Ancient Rome: Brutal, Ingenious and Systematic

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Dear Year 7,

As we have discussed in class, the three adjectives in the title of this post sum up many aspects of ancient Roman civilisation. The BBC website employs the first two adjectives, “brutal” and “ingenious”, in its description of this powerful empire. I chose the last word, “systematic”, because Roman organisation and administration were crucial to the lasting success of the empire.

The exercises below will provide you with examples and stories that further illustrate the qualities of the ancient Romans. There are several quizzes, videos and handouts that will help you to piece together the complex story of ancient Rome.

Kind regards,

Ms Green

1 Complete this Timeline Task

Based on the Ducksters summary of the ancient Roman story, this handout will give you an overview of the main events in Roman history. It covers the period from 753 BCE till 476 CE.

2 Quick Vocabulary Quiz 

First of all, can you select the synonyms that accurately explain the meanings of the three adjectives? See this quiz on your whole screen HERE.

3 More Essential Roman VocabularyFlashcards

4: Video: A Day in the Life of a Roman Soldier

Edpuzzle of this video with questions…

5 Video: A Mesmerising Summary of Roman Army Organisation (thanks, Linton!)

6 Reading up on the Roman Army: BBC Bitesize

7 Portrait of a Tyrant


A Volcano Called Vesuvius

This painting by Pierre-Jacques Volaire shows the terror, violence and horror of the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Even now, it is a volcano that presents a threat to the millions of people who live in the region. 

1 A Simple Quiz

This quiz is based on the detailed description of the eruption provided at the Melbourne Museum Exhibition in 2009. After completing this task, you can also watch the simulation of that terrifying day in Pompeii when Vesuvius, seemingly a harmless mountain that had not erupted in living memory, suddenly poured out ash, gases and volcanic debris on the hapless residents of nearby cities and towns. 

Vesuvius: Hour by Hour

2 A Revealing Film

3 Other Videos

Focus on these words and numbers as you watch the last video in order to piece together what happened in Herculaneum:

  • What or who was suspended in the last moment of life?
  • What do the numbers 200 to 700 refer to?
  • It was hot enough to boil…
  • It was hot enough to vaporise…
  • What do the numbers 900 and 500 refer to?
  • What happened in a fraction of a second?

4 Handouts

5 A Quizizz Quiz

6 Recommended Websites

How Stuff Works: What would happen if Vesuvius erupted today? This link also includes a number of slides showing the site of Pompeii today.

The Atlantic: The Ancient Civilisation with Perfect Teeth

An Account from the Smithsonian

Excellent photos of Pompeii along with an artist’s reconstruction

Three Research Options on the Medieval World

Research Options and Links

Download assignment sheet: The Life of Peasants

Download assignment sheet: The Norman Conquest

Download assignment sheet: The Hundred Years War

How to set out the primary source question | A breakdown of each question below

The Life of Peasants

Primary Sources:

Dialogue between Master and Disciple, c.1000 | The Crede of Piers the Ploughman | Luttrell Psalter, British Library | Digital version of the Luttrell Psalter | Sample picture with a description from the Luttrell Psalter

The Norman Conquest


Primary Sources:

William of Poitiers 1 | William of Poitiers 2 | Orderic Vitalis 1Orderic Vitalis 2 | Anglo-Saxon Chronicle | Several varied primary sources | William I’s final confession

Hundred Years War

Primary Sources:

Online Froissart | Froissart on the Battle of Crécy | Froissart on the Battle of Poitiers | The Trials of Joan of Arc | Chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet, Battle of Agincourt, 1415


Life, Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt

Activities for Exploring Ancient Egypt

1 Key Words – More flashcards for reading, practice and matching games

2 Play a Memory Game with the cards above

3 Video | Video with Questions

This is a video about an ancient Egyptian’s journey through the underworld. To watch it on your FULL SCREEN, tap here.

4 Online Crossword

5 Video | Video with Questions

Watch this video about how the ancient Egyptians made their mummies, then rewatch it to answer the questions embedded below:

6 Mummy Maker Game at the BBC Website

7 John Green’s Crash Course World History: Ancient Egypt

8 National Geographic Video: Solving the Cold Case of King Tutankhamun’s Death

Getting to Know the Vikings

Viking_shipThe Vikings, like the Romans, were a fascinating, even paradoxical group. They were clever, brave and inventive people who travelled widely and influenced many societies, contributing some pronouns and many blunt descriptive words to the English language and making their presence felt in many lands, often through violence, looting and bloodshed. Learning about them is interesting for a number of reasons:

•Initially they were not Christians, so it is intriguing to consider how their society differed from others in early Middle Ages Europe, especially in their treatment of women.

•Their society was less rigid and hierarchical than many ancient societies before them and many medieval societies after them. Teasing out the reasons why seems worthwhile.

•Although many were farmers, they are not easy to categorise or pigeon-hole. Their warrior ethos and travelling adventures were also crucial to their identity. Their stories are full of wild violence, passion and bloodshed.

