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21 Fascinating Facts About Ancient Rome !
Get excited about History!
We’ve been surprised and sometimes shocked by the crazy facts and finds of the Ancients! The Ancient Romans were no exception!
If you’ve been following along with our FREE History Curriculum series, this is the fourth fun post in this HISTORY STARTERS series! These brief “21 Fascinating Facts” are a great way to start your lessons, share around the table, or just spark some curiosity !
This quick guide was specifically made to use along with each day’s lesson in the FREE Ancient Rome Curriculum (or if you aren’t studying Ancient Rome this year, just to read for FUN!). You can print out a copy of these History Starters to add into your unit as well- It’s in the Book Store –> HERE <–
*You can find the other posts in the Fascinating Facts About the Ancients below-
+21 Fascinating Facts About Ancient Civilizations
+21 Fascinating Facts About Ancient Egypt
+21 Fascinating Facts About Ancient Greece
*Week 1: Rome’s Roots
So what are Rome’s roots? How did this great Republic begin?
Well…it all started with some troubled twins, a she-wolf, and an evil king! Are you surprised? If you expected the answer to have something to do with invading armies or the rise of a civilized people, try again. We learned many Fascinating Facts About the Ancient Greeks in the last post from this series…which is helpful, because we will soon see that the Romans loved all things Greek, and pretty much included them into their own developing culture. But what does all this have to do with the beginning of Rome?
Here’s how the story goes. There were twin boys born to the god Mars (the Roman version of the Greek god Ares). The two infant twins were tossed in a raging river by their evil uncle king. But never fear! In keeping with many of the Greek mythological tales, a kind she-wolf took them in as her own and raised the boys. When they were older, they decided to build a prosperous city, but couldn’t quite agree on where to build it. A squabble ensued… and one twin killed the other. The winning twin’s name? Romulus. And thus the beginning of “Rome”.
Want to know more?
The Story of Romulus and Remus and the Beginning of Rome
Check out this short video–> HERE
Off the top of your head can you name one famous Roman?
Did you guess Julius Caesar? Good guess!
But did you know that his name isn’t pronounced “Caesar” like the salad? Me neither!
I’ve been saying it wrong for all these years! If you want to hear the correct pronunciation you can hear it in the video clip below-
Maybe old Julius Caesar (Kaiser) was angry at everyone saying his name all wrong, or maybe he was just feeling a bit sensitive… but during the beginning of his short reign (pun intended lol), he passed a law making it illegal for any person to be taller than he was! This offense was punishable by DEATH!
The ancient Romans contributed many things to our own modern culture, most obviously perhaps, the idea of a republic, and a democratic form of government. One custom of the Ancient Roman government that didn’t carry over however, was their fanciful fashion sense for the leadership. It was all about a special hue- Political Purple!
The Romans developed a very highly sought after purple dye made from shells. It was so costly, it was reserved for only the highest ranking Roman officials. Purple was NOT for peons! Even if one could have gotten their hands on a fabulous purple teeshirt, it was considered a crime for anyone else to wear this color clothing! Yikes!
Want to know more?
Here’s a short video and an article about those cute little snails and How Tyrian Purple Dye was made!
*Week 2: The Romans’ Routines
*Day 1- Fantastic Foodies
It may not surprise you to hear that like the Ancient Greeks before them, the Romans were some pretty dedicated foodies! However, it may surprise you to hear what some of their favorite dishes were! When you think of the most well known foods of Ancient Rome, you might guess pasta, delicious crusty breads, or some type of amazing olive oils perhaps. However, that would be WRONG!
Try flamingo tongues, dormice (yes that’s mice!), lamb’s brains, roasted parrots, and jelly fish (ouch!). Not quite what I was thinking either. But it is a fascinating fact!
Want to read about a few other typical (use that term loosely!) Ancient Roman dishes?
You can read more —> HERE
*Day 2- Bath “Bombs”
After learning about all the “interesting” food favs of the Ancient Roman’s, it isn’t too shocking that among the many noted histories, is quite a bit about their errrr… bathroom habits !!! In this week’s lesson (Week 2 of the Free Ancient Rome Curriculum) we read about the Roman’s AMAZING architectural advancements- including TOILETS! Not just a little bucket in a corner, but fully functional (albeit PUBLIC) bathrooms. I mean, this would have been a pretty incredible achievement, right?!? Right. But what you may not have read in the lesson this week is just how incredibly dangerous these potties could be. Think bath “bombs” in the WORST sense ! It was not unusual for methane gas to collect underneath these public pots. It would just build up and build up, until something set it off and there was an actual explosion! IMAGINE the shock!
You can read some more about the other lurking dangers in the less than restful “restrooms”!
*Day 3- Circus to the Max
While the Roman baths and “restrooms” were pretty awesome inventions, I think that the Circus Maximus may just win the prize! But do you know that the nearby Circus Maximus dwarfs the size of the Colosseum? By A LOT! This outdoor stadium could hold over 250,000 people! To put this into context, the largest outdoor stadium in the world TODAY only holds less than 114,000 people! The Colosseum and the Circus Maximus are incredible examples of design- even when comparing them to modern stadiums! And I’m pretty sure they have never filled a modern stadium with water to hold a mock naval battle, or to watch polar bears and seals fight each other! REALLY! That happened! The Ancient Romans weren’t slacking on the entertainment front!
