Romans Facts for KS2 Children and Teachers
The Romans were a fascinating civilisation that lasted for 500 years. Check out these fascinating Roman facts:
Who were the Romans?
The ancient Roman civilisation began in 753 BC when King Romulus founded the city of Rome (naming it after himself). Over the next thousand years, this small city grew into a large empire. The ancient Romans became one of the most influential civilisations in history, conquering areas in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Who ruled Rome?
Ancient Rome began as a kingdom and was ruled over by kings for 240 years. It then became a republic. This means that it was run by elected officials called senators and that there was a constitution agreeing how the republic should be run. Nearly five hundred years later however, Rome became an empire that was ruled over by an emperor. Caesar Augustus was the first Roman emperor. Emperors had almost complete control over the whole empire.
When did the Romans invade Britain?
Julius Caesar first invaded Britain in 55 BC. There were several battles between the Roman army and the Celtic tribes who lived in Britain at the time, but the Romans didn’t have a large enough army and they retreated. The following year, Julius Caesar attacked Britain again with a larger army. They still didn’t defeat the Celts but the Romans promised to leave Britain if the Celts paid tribute to Rome.
It wasn’t until Emperor Claudius invaded for a third time nearly a hundred years later in 43 AD that the Romans finally conquered Britain. Battles continued for several years afterwards but eventually the Romans gained control and Britain became part of the Roman Empire.
What made the Romans so powerful?
The Romans had a very well organised army which allowed them to conquer other countries. The Roman army was one of the most successful armies in history and far more advanced than any other army at the time.
How was the Roman army organised?
The Roman army was made up of legions which had nearly 5000 men each. Legions were organised in a very specific way:
- Eight men were put into a group called a tent.
- Ten tents were put together to form a century of 80 men. A centurion was in charge of the century.
- Six centuries were put together to form a cohort of 480 men.
- Ten cohorts were put together to form a legion.
Roman soldiers had to be very tough and highly trained. They had to walk long distances to battles carrying heavy equipment, such as weapons, tents and food.
What was life for ordinary people in ancient Rome?
Life in ancient Rome depended very much on which social class you belonged to. Roman society was hierarchical, meaning some people were considered to be much more important than others:
- Slaves were at the bottom of the social pyramid. They were the poorest people in society. They had no rights and had to work constantly.
- Next came plebeians. They were the ordinary working people of Rome. Although they were poor, they were allowed to vote.
- Patricians were the aristocracy of Rome. They were rich and came from noble families.
- Senators were important people who helped make the laws of Rome.
- Two people were chosen every year to help run the empire. These people were called consuls.
- The emperor was the most important man in the whole empire. Ultimately, he had absolute power over everyone and everything in the empire.
Women had few rights in Rome, however rich or poor they were. Women couldn’t vote and were controlled by the ‘paterfamilias’ – the male head of the household.
What did the Romans eat?
Romans generally ate foods they could grow, rear or catch. Poorer Romans would eat vegetables and grains, only having meat occasionally when they could afford it (or catch it for themselves). Richer Romans had a much wider variety of foods and ate meat regularly.
The Romans ate three meals a day. They had breakfast (which they called ientaculum), lunch (which they called prandium) and their main meal in the evening (which they called cena).
What were Roman houses like?
If you lived in a city, you probably lived in an insula. This was an apartment building between three and five stories high. These were often cramped and badly built. If you were richer, you would live in larger single homes called domus. These usually had many rooms off an atrium which was a room in the centre of the house with an open roof.
Poor Romans who lived in the countryside would live in shacks or cottages while rich Romans would live in large, sprawling villas.
How did the Romans keep clean?
The Romans built communal bath houses for people to bathe in. Bathing was important in ancient Rome, both for keeping clean and as a social activity. People would go to the bathhouses to socialise and relax, as well as to keep clean.
What did the Romans invent?
The Romans had much more advanced technology than many other civilisations at the time. They developed many things that had been used before and made them better, such as sewers, aqueducts and roads, but they also invented lots of new things, many of which we still use today:
Top 5 Roman inventions:
- Concrete was invented by the Romans to help make their buildings stronger and easier to build. It is thanks to Roman concrete that so many of Rome’s most famous buildings are still standing today, such as the Colosseum.
- Newspapers were first invented by the Romans around the year 131 BC. The first newspapers were written on metal or stone and posted in public areas for people to read. They were called Acta Diurna, which means ‘daily acts’.
- Books were invented by Romans too. Before this, everything was written on clay tablets or scrolls. The Romans were the first to bind pages together.
- The calendar that we use today is based very closely on one that was developed by the Romans. The Julian calendar (named after Julius Caesar who developed it) split the year into twelve month, giving each month a name, such as Augustus, September or Julius.
- Central heating was invented by the Romans to keep houses warm in the winter. This central heating system was called hypocaustum. It involved circulating hot air through hollowed floors and walls.
Why did the Roman Empire end?
Lots of different factors caused the downfall of Rome. With such a large empire to rule, it became difficult to manage all the different territories and communicate from one place to another. There were also lots of threats from the Huns, barbarians and many other tribes. The army became weaker until eventually, the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was defeated and replaced by a Germanic prince called Odovacar. The Roman Empire, which had existed for 500 years, was over.
What did the Romans do for us?
The Romans did lots for us, from the roads we still use today to the language we speak, their influence on Britain can be seen in lots of places.
Roman Buildings and Architecture
The buildings built prior to the Romans were mainly made from timber and they were small and round. The Romans built using stone, rather than wood. Their buildings were much larger than those previously built in Britain and they lasted longer.
The Romans kept towns and forts clean by using fresh water and drainage. Aqueducts brought water into towns, and drains kept the streets and houses clean. The remains of Roman toilets and baths can be seen in many Roman forts.
The Romans constructed wide, straight roads to help transport goods around their empire. Their empire was large and they needed reliable routes around it. They built small local roads and long, broad highways spanning thousands of miles. About 2,000 miles of these roads were in Britain.
The Roman Influence on Language
Lots of modern languages were derived from (this means came from) Latin. About 60 percent of the words in the English language have Greek or Latin roots. There are some Latin words you might use without realising it, for example the words acumen, agenda, obvious, ego, semi, versus, vice versa, rapport and ambiguous. There are also English words that are based on the Latin word, for example the word plumbing exists because the Romans made their pipes out of lead and the word for lead in Latin is plumbum.
The Roman Calendar
The Roman calendar originally consisted of 10 months and 304 days. This calendar is thought to have been introduced by Romulus in 700s BC. The 10 months were named Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December.
The months January and February are thought to have been added by the Roman ruler Numa Pompilus, in 700-600s BC. This made the calendar 355 days long. He also added an additional month called Mercedonius, which was included in the calendar every other year. In these years the calendar was 377 days long.
In 46 BC the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar, was the first to have 365 days in a year and a leap year every 4 years. This is the basis of the calendar we use today. Our calendar is called the Gregorian calendar. Did you know that the months of our year are based on Roman names?
- January came from Janus, the god of beginnings
- February came from Februarius, a festival called februa
- March came from Mars, the god of war
- April came from Aphrodite, the goddess of love
- May came from Maia, the mother of Hermes
- June came from Juno, the goddess of protecting the state
- July came from Julius as in Emperor Julius Caesar
- August came from Augustus as in Emperor Augustus
- September means seventh month
- October means eighth month
- November means ninth month
- December means tenth month
You may be wondering why the ordinal numbers given to the months aren’t consistent with where they appear in our calendar today. This is because the names of these months haven’t changed since Romulus’ original Roman calendar. In Romulus’ original calendar July was called Quintills meaning fifth month and August was called Sextilis meaning sixth month.
The Romans were not the first people to make coins in England, but they introduced the idea of using coins as currency to buy things. Roman coins could be used in lots of different countries including Britain, North Africa and Turkey.
The Romans introduced street stalls to Britain, could this tasty convenient food be the first example of fast food?! They also brought other staples like apples, pears, plums, grapes, peas, onions and carrots to Britain.
The Romans introduced a number of animals to Britain including the hare, peacock, pheasants and domestic cats.
10 fascinating Roman facts:
- The Romans spoke Latin and Greek as their official languages, although with such a large empire, there were many other languages that were spoken.
- The Romans ate many foods we would consider strange today, such as parrot, peacock tongue and garum. Garum was a condiment that was very popular in ancient Rome – it was used like ketchup and added to all sorts of savoury dishes. It was made by crushing and fermenting fish intestines!
- Rich Romans often ate lying down. They would recline on sofas while slaves or servants served them their food.
- The Romans had lots of uses for urine. They used it to wash clothes, to tan leather and even to whiten teeth!
- The Romans didn’t have toilet paper. Instead, they used a sponge on the end of a stick to clean themselves after going to the toilet. In communal toilets, the sponges often wouldn’t be washed between uses!
- Public toilets were such scary places full of rats and other terrors that the Romans often used magic spells and asked the gods for help when they used them.
- The Romans built about 55,000 miles of roads across the empire. They built very straight roads, many of which are still used today.
- Gladiator fights were one of the most popular forms of Roman entertainment. A gladiator was a professional fighter who fought in organised games. Gladiator fights usually lasted until one of the combattants was dead. Romans sometimes drank the blood of fallen gladiators because they believed it gave a person life force.
- An hour in Rome didn’t always last an hour. Romans divided the day into twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness, but because the daylight lasts much longer in summer than in winter, some hours could last as long as 75 minutes in summer or as short as 45 minutes in winter.
- Even though the Romans bathed frequently, they didn’t use soap. Instead, they would rub themselves with oil, then scrape off the oil and dirt with a special scraper!
Teachers: If you're looking for more in-depth learning on the Romans, check out our Romans Topic, covering lessons across a range of cross-curricular subjects and our collection of Romans teaching resources.