1 Choose one of the links below to take your reading beyond your text. Read through it, writing down no more than five main points.

2 Work through the flashcards and then play the matching game by clicking on below the cards. 

Social Classes

An Essay on Viking Society and Influence

The Role of Women in Viking Society

History on the Net: Nobles, Freemen and Slaves


Year 7 Research: Ancient Bodies

Dear 7A,

You need to work like a detective to be an effective historian. Sometimes you have to sift through all the evidence – literally! In this task, you have to imagine that you are at an ancient crime scene. The body has been found and your task is to figure out what happened. It’s a “cold case”, because the person died long ago.

Enjoy your criminal investigation!

Kind regards from Ms Green

Handy Links for Your Research

Ötzi the Iceman

Narrabeen Man

Lady Dai

Windeby Girl

Kennewick Man

Mungo Lady and Mungo Man

Spitalfields Woman

Tollund Man

Medieval Thinking and the Black Death

A Quotation from the Past

“Oh happy posterity, who will not experience such abysmal woe and who will look upon our testimony as a fable.” – Petrarch

Summary of Useful Links on this Topic:

Introductory Note

Dear S2Z,

As you can imagine, the Black Death would take a heavy toll on any society that lacked modern medicines, hygienic living conditions and well-stocked hospitals. For instance, only 22 years ago, there was an outbreak of pneumonic plague in India, which led to widespread panic, attempts by the government to stop mass evacuations from slum areas and ultimately hundreds of deaths. Journalists entering the area sensibly took their own antibiotics with them. You can read a New York Times report about this outbreak here

Below is an overview of this historical event in the form of a fill-the-gap quiz on various aspects of it. Your task is to select the word that is appropriate for each blank. 

I hope you find this topic as heart-rending, gruesome and captivating as I have always found it.

Kind regards from Ms Green

Picture from the Past: Bubonic Plague in Sydney, 1900

Professional rat catchers, Sydney 1900 © State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority of NSW'

Copyright:State of NSW. Kindly provided by the State Records Authority of NSW. That pile in the middle is dead rats. 

A bounty was placed on rats – sixpence per rat according to one Melbourne report. Poor and unemployed men became professional rat catchers. 


Click here to complete the quiz below on a full screen


Use these 13 words in a paragraph about the Black Death and the medieval mentality:
exacerbated, atrocities, leprosy, Torah, pogrom, indigenous, miasma, mortality, smallpox, pervasive, vulnerable, rigorous, superstition

Assignment Link

The Western Roman Empire Falls

Dear S2Z,

As you know, teasing out the interwoven causes, variables and factors that contributed to an important historical event is a tricky business. There is rarely a single cause that leads inexorably to a single effect.

The fall of the western part of the ancient Roman Empire is a case in point. Many factors contributed to the Roman Empire’s gradual decline and final collapse; indeed, the event was so complex that Edward Gibbon, the famous historian, wrote six long volumes on the topic.  Rome’s collapse, furthermore, was to have a profound impact on the development of medieval Europe.

Use the links below to create a set of notes possible causes and effects. Try to dip into at least three different sources.

Kind regards,

Ms Green

fall of rome

Questions to ask yourselves as you read:

a Gibbon thought we should ask why the Roman Empire lasted as long as it did, rather than why it fell. This is a whole new way of considering the issue. What do you think?

b What were the possible benefits of Rome’s fall?

c Is it accurate to assert that its fall ushered in the so-called “Dark Ages”?


“The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness…” – Edward Gibbon, writer of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Links on the Fall of Rome

Words for describing cause and effect in history:

Cause and effect in History

A Voyage to the Middle Ages

Dear 8Z,
It is a pleasure to see your familiar faces and to welcome you back to school. If you are anything like my daughter, or indeed like me, you will be considering the school year with a certain rueful regret that those long summer holidays have passed so swiftly. Perhaps you will be looking ahead with some apprehension. In my daughter’s case, since she is in Year 12, her apprehensions are utterly understandable. In your case, however, you can relax and enjoy the journey into the past that this semester in History offers.

We begin with the fall of the Roman Empire and plunge immediately into the question of when it fell. The standard conception is that Western Rome fell in AD476, after a long period of decline. The view presented by John Green in the video below is an alternative vision of the past, in which he argues that you have to take into account the Eastern Empire, which flourished and prevailed for almost another 1000 years, only falling in 1453.

It seems only right that we should begin our studies of History this semester with a question about when the Fall of Rome actually happened, rather than with a straightforward date or fact. After all, History is always open to reinterpretation. That’s what makes it intriguing – like a crime novel or any mystery.

Kindest regards from Ms Green

Quick Quiz based on John Green’s Analysis (see video below)

Kahoot: Preview Version | Class Version

Night of Notables, 2017

A message from an admirer

Dear 7X,
From 2003 until 2014, I was one of the Night of Notables teachers every year. I helped to organise it and regulate the chaos of setting up, the lining up, the speech giving and the whole experience. Then I taught Year 8 History for two years and became a mere visitor to the event. Yesterday, I was dreading the setting up double. “It’s always chaotic,” I told a less experienced colleague. “Brace yourself.”

