Teaching History
Students dressed in Roman helmets and holding Roman shields in a protective shell formation

Teaching Romans

Roman Britain lasted for over three and a half centuries from AD 43 to c.410. The Romans left many marks on England's landscape that give us clues about how they came to Britain and how their rule influenced daily life.

Read advice from our educational experts and historians on how to tell your early Roman defences from your Saxon shore forts, the pitfalls to avoid, and suggested activities to try with your students at home, in the classroom, or on a school trip. 

This guide is intended to help anyone teaching the Roman period, but the activities featured will be of particular interest to National Curriculum Key Stage 2 learners. 

 

Two girls viewing a skeleton on display at Lullingstone Roman Villa

Hints and Tips

  • Break it down – The Romans ruled Britain for around 350 years and during this period society, technology and daily life changed a lot: Britain was a very different place in 410 compared to AD 43.
  • Make it relevant – Get your students to do a local study, e.g. ‘what the Romans did for us’. Bring the learning into their homes and local town to encourage greater engagement.
  • Reflect the diversity of the Empire – It’s easy to generalise when talking about ‘the Romans’ and forget the rich diversity of people and cultures that made up the Roman Empire. Try to reflect this wherever possible.
  • Things aren’t always clean cut –The end of Roman rule came gradually and happened at different times in different places across Britain. There was no clear decision to decolonise Britain at a specific time, Roman rule simply petered out over a number of years.

Suggested Reading and Activities

History At Home Live! Romans

Watch History At Home Live! with Ben Shires and our expert Mark Douglas to better understand life on Hadrian’s Wall.

Why was it built? How was it built? Who lived there? Find out the answers to all these questions and more. 

Two boys walking alongside Hadrian's Wall

Get to Grips with the Period

Julius Caesar raided Britain in 55 and 54 BC but full-scale conquest began when Roman forces landed near Richborough Roman Fort in AD 43. The Roman army had reached northern Scotland by AD 84, before eventually retreating to the permanent frontier of Hadrian’s Wall.

Roman Britain was peaceful and prosperous for long periods despite ongoing tensions at its frontiers. Country houses like Lullingstone Roman Villa flourished, and leisure facilities were founded, like the bath house at Wroxeter Roman City and the Silchester Amphitheatre.

Towards the end of the 3rd century, attacks by Germanic raiders prompted the construction of Saxon shore forts like Burgh Castle. Garrisons were mainly British-born by this point and little distinguished ‘Romans’ from ‘Britons’ when imperial rule petered out.

Read Our Introduction to Roman Britain
  • Romans: Daily Life

    The daily experiences of most people in Britain were inevitably touched by its incorporation into the Roman Empire. 

  • Romans: Landscape

    What kind of landscape did the Romans find when they conquered Britain, and what changes did they make?

  • Romans: Art

    Rome’s success was built on the organised and practical application of ideas long known to the ancient world.

  • Romans: Power and Politics

    Britain was one of some 44 provinces which made up the Roman Empire at its height in the early 2nd century AD. 

Romans Glossary

  • Romans Definitions

    ROMAN TERMS 

    Britannia
    The Roman name for Britain, occupied by the Britanniae (the Britons).

    ‘cauldarium’
    A hot room in a bath suite

    civic buildings
    The name given to buildings built for the community workers to use, such as baths, shops and offices, often located in the centre of a town. 

    civilian
    A person not in the army. 

    Curia
    The town council who made decisions about the town and tried to keep it running smoothly. 

    ‘fabricae’
    Workshops were soldiers could go to make and repair armour and weapons and fit shoes to the horses used by cavalrymen.

    forum
    A public area, often in the centre of a Roman town or city where religious ceremonies, political meetings, social activities and the selling and buying of goods took place. 

    ‘frigidarium’
    A cold room in a bath suite.

    garrison
    A unit of soldiers stationed in a particular place/fort to defend it.  

    hillfort
    An Iron Age (Native British) fort built on a hill, often enclosed by a system of defensive banks and ditches. 

    ‘horrea’
    Found in Roman forts, these are granaries or storehouses for grain used to make bread for the garrison.

    Latin
    The language spoken in Rome and the western Roman Empire.

    Legion
    A unit of around 5000 soldiers, all of whom were Roman.  

    legionary fortress
    The place where a Roman Legion would stay and train. A legionary fortress would have about 5,000 foot soldiers, who were all Roman citizens, and 500 cavalrymen, who were usually recruited from native tribes in the local area.

    Londinium
    The Roman name for London.  

    milecastle
    Small forts that were built to defend gates placed at every (Roman) mile along Hadrian’s Wall. They were built to the same design, with a watchtower, and two long buildings to house around 30 soldiers. Native Britons could pass through the Wall at a milecastle, which allowed the Romans to tax goods and control movement across the frontier.

    ‘natatio’
    A pool where people could go to cool down during a visit to the Roman baths. At Wroxeter, this was outside. 

    native
    A person already living in the area when the Romans invaded. At Wroxeter, the native people were the Cornovii tribe.

    ‘principia’
    The headquarters building in the middle of a Roman fortress. This is where the army commander and the people who worked for him did most of their work.   

    Roman administration
    The government of the Roman Empire. 

    ‘sudatorium’
    A hot, dry room (like a sauna) in a Roman bath, which was next to a furnace. 

    ‘templum’
    A building (temple), where worship and religious ceremonies took place and where offerings were made to a god or gods.  

    ‘tepidarium’
    A warm room in a bath suite. 

    ‘valetudinarium’
    The Latin word for hospital in Roman times. 

A woman dressed in Roman costume addressing a group of students

Expert Advice

We asked one of our curators for their advice in teaching the Romans:

The Romans have left us a great number of monuments spread out across the country; from Hadrian's Wall in the north to Richborough Roman Fort in the south. But remember, the Romans also left us a great many other things which have lasted into the modern age, like language.

We still use lots of Latin words in our daily speech, like 'school', 'quiet', 'me', 'fame', 'etc.' (which itself comes from the Latin et cetera, meaning 'and others'). Many of our modern roads folllow the routes laid out by the Romans and many of our towns and cities began life as Roman settlements. The Roman period was important not only for the native population at the time, but also for those who came afterwards. 

- Dr Mark Douglas, Senior Properties Curator

Read more about Teaching History

Video Resources

Discover our Romans-themed videos to find out more about how they changed Britain and what life was like under Roman rule. 

Uncover why Hadrian built his famous wall and what life was like for Roman legionaries living on the Roman Empire’s northern frontier. Find out how to make a Roman mosaic and test your knowledge with Rattus Rattus’s Roman Quiz.

  • How did Roman Legionaries live?

  • How to make a Roman mosaic

  • Rotten Romans Quiz with Rattus Rattus

  • How did the Romans Change Britain?

Help with home learning

In these challenging times many parents and carers are home schooling their children for the very first time, and often in difficult circumstances.

We have gathered together advice from our team of teachers and education experts on how to approach home learning during the current crisis.

Read our home learning help
'step into englands story