You can read more about Circus Maximus HERE .
And check out a short clip from Drive Thru History-
*Week 3: Poisons, Pompeii, & Potty Gods
The Emperors of Rome have a special place in history. Why? Because so many of them were CRAZY! LOONEY TOONEY! And just plain evil! Think Nero, Caligula, Commodus, and Domitian, just to name a few. Yikes! But in digging for some Fascinating Ancient Rome Facts, I think I’ve discovered why! It was common practice in Ancient Rome for emperors to poison themselves a little bit every day. YES on purpose! Kind of like allergy shots, I guess. They believed if they ingested just a little bit of all different kinds of poisons each day, eventually they would become immune to them all. Ummmm…. yeah. THIS WAS A BAD IDEA! Clearly this did NOT work, and I’m pretty convinced it had a negative effect on them in the long run.
You can read more about this practice HERE !
*Day 2- Pompeii
Believe it or not, one of the most well preserved Ancient Roman cities is the city of Pompeii. Archaeologists have been able to learn an incredible amount of information about life in Ancient Rome through these ruins. Mount Vesuvius erupted so forcefully that the molten volcanic debris reached temperatures of more than 1,830*F , and flowed at a rate of over 450 miles per hour. So how can there be ANYTHING left at all? The volcanic ash actually is what has preserved Pompeii and it’s people for so long! Everything in the town was covered just as it was at the time with more than 14 FEET of ash!
Check it out! Pompeii
*Day 3- Potty Gods
Let’s take a step back. We’ve learned 2 important facts about the Ancient Romans-
1). They loved the Greek gods and goddesses
2). Ancient Roman “Rest”rooms could be pretty gnarly places to do your private business.
So today, fact #3-
Between slithering serpents and random fanny flames, it’s no wonder that the Ancient Romans put these two traits together and developed quite a collection of superstitions and even religious practices all around these public potties! There were good luck amulets, graffiti scrawled suggesting laughter to scare away the evil spirits from the area, a god of the toilets, a god of poop, and a god of… you’ll never believe me… but a god of breaking wind…tooting…or eh-em…passing gas (an ancient DANGER ZONE!!). It’s true. Believe it or not!
If you dare, here’s a bit on what the experience would have been like from Horrible Histories. (It’s definitely boy humor… sorry ahead!)
*Week 4: Rome’s Legacy
World War 1 lasted for about 4 years, World War 2 lasted for about 6 years. The wars between the Romans and the Persians lasted a little bit longer than that. They win the prize for the longest war in history. Another Fascinating Fact you can add to your knowledge of Ancient Rome!! The war lasted about 721 years. Whether the Roman’s just liked to fight, or it was more than that, 721 years is a long war! To be fair, this was really more like a series of wars, but without a doubt this wins the longest war award- work it out folks!
You can read more about this realllllly long war HERE !
*Day 2- Old Rocks
This week we are reading about the beginning of the “end” of the Roman Empire. It seems kind of sad to see the demise of all their hard work and advances into a pile of old rock and ashes. Not so fast! One more fascinating fact about Ancient Rome is the fact that there are still LOTS of structures that they built that are still standing today thousands of years later! HOW?!? Volcanic ash. Evidently, volcanic ash make some of the strongest cement ever. Artifacts from this period have even been found in perfect shape after hundreds of years UNDER the sea!
You can read more about the lost (found) city of Neopolis HERE!
*Day 3- Leap Legacy
Another legacy the Romans have left us with is our calendar. The names of our months are all roots of Roman numerals and it all makes perfect sense. For example you might recognize these prefixes:
But why is December the 12th month then? The original Roman calendar only had 10 months…then along came old Who-lee-us Ki-saehr. Also known as Julius Caesar. Did you pronounce it correctly this time? Well we know Julius had some self esteem issues. He added July (for Julius of course!), and August (for his nephew Augustus). And voila! The Julian Calendar was born. Now ya know!
But there’s more to the story…in order to make this new calendar all work out, Julius also added a Leap Month.
You can read more about his Leap Legacy HERE
*Week 5: Roman Brows & Bows
Have you ever hear the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Well in the case of the Ancient Romans, beauty was in the brows of the beholder. Roman women spent lots of time bathing, applying scented oils, and even drinking turpentine to make their urine smell like roses! Ewww! However, plucking their eyebrow hair was not part of their beauty regiment. Lots of dark eyebrow hair grown in a straight line across the bridge of their noses was all the rage evidently! If their hair was blond or too stubborn to grow in this very distinct manner, the lovely ladies of Ancient Rome just mixed up a little ash and soot to accentuate their natural beauty!
Want to know more? –>Ancient Roman Beauty Secrets
If I were a Roman man, I would quite possibly have been made a leader of the people. Is it my ability to discuss politics? Nope. My intelligence and philosophical proverbs? Not that either. It would be my nose. Yep. My NOSE! I have it. In this day and age, it doesn’t gain me much respect, but if I were an Ancient Roman, I’d be golden. Like the Greeks, the Romans valued certain physical attributes of the human body… including the NOSE! And the more crooked the nose, the more highly esteemed the man! Add that to your list of fascinating facts about Ancient Rome…and if YOU are lucky enough to have such a regal schnoz, then add it to the list of things to celebrated about yourself too!
Read more about Noses HERE
*Day 3- Blonde, Brunette, or Pink?
We may think that our beauty tips and tricks have come a long way since rubbing beetles on our lips or ashes on our eyebrows, but in reality, women have been accentuating their beauty with makeup and hair styles for thousands of years. Makeup boxes and tiny mirrors have even been found in the tombs of Ancient Roman women! The boxes are called “truccos” which means “tricks” or “magic”. So what was the most stylish color of hair in Ancient Rome? Not blonde, not red, not brunette… PINK! Yep. Not bright Barbie pink, but light brown hair with pink highlights evidently was all the rage! Just not what I pictured. 😀
Is it worth it ? The Beauty Boxes of the Ancient Romans
*Week 6: Roman Firsts
Though technically bandaids weren’t created until 1920, the Ancient Romans were the bandaid pioneers. Perhaps this was out of pure necessity (remember that war that lasted for 721 years?)! Anyway, the very first type of bandaids were created by Roman doctors on the battlefields. They were a mixture of cobwebs, vinegar, and honey carefully laid on an open wound. The honey and vinegar are both natural antibacterials, and the cobwebs would make a nice gauze type material. Seems plausible!
Read more about Life Before Bandaids
*Day 2- First Energy Drinks
In the late 1980’s energy drinks first started to be sold in the US. Gatorade and other sports drinks were beginning to grow in popularity as well. Our own great invention? Nope. Once again, we have the Ancient Romans to thank for adding another exciting element to our culture. Thousands of years before “Red Bull” was even thought of, “Goat Dung” was the drink of choice to cool off with after a chariot race, or gladiator tournament. According to the well known historian, Pliny the Elder, dried goat dung and vinegar was the go to drink! And as an added bonus, the concoction could also be applied to sore muscles at the end of a hard day. Win, win! Maybe.
Want to read about some other food contributions ? HERE’s more!
It wasn’t the dormice, the lark tongue pie, or roast giraffe leg… it was just one too many bites of those tasty tidbits that might contribute to one of Ancient Rome’s ickiest rituals. Feeling a little queasy from overeating at a Roman banquet? No problem. It was quite acceptable to vomit right on (or if you were feeling extra polite), right beside, the TABLE! Yep, you read that correctly. Why? Vomit so you could eat more of course! A servant would quickly sweep it up and you were good to go! Onward! Yuck! I mean I realize those public bathrooms left some things to be desired, but vomiting on your host’s banquet table just seems wrong! But who am I since I can’t say that I’ve ever hosted that kind of party! I’m just relieved that this part of Roman culture did NOT stick!
You can read more about Roman Banquets HERE (younger students) and HERE (older students).
*Week 7: Final Fun Facts About Ancient Rome
We learned all about the Ancient Egyptian’s affection for cats in the 21 Fascinating Facts About Ancient Egypt post. But did you know that the Romans also really loved cats ? There is even a law up to this day protecting a population of local wild cats in the city. That may seem a bit excessive, but the Romans knew something that could’ve spared so many lives in the future- protect the wild cats, get rid of the wild RATS! If only they had made the rats and black plague connection!
You can read about the Ancient Roman’s love for cats HERE and the modern day Cats Who Rule Rome HERE.
*Day 2- Caligula’s Consul
So now that we know the Ancient Romans loved cats, what about horses? There isn’t much information about that, but we do know that at least one Roman ruler really, REALLY loved his horse! Caligula (the crazy, murderous, evil emperor in case you didn’t recognize his name from earlier) was a little off anyway, but when he decided to appoint his HORSE to one of the highest Roman leadership positions (consul), it may have crossed a line. Soon after this he was assassinated. Now we’ll never know what kind of politician the horse would’ve made!
Read more about Caligula (and his horse) HERE !
*Day 3- Oddest Pets Yet
Caligula had his horse. Common Romans loved their cats and dogs. And Julius Caesar (pronounce it right!) had a pet giraffe! Where does one even keep a pet giraffe? But that’s not the oddest pet yet! Antonia, the daughter of the famed Marc Antony, had a pet EEL! And the story gets stranger. Antonia’s beloved pet eel was bejeweled! Yep. She attached jeweled earrings all over her beloved slithery friend. Still not sure you could really make an eel into a cuddly pet. Must’ve been an Ancient Roman kind of thing.
Read more about some of Rome’s proudest pets HERE !
So did I surprise you with any Fascinating Facts About the Ancient Romans?! I hope that you learned more than how to pronounce Julius Caesar correctly (I’m still working on it!). I hope you will have found this history FUN !! If you think history is boring, just try looking at it from just a little different angle!
Wishing you a wonderful year of living, loving, and learning together !
Coming up next in the 21 Fascinating Facts series, is
The Middle Ages !