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One: Setting the Stage for Studying Ancient Coins
CD: “Wages and Food Costs in Ancient Rome” and “Roman
& Measures” handouts
Website: Bookmarks and Links
the end of the lesson segment the students should have some idea of the
cost of living in ancient Rome. Students should have considered what life
would have been like for them in ancient times and may develop a curiosity
about the future lesson segments and ancient history in general from putting
ancient life into terms with which they are familiar.
Ask students what profession they might have chosen as ancient Romans.
A senator? A legionnaire? A blacksmith? Have prepared materials on various
Roman occupations, salaries, etc. at your disposal.
Ask students their thoughts about the earliest forms of money. Point out
that the Latin word for money, pecunia, comes from the
word pecus, meaning “herd”, “flock”, “cattle,” “beast.” You
may want to discuss briefly the development of coinage, introducing the
ideas of intrinsic and token value.
Ask students to estimate how much of their or their parents’ income
is devoted to buying food. The average is not more than 20% in the United
States. Using the provided wages and food costs tables, have students determine
how much of their income would be devoted to food, based on the profession
they chose. If a profession is not listed in the materials, the wage can
be extrapolated from other similar professions.
Have students compare the foods they eat today with the staples Romans
ate: The average adult male in ancient Rome consumed two pounds of bread
a day, with meat seldom if ever being on the menu.
You may also wish to discuss clothing in ancient Rome. Have the students
talk about their favorite clothes today, and about how many such articles
of clothing they own now. Then, have them determine how many outfits their
chosen profession could have provided after food costs.
Close the day’s lesson by discussing how frugality was a necessary
part of almost every Roman’s life. The poorest of Romans received
grain free, but social programs in ancient Rome were quite limited in scope.
Announce that in the next lesson, students will receive a genuine ancient
part of the lesson could be done as an informal, group discussion designed
to get students involved by making them ask, “How did the ancient
Romans survive?” It may be appropriate to assign the students an
activity, such as a report on “A Day in the Life of My Chosen Ancient
Roman Profession” to further whet their appetites for the coins!