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6-8 > Ancient History
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Ancient History Duration: Two class periods
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Students will understand the following:
1. The current American system of government at the national level both resembles and differs from the system of government in Rome from about 510 to 264 B.C.
2. Ancient Rome experienced several forms of government.

For this lesson, you will need:
History and government textbooks

1. Because the termsrepublicanddemocracyhave multiple meanings (some overlapping, some diametrically opposed), this lesson avoids both words and simply suggests that you ask students to write reports in which they compare and contrast the Roman system of government during the period 510-264 B.C. with the system of government currently in practice at the national level in the United States.
2. Provide context for students by explaining that in the years leading up to the period they are studying (that is, in the years leading up to 510 B.C.), the entity known to us as Rome was ruled by kings. Students’ assignment is to find out what system replaced the kings (and why) and how that system is similar to and different from the way the United States is governed today on the federal level.
3. Direct students to do research and take notes to help them define and otherwise explain the following terms related to the form of government in place in Rome during the period under examination:
  • Citizen
  • Plebeian
  • Patrician
  • Praetors (later called consuls)
  • Senate
  • Slave
4. Suggest that as students gain an understanding of each of the preceding terms regarding Rome, they prepare notes (from research if necessary) about whether there is a similar or different element present in the U.S. system today.
5. Once students have their two sets of notes ready, teach or review the two options they have for organizing their comparison-contrast piece of writing:
  • The block method, in which the writer gives all the information about one item (one form of government) and then all the information about the other item (the other form of government)
  • The alternating method, in which the writer focuses on one feature—say, the definition of who is a citizen—ofeachsubject before going on to focus on another feature—say, the upper classes
6. Remind students to follow the writing process—prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing. Consider inserting an opportunity for peer editing after the drafting stage.
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Adaptations for Older Students:
Extend the assignment by asking students to comment on how both the Roman system in the period under examination and the current U.S. system differ from what Plato had in mind for a government when he wroteThe Republic. If you haven’t already, you may want to show at this point the documentaryPlato’s Republic,available from our School Store.
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Discussion Questions

1. Consider Napoleon’s remark that “the story of Rome is the story of the world.” What do you think he meant by this? How is it that the “western world grew up in Rome’s shadow?”
2. Some might maintain that Rome’s ability to grow its empire began with its talent in planning its city. Discuss how features of the early city of Rome (such as the Forum, the Colosseum, and the aqueducts) served as symbols of the values espoused by the empire’s founding fathers.
3. The historian Livy believed that Rome could somehow alter its destiny of decadence and morbidity if its people could remember (and live by) the values that spawned the empire. Do you think such a redirection of a people is possible through this kind of education?
4. Explain how the Etruscans were like parents to the Romans—and, in turn, how the Romans were like revolting children.
5. In order to fully understand the magnitude of the Roman Empire, look at a current map of Europe and the neighboring regions of North Africa and the Middle East. Into how many countries is the former empire now divided? How many different currencies are now used? Discuss the challenges this great empire faced in organizing, growing, and protecting itself.
6. How did early Romans use the information gathered in the census to begin their republic? In what ways has our democracy evolved from these beginnings? In what ways has it deviated?
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You can evaluate students’ comparison-contrast essays using the following three-point rubric:
Three points:clear comparison-contrast organization with more than minimal number of features covered; coherent and unified paragraphs; error-free grammar, usage, and mechanics
Two points:jumbled comparison-contrast organization with minimal number of features covered; coherent and unified paragraphs; some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
One point:no discernible organization and inadequate coverage of features; paragraphs lacking coherence and unity; many errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining the minimum number of features students should include when comparing and contrasting the two systems.
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A Touch of Livy
Give students an appreciation of the history of history by reading to them selected paragraphs about this period of Roman history written by Livy in hisHistory of Romea few centuries later.

The Census
During this period, Rome classified its citizens on the basis of the census. Discuss with students what the uses of a U.S. census are in the 21st century. How are people classified, and why?

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Suggested Readings

Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial Rome
Chris Scarre. Thames and Hudson, 1995.
Reading the biographical portraits of Rome’s rulers presents a unique view of the rise of the Roman Empire. Photos, maps, charts, and sidebars add to the text. Did you know that the titles adopted by Augustus remained the basis of the imperial titles of all subsequent Roman emperors?

Ancient Rome: An Introductory History
Paul A. Zoch. University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.
Read this very readable history of the founding of the Roman Empire in 753 B.C. to the death of Marcus Aurelius in A.D. 180. It tells the stories of Romulus and Remus, Horatius, Nero, and the military campaigns and politics that formed the Empire. The history comes alive because the author includes stories, legends, and myths from original sources.

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The Romans
Excellent resource from the BBC allows you and your students to investigate key aspects of Roman history.

Odyssey Online
A concise site dealing with Roman, Egyptian, Greek, and sub-Saharan cultures geared for middle school students.

The Etruscans
Nice brief visual summary of the Etruscans written in both Italian and English. Includes links to virtual art museums.

The Time Trail: The Romans
Wonderful Primary School site with brief descriptions of important people, games and what it was like to live as a child in Rome.

World History
Online books dealing with world history including links to maps.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    augur
Definition:An official diviner of ancient Rome; one held to foretell events by omens.
Context:The fate of Romulus and Remus would be determined by the augurs.

speaker    chronicle
Definition:A continuous historical account of events arranged in order of time without analysis or interpretation.
Context:Livy’s chronicles consisted of 142 volumes detailing the history of Rome to A.D. 17.

speaker    dominion
Definition:Control over a domain.
Context:Through strong military leadership like that of Cincinnatus, the Roman dominion was extended as it began its rise to empire.

speaker    juggernaut
Definition:A massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path.
Context:Rome was a juggernaut with unstoppable momentum.

speaker    legion
Definition:The principal unit of the Roman army, composed of 3,000 to 6,000 foot soldiers with cavalry.
Context:The highly disciplined Roman legion was a key ingredient in the success of the growing Roman Empire.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:world history
Understands how major religious and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean basin, China, and India from 500 B.C. to A.D. 300.
Understands the significant individuals and achievements of Roman society (e.g., the accomplishments of famous Roman citizens [Cincinnatus, the Gracchi, Cicero, Constantine, Nero, Marcus Auraleus] and the major legal, artistic, architectural, technological, and literary achievements of the Roman Republic).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:world history
Understands how major religious and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean Basin, China, and India from 500 B.C. to A.D. 300.
Understands shifts in the political framework of Roman society (e.g., major phases in the empire’s expansion through the first century A.D.; how imperial rule over a vast area transformed Roman society, economy, and culture; the causes and consequences of the transition from republic to empire under Augustus in Rome; how Rome governed its provinces from the late republic to the empire; and how innovations in ancient military technology affected patterns of warfare and empire building).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:world history
Understands major global trends from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 300.
Understands patterns of social and cultural continuity in various societies (e.g., ways in which peoples maintained traditions and resisted external challenges in the context of increasing interregional contacts).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:historical understanding
Understands major global trends from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 300.
Benchmark 1:
Analyzes the values held by specific people who influenced history and the role their values played in influencing history.

Benchmark 2:
Analyzes the influences specific ideas and beliefs had on a period of history and specifies how events might have been different in the absence of those ideas and beliefs.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth’s surface.
Understands how cooperation and/or conflict can lead to the allocation of control of Earth’s surface (e.g., formation and delineation of regional planning districts, regional school districts, countries, free-trade zones).

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Christine LaPlaca Burrows, former high school history teacher and current freelance educator.
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