts of the gladiator games that provided many facts about the lives of gladiators and the Roman Colosseum.
  • Two points:Students participated in class discussions; wrote adequate account of the gladiator games that included some facts about the lives of gladiators and the Roman Colosseum.
  • One point:Students participated minimally in class discussions; wrote incomplete accounts of the gladiator games that included few or no facts about the lives of gladiators and the Roman Colosseum.

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Definition:To Romans, any group of people living outside the Roman world, usually on the fringes of the empire.
Context:When barbarians defeated the Roman Empire and occupied the cities, they put an end to the gladiator games.

Definition:A major political unit with a large territory under one ruler
Context:The gladiator games were meant to reflect the major conquests of the Roman Empire.

Definition:A man who participated in fights held in public arenas in ancient Rome
Context:Although most gladiators were criminals, prisoners, or slaves, some were free men who volunteered

Definition:One who owns and trains gladiators
Context:A lanista often bought slaves to participate in the gladiator games.

Definition:A school for gladiators, where they lived and trainedContext:At a ludus, gladiators learned how to use many types of weapons, such as swords, daggers, nets, and tridents.

Definition:A game held in honor of someone who has died; given as a gift by the person's descendents
Context:A munus could be held every year or every five years.

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This lesson plan addresses the following standards from the National Council for the Social Studies:
  • Culture
  • People, Places, and Environments
  • Power, Authority, and Governance

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Joy Brewster, curriculum writer, editor, and consultant

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