Actually, with you as my class, it was not chaotic at all. You were all so focused and organised. You seemed completely unfazed by small matters like having to fit all your display materials on exam tables, not having a table at all initially, and then later, being squashed into a room with hundreds of admirers. You just sailed right on and did your stuff. By twenty minutes from the start of the double, you had the situation well in hand. I was almost a bystander. 

Of course, I expected no less of you. All the same, it is an unalloyed pleasure to be the teacher of such a self-reliant, resilient crew of young dreamers, thinkers and entrepreneurs.

Kind regards,
Ms Green

Please write a comment about the Night of Notables, in which you respond to any or all of the following questions:

  • What did you most enjoy about the project and the night?
  • What did you learn from it?
  • What did you discover about yourself and your friends?
  • Were there any particularly amusing moments, bizarre questions or unexpected crises?
  • Which skills did you develop or hone as you went about your work?
  • Were there any obstacles that you had to overcome and how did you go about it?
  • What could we as your teachers do in order to make the project better or easier to manage?
The many delightful details of the Night of Notables…

The Dangerous and Clever Romans


Handout: Word Document | PDF Version

Dear 7X,

It is lovely to be back in your company and to observe your insight, industry and courtesy at close hand. Whatever possessed me to leave you for five whole weeks?

Today we continue our exploration of the wily, brutal and inventive ancient Romans. I suppose we could use those adjectives for the whole human race to some degree, but the history of Rome, more than most, sometimes strikes me as a kind of violent soap opera with several crime stories as subplots. The story is captivating and horrifying at the same time. Perhaps you can identify some modern equivalents? 

We begin our study, after that outlandish and sensational introduction based on the Ben Hur chariot race, with a more serious exploration of the vocabulary you will need in order to speak knowledgeably and accurately about ancient Rome. After briefly encountering these words, with the help of this handout, you will be ready to hear the fascinating summary by the witty and fast-talking John Green, embedded for your edification below. This will permit you to discourse knowledgeably on even more topics at your parents’ dinner table.

Kind regards from Ms Green (no relation)

PS You can open and read the transcript if you watch this video on YouTube. This is not a bad idea, should some of the presenter’s words fly past too quickly even for your quick ears and agile minds.

Embedded Handout:

Visit to our class by our librarian, Mrs McQueen:

A relatively reliable source for biographical research

More on Ancient Egypt…

Dear 7X,
You are a delightful class. Although I am leaving you for five weeks, I look forward to seeing you next term and discovering all your ideas for the Night of Notables upon my return.

Have a wonderful time with Ms Giesbrecht and please treat her like a Pharaoh in my absence! (Well, at least like a very important person.)

Kind regards, Ms Green


1 Ancient Egypt – Essential Vocabulary

Below there is also a little Quizlet on ancient Egypt, which will help you to learn many of the words connected with this topic. As an added incentive, you can play the Gravity game, but only after cycling through the digital flashcards at least once.

2 The ancient Egyptians – General Introduction

Photo kindly provided by Mrs McQueen

The ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid of Giza without the wheel. In addition, they developed their own system of writing, probably influenced by the Sumerians. The ancient Egyptians often get the credit for domesticating cats, but some believe that this occurred much earlier in Cyprus. It is undeniable, however, that Egyptians loved cats. They also embalmed bodies with great skill and lived successfully in a land that, except for a thin fertile strip near its river, was basically desert.

It was an improbable place for the development of such a major and successful civilization, made possible only by the existence of that river, the Nile, and by the talents of the people. Every year the Nile delivered its fertile silt to the inhabitants of the Nile Valley, its floodwaters sweeping down from the Ethiopian mountains in the south to the plains of the north. Every year the Egyptian peasant farmers used that silt and water to crop their land and grow the food that supported the whole population.

Some of my students think life would have been much easier once farming began. They point out that people would no longer have encountered as much danger from hunting and would have felt more confidence about having food when they needed it.

While these are fair points, farming in ancient Egypt was labour-intensive, to say the least. A peasant farmer was also at the bottom of the social hierarchy. This was no easy life. Hunter-gatherers six or seven thousand years before in a fertile area might well have had more leisure time and fewer people telling them what to do – and no one to tax them as well.

3 Some Introductory Websites and Videos

Find out more about ancient Egypt at these links. This is just a preliminary wander along the Nile River:

Mummy Maker Game at the BBC Website

The importance of the Nile – BBC Website

Questions and answers about the Nile – an easier website

A day in the life of various ancient Egyptians – PBS Website

A fascinating account of archaeological evidence on who actually built the Pyramids – PBS website

A video about an ancient Egyptian’s journey through the underworld:

A video about how the ancient Egyptians made their mummies: