Happy New Year!

The first of January was dedicated by the Romans to Janus, their God of Gates and Doors. Janus is shown as having two faces- one looking backwards at what has been and one forwards to what is to come. Thus, he came to represent contemplation of the past year whilst looking towards the new. 

This led me to thinking about teaching the Romans and what a fantastic topic this is! Looking at it from the Literacy side of things, here are a few ideas you might like to try.

W.H Auden's 'Roman Wall Blues' is a great way of looking at what life on Hadrian's Wall might have been like. I read somewhere that these were originally lyrics to a song, but most think of it now as a poem- I certainly do! It offers plenty to discuss and children can write their own versions, thinking about what they might miss and how they would feel being somewhere unfamiliar far away from family, or they could write letters home to Italy. This poem also lends itself to learning by heart and performing!  

Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone.

Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish;
There'd be no kissing if he had his wish.

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
I want my girl and I want my pay.

When I'm a veteran with only one eye
I shall do nothing but look at the sky. 


(The section of wall pictured below is Black Carts' Turret, part of the Chester's Roman Trail. This is managed by English Heritage.) 

Anyone who teaches Latin in primary school is probably familiar with the 'Minimus' course. It is based around a real family who lived at Vindolanda in 100AD. Vindolanda is one of the Roman forts/ settlements along Hadrian's Wall and can still be visited today. (http://www.vindolanda.com/)

What makes this site different to others along the wall was the discovery of writing tablets. Wafer thin strips of wood covered in spiky writing were found deeply buried at the fort and contain fascinating details of the private and military lives of those living there. It is based on these details that the 'Minimus' family has been created.

Although the books are for teaching Latin, they are full of details about Roman life and the life of Flavius, Lepidina, their children- Flavia, Iulius and Rufus- and their slaves, Candidus, Corinthus and Pandora- based around the tablets. They can easily be used as a basis for finding out about life in Roman Britain and offer plenty of opportunities for writing, both narrative and non-narrative. Etymological links between English and Latin are also made and children really enjoy finding out about words in this way!

There are two books- Minimus: Starting Out in Latin (Cambridge University Press  ISBN: 978-0521659604) and Minimus Secundus: Moving on in Latin  (Cambridge University Press ISBN: 0521755450) oth by Barbara Bell. There is a very interesting website available as well- http://www.minimus-etc.co.uk/

V-mail: Letters from the Roman's at Vindolanda Fort, near Hadrian's Wall by Katharine Hoare (British Museum Press ISBN: 978-0714131344) takes a closer look at some of these in a very child friendly way. It encourages children to look at primary evidence sources as historians do. It's well worth looking at whether with the Minimus books or independently!

Finishing where I started with the Roman Gods, Geraldine McCaughrean's 'Orchard Book of Roman Myths' (ISBN: 978-1843623083) is one of the best versions for children that I have come across. Less familiar to many children than the Greek myths, these stories are just as enjoyable and Geraldine McCaughrean is a master storyteller! Emma Chichester Clark's lovely illustrations add to the pleasure of reading the fifteen varied myths in this volume from Romulus and Remus to how Vulcan married Venus. 


Have fun- and a wonderful New Year!