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Children love the Roman period – there are so many fun and interesting things to learn. Historians and archaeologists are still discovering new evidence about Roman Britain.

Here’s 3 surprising facts about ancient Romans:

1. Not all Romans spoke Latin

The Roman Empire stretched from Britain to modern day Syria and at its pomp contained around 65 million inhabitants.

And while Latin was the language of the army and of Roman law, many of the people who were incorporated into the empire continued to speak their native tongue – from Celtic to Syriac, and many languages in between. The Roman elite were also bilingual – speaking both Latin and Greek with knowledge of the latter seen as a badge of status.

2. The Romans introduced rabbits to the Britain

Recent archaeological evidence has shