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HMH Social Studies

Virtual Field Trip

Ancient Rome

Click below to look at a timeline of Ancient Roman history.


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Click below to learn more information including

  • important dates
  • total area
  • total population
  • famous rulers
  • famous structures

On this virtual field trip, you will go back in time to explore the re-created world of ancient Rome, one of ancient history's most influential civilizations.

Know Before You Go

Ancient Rome

Build Background


Build Background

The western Roman empire falls

Rome is divided into eastern and western empires

Construction on the Colosseum begins

476 CE

70 CE

Augustus becomes the first emperor of Rome

27 BC

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395 CE

Rome defeats Carthage in the Battle of Zama

202 BC

Rome becomes a republic

509 BC

According to legend, Rome is founded

753 BC

Daily Life in Rome

Gladiator Contests

Roman Cities

The Roman Senate

Roman Engineeringand Construction

The Battle of Zama

click the pictures to learn more about each topic

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The Battle of Zama

Weapons and Armor

Organization of the Army


The Legion Standard

Hannibal's Elephants

Rome's Mighty Army

The Setting

Carthage is Defeated

The Battle of Zama

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Roman Engineering and Construction

A Long Haul

Using Gravity


Using Concrete

The Workforce

Roman Engineering and Construction

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The Toga

Expressing Opinions

The Floor


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Roman Engineering and Construction

The Curia Julia


The Roman Senate

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A Roman's Best Friend

Ancient Traffic

People of Rome

The Writing on the Wall

The Forum

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Roman Cities

Market Stalls

Water Resources

Roman Cities

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Popular Entertainment

Keeping Out the Sun

The Imperial Box

A Mix of Styles

A Dangerous Sport

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Gladiator Contests

The Fighters

Under the Floor

Gladiator Contests

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Limited Space

Daily Life for Men

A Feline Friend

The Role of Women

Fire Hazard

What's for Dinner

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Daily Life in Rome

Passing the Time

Daily Life for Children

Daily Life in Rome

THE TOGA: Take a look at what these senators are wearing. That garment is called a toga. Wearing a toga was a symbol of Roman citizenship; women and foreigners were not allowed to wear them. Most togas were white, but consuls and former consuls had a purple stripe on their togas as a symbol of honor.

SENATORS: For most of Roman history, the Senate had 300 members, although it could be larger. To qualify for membership, a citizen had to own property valued at 1 million sesterces—a huge fortune. Most senators were former magistrates, or elected officials, whose terms had ended. Only men could be senators.

HANNIBAL’S ELEPHANTS: One of Hannibal’s advantages in the Punic Wars was his use of war elephants, which had defeated some Roman armies in Italy. At Zama, however, the Romans broke ranks to surround the beasts. Some soldiers blew trumpets to scare the elephants. Panicked elephants even trampled some Carthaginian lines.

THE ROMAN SENATE: Welcome to the Curia Julia, the meeting place of the Roman Senate. During the Roman Republic from 509 to 27 BCE, the Senate was the main lawmaking body and the heart of the government. As power shifted to the emperors, the Senate remained important. It governed Rome and certain provinces and sometimes controlled finances and acted as a court. The meeting you see here is taking place early in the Empire, as the Senate attempts to define its role in the new government.

CRANES: Stone is heavy, and the stones used to build this type of aqueduct were huge. To lift these enormous stones, the Romans used cranes like this one. With just a few people working a winch, this crane could lift stones weighing more than 3 tons.

WATER RESOURCES: Crowded cities required a great deal of water. People needed water to drink, cook, bathe, and clean. Carried to the city by aqueducts, that water was fed into fountains and cisterns. People collected the water they needed from these public sources.

THE ROLE OF WOMEN: For much of Roman history, women were expected to take care of household chores, such as cooking, making clothes, and caring for children. A few women, however, did own and run businesses of their own, and many women owned their own property.

PASSING THE TIME: The ancient Romans created many ways to amuse themselves while they were not working. Adults played dice and board games or took up hobbies like hunting and swimming. Children played with toys, many of which would seem familiar today, like tops, rattles, and building blocks.

ANCIENT TRAFFIC: The streets of Roman cities were crowded with both people and vehicles, including carts and chariots. Traffic was so heavy on some streets that vehicles’ wheels dug ruts into the cobblestones—ruts that can still be seen in the ruins of some ancient cities.

USING GRAVITY: Roman aqueducts did not use pumps to move water. Instead, the water was moved entirely by gravity. Each water channel was designed to slope slightly along its entire length. The incline was steep enough to keep water flowing but slight enough to be nearly undetectable to the eye.

THE BATTLE OF ZAMA: Today you’re going to learn about ancient Rome, one of history’s most influential civilizations. Rome grew from a small city to a major world power that ruled the lands around the Mediterranean. As it grew, Rome came into conflict with neighboring civilizations, such as that of Carthage in North Africa. Between 264 and 146 BCE, the Romans and Carthaginians fought 3 wars called the Punic Wars. The fight you see here is the Battle of Zama, the final major battle of the Second Punic War. The Roman army, led by Scipio Africanus, invaded Africa and faced off against the Carthaginian general Hannibal. Despite Hannibal’s larger army, the Romans were victorious.

THE SETTING: The Battle of Zama was fought in 202 BCE in what is now Tunisia. The Roman army, hoping to end the Second Punic War, had invaded Africa and was advancing toward Carthage. This forced Hannibal and the Carthaginians, who had been raiding Italy, to rush to defend their homeland.

ROMAN CITIES: Welcome to an ancient Roman city! Although most Roman citizens were farmers who lived in rural areas, the heart of the Roman Empire was its cities. The city of Rome itself was by far the largest and most important in the empire. At its height, Rome may have been home to more than 1 million people. Other cities around the Roman world were home to tens or hundreds of thousands of people as well. Some of these people lived lives of wealth and luxury, but many were poor and lived in cramped and unsanitary conditions.

WHAT’S FOR DINNER?: Here you can see some typical Roman foods. The Romans ate many of the same fruits and vegetables used in Italian food today. Fish and seafood were common, as was pork. The jars would hold such staples as water, wine, olive oil, and garum, a fermented fish sauce used in place of salt.

PEOPLE OF ROME: Have you heard the expression “All roads lead to Rome”? That certainly seemed to be true in the Roman Empire. People from all over the Roman world moved to Rome and other cities. On the street, one might hear people speaking dozens of languages, from Latin and Greek to Aramaic and Celtic languages.

THE LEGION STANDARD: Every legion in Rome’s army carried a unique standard into battle. (At this time, a legion included about 4,200 infantry soldiers.) The standard was a symbol of the legion and was protected as a matter of pride. It was also waved or raised to signal the army about which actions to take.

THE IMPERIAL BOX: The Colosseum had a special box reserved for the imperial family and their attendants. During the Empire, most games were sponsored by emperors. At least one emperor, Commodus, was such a fan of gladiatorial fights that he took part himself—with the odds stacked in his favor, of course.

A ROMAN’S BEST FRIEND: The ancient Romans kept a variety of animals as pets, including birds, cats, apes, and weasels. But dogs were the most popular by far. Dogs were seen as faithful companions as well as hunting partners and guardians. Besides scaring off thieves, dogs were considered protection against ghosts.

THE WORKFORCE: It took a huge workforce to build and maintain an aqueduct! At one point, Rome employed a force of 700 workers just to maintain the city’s aqueducts. Building crews like this one included a mix of experienced construction laborers and soldiers from nearby camps.

WEAPONS AND ARMOR: During this period, the Roman soldiers’ main weapon was a pilum, or spear. Each soldier carried two spears: a lightweight one to throw and a heavier one for hand-to-hand fighting. Most soldiers also carried a short sword, or gladius—which later became the main Roman weapon—and a heavy shield.

WRITING ON THE WALL: Graffiti was a popular form of expression in Roman cities. City dwellers scribbled messages about love, business, politics, and even literary references on the walls of buildings. In many cases their messages drew responses from passersby, leading to entire conversations recorded on city walls.

A LONG HAUL: An aqueduct as large as this one took a great deal of stone, often more than was naturally available in the immediate area. Workers could haul in additional stone from nearby quarries, either traveling by boat or using a cart.

USING CONCRETE: What kind of material could support a structure like this? Concrete. The Romans invented an incredibly strong form of concrete, and they learned how to make it usable underwater. For this aqueduct, the workers have covered the concrete with brick to make it stronger.

ARCHES: The Romans were the first civilization to use the arch in much of their construction. Arches are incredibly strong and can support huge loads. Without the arch, structures like this aqueduct would not have been possible. A weaker structure could collapse from its own weight.

ROME'S MIGHTY ARMY: One of the main reasons Rome was able to expand its territory was the strength of its army. Roman soldiers were known throughout the Mediterranean for their training and discipline. The army at Zama included about 35,000 infantry soldiers, many of them seasoned veterans.

LICTORS: In general, only senators were allowed in Senate meetings. An exception was made for the lictors, a group of bodyguards assigned to each consul. Each lictor carried a fasces, a bundle of wooden rods with an axe, as a symbol of the consul’s power.

THE FLOOR: The ruins of the Curia Julia can still be seen in Rome today. Although much of the building has been damaged by time, its elaborate floor of red and green stone inlays on white marble tiles is still visible.

LIMITED SPACE: Most Roman apartments had only one room. People prepared and ate meals, played games and had conversations, studied, and slept in the same space. However, the apartments of some wealthier families, like this one, had a separate sleeping chamber.

A DANGEROUS SPORT: Most gladiators did not fight to the death. A gladiator was expensive to train, so most trainers wanted to keep the gladiators alive. However, fatal accidents were not uncommon. In addition, crowds and emperors sometimes called for defeated gladiators to be killed.

Ancient Rome

Have you ever heard the expression, "All roads lead to Rome?" In ancient times, the city of Rome was at the heart of a huge civilization, one that included more than half of Europe plus parts of north Africa and Southwest Asia. Hundreds of roads--many of them still in use today--linked huge cities, allowing travelers, traders, and soldiers to move quickly throughout the Roman world. Within those cities, the Roman people made amazing advances in government, engineering, warfare, and the arts.

A FELINE FRIEND: Dogs were the most common pets in ancient Rome, but some families also had cats. After the 2nd century CE, house cats became more common and were kept, in large part, to catch mice and rats. Romans also kept weasels, ferrets, and snakes for the same purpose.

UNDER THE FLOOR: Beneath the floor of the Colosseum was a maze of corridors, rooms, and cages. Gladiators waited in this area before matches, and wild animals were kept there in preparation for staged hunts. During these hunts, trained performers would stalk exotic animals such as lions, ostriches, and elephants.

A MIX OF STYLES: Gladiators used a variety of weapons and armor. The majority fought with swords and shields, but some wore much heavier armor than others. Some used more unusual weapons, like this man, armed with a trident and a net. The Romans liked to see gladiators with different weapons fighting each other.

FIRE HAZARD: Fire was a real danger in Roman buildings. A small fire in an apartment could spread quickly to consume whole city blocks. While some apartments had built-in stoves like this one, most families had only open braziers on which to cook. Many Romans bought meals from vendors rather than risk fires.

CONSULS: Senate meetings were led by consuls, the highest elected officials in the Roman Republic. Two consuls were chosen each year in public elections. Besides leading Senate meetings, they commanded armies and governed provinces. Before emperors took over, the consuls were the most powerful men in Rome.

THE FIGHTERS: The life of a gladiator was hard and, often, short. Who would choose that life? Some gladiators were slaves who were forced to fight. Others were former soldiers lured by the promise of money and fame. Successful gladiators were as popular—and rich—as rock stars and professional athletes are today.

MARKET STALLS: The streets and forums of Roman cities were lined with market stalls, where shoppers could get raw or prepared food as well as shoes, clothes, and other goods. Specialty shops sold goods like books, metal goods, and spices. Many Romans bought their lunches at stalls to avoid cooking at home.

DAILY LIFE FOR MEN: In most Roman families, the husband was the head of the household. He earned the family’s money and made all decisions, from how to spend money to whom his children would marry. In addition, only men were allowed to take part in most aspects of public life, such as voting or holding office.

THE CURIA JULIA: Julius Caesar started work on the Curia Julia in Rome’s Forum after the old meeting place burned. However, in 44 BCE, Caesar was assassinated by a group of senators, and work halted. Emperor Augustus finished the curia some 15 years later. In the meantime, the Senate met in a nearby theater.

POPULAR ENTERTAINMENT: Gladiator games drew support from all classes of Roman society. Seating in the Colosseum was strictly organized by social class. The first few rows of seats were reserved for senators and their families. The next level up was for noble families, and so on. Poor citizens sat in the highest seats.

THE FORUM: At the heart of any Roman city was the Forum, or public square. The Forum was used for public events that ranged from political debates to entertainment. Every Forum had at least one temple and buildings for trade and business. Many had monuments, like statues or arches, to honor great leaders.

DAILY LIFE FOR CHILDREN: Roman children were expected to help with chores and get an education. Most learning took place at home, although some wealthy children attended private schools. Around age 7, many boys started to learn a trade, usually from their fathers. Romans were legally considered adults by age 14.

DAILY LIFE IN ROME: Although many lived in small apartments in the city’s insulae, or apartment buildings, some insulae, like this one, were inhabited, for the most part, by middle-class families of merchants and artisans. Others, which were often shoddily built, were home to poorer families. Like some modern apartment buildings, an insula usually had shops on the first floor and dwellings above. The most-desired apartments were on lower floors. Most people didn’t want to haul supplies and water to the top of a building.

EXPRESSING OPINIONS: Senate meetings were not always quiet affairs. Members often cheered, booed, or even heckled speakers. Some senators would leave their chairs during speeches and move to sit with colleagues who shared their opinions. Pointed remarks—and personal attacks—were common during debates.

ROMAN ENGINEERING AND CONSTRUCTION: The ancient Romans were master engineers. They designed and built huge buildings and sturdy bridges—some still in use today—as well as thousands of miles of roads. Here you are looking at the construction of an aqueduct, a human-made channel that carries water to a city. The Romans built a huge network of aqueducts to supply their capital city. Some aqueducts ran 50 miles or more to bring water from mountain springs into cities. Most of each aqueduct was underground, but some aqueducts crossed valleys or gorges. In those cases, the Romans built huge structures like this one to support the aqueduct’s pipework.

CARTHAGE IS DEFEATED: The discipline of the Roman army and the defeat of Hannibal’s elephants resulted in a sound defeat of the Carthaginian army. More than 20,000 Carthaginian soldiers died and about 20,000 were taken prisoner. Soon afterward, Carthage surrendered, and the Second Punic War ended.

GLADIATOR CONTESTS: This is the Colosseum, the home of Rome’s greatest gladiatorial games! Staged combats between gladiators—professional warriors who fought for the public’s entertainment—were one of the most popular spectacles in ancient Rome. The earliest fights between gladiators were held as part of funeral celebrations, but by the time of the late Republic they had grown into huge events attended by thousands of fans. Although Rome had many venues in which to hold these games, the Colosseum was the largest and best known. Built in the 70s CE by the emperor Vespasian, the Colosseum could hold 50,000 people.

FRESCOES: Many Roman homes were decorated with frescoes, paintings created on wet plaster. The paint blended with the plaster and became part of the wall as the plaster dried. The villas of the wealthiest Romans had entire rooms covered in frescoes, while more modest homes had simpler designs.

CAVALRY: The Romans understood the value of cavalry, or troops mounted on horseback, in war. But Scipio had few Roman cavalry soldiers at Zama. He hired skilled riders from Numidia in North Africa to fight on his side. Interestingly, the Carthaginians also hired Numidian cavalry soldiers for the battle.

ORGANIZATION OF THE ARMY: In the 200s BCE, the Roman army was organized into units called maniples. Each maniple included about 120 soldiers, who were commanded by 2 officers called centurions. This organization allowed each maniple to operate independently of the rest, which gave the army flexibility.

KEEPING OUT THE SUN: One of the engineering marvels of the Colosseum was the huge retractable awning that provided shade for the audience. Raising the awning required the efforts of hundreds of sailors, and scholars today are still not sure exactly how they managed to secure the heavy canvas.

Famous Structures
  • The Colosseum 70 to 72 CE
  • The Pantheon 126 to 128 CE
  • The aqueducts 312 BC to 226 CE
Famous Rulers
  1. Romulus
  2. Julius Caesar
  3. Augustus

million (at its peak)



Total Population

65 130

Total Area

million square miles (at its peak)


753 BC - 476 CE