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2 — Using evidence from Pompeii to imagine life in ancient Rome

Ideally, students will have already studied Pompeii during their history lessons before attempting this sequence. However, if this is not the case, carry out the orientation activity before starting the sequence.

Photo from c1900 of the Pompeii forum in which Mount Vesuvius can be seen smoking in the background

Above: The Forum, Pompeii, photo taken between 1890 and 1900, public domain image, no copyright

This sequence continues and extends the concepts explored in Sequence 1 regarding the use of artefacts as a basis for imagining an ancient past. Students will have the opportunity to use surviving artefacts and locations from Pompeii to try to develop the outline of a character who might have used them. This experience will provide them with a direct link between the role of archaeologist and the role of author and help them to orientate themselves to the challenges authors face when writing and imagining an ancient past.

Introduction: What evidence would help us to recreate the life of someone from the past?

Jointly create an ‘ideal’ list of artefacts that would enable students to accurately describe the life of someone who lived in an ancient past. Why would these artefacts provide useful information?

Activity 1: How have artefacts from Pompeii been used to recreate the daily lives of the people?

View the first 10 minutes of the BBC video Pompeii: The last day (see Resources). While viewing the video, students can make notes about the everyday life of Roman people living in Pompeii. After viewing, hold a whole class brainstorm to share the information they have recorded. Ask the students what artefacts or evidence they think the ‘author’ of the video might have used in order to imagine and then present the everyday life of the people of Pompeii. ACDSEH038

Activity 2: Which artefacts could you use to recreate the life of an ancient Roman from Pompeii?

Tell the students they will now be using artefacts from Pompeii to recreate and re-imagine the lives of its ancient citizens. Divide the students into pairs and assign each pair one section to read from the websites suggested in the Resources. Each pair views the image of the object(s) or location(s) and reads any accompanying information. If there is time and they would like to carry out further research about their artefact or location, the students can continue to research life in Pompeii independently on the internet. If students do choose to research further, ensure that they focus on the surviving archaeology and encourage them to write notes about who they think might have used the artefact or location and why they think this. ACDSEH038ACELY1722ACELY1723

Activity 3: How can you develop a character from the past based on this evidence?

Based on the evidence from Activity 2, students speculate about who might have been linked to their artefact or location and develop a character profile about them using Developing a character from Pompeii worksheet. Students will use this worksheet to develop a short literary recount about a part of this character’s day, which involves the artefact and/or location in Pompeii (see the example below). ACELT1619ACELY1725

Scaffold the activity by jointly creating a list of types of people you would find in Roman society (for example, male or female slaves, freed slaves, craftsman, merchant, magistrate, male or female of the nobility, centurion, gladiator) and completing an example worksheet together. ACDSEH038

Select a sample of students to read their paragraphs aloud to the class. Discuss the hybrid nature of the text and the ways in which facts can be incorporated into a fictional text. ACELY1722

Marcus glanced out at the harbour nervously, beads of sweat running down his face from the hot mid-morning sun. Surely the boat would arrive soon? He looked down at his stack of amphorae filled with glistening olive oil. They were no good to him and his family sitting in the warehouse.
They needed to be shipped back to Rome where he could sell them profitably.
Marcus was still haunted by his days as a slave when the idea of making his own money was an impossible dream. It had taken him years to become a freeman, and he was obsessed with making his trading business profitable so he would no longer have to rely on the whims of others for
his existence.

Student reflective journal

Students should spend 5–10 minutes responding to the reflection questions for this sequence, either in written form or verbally, and then assess their responses against the success criteria using the rubric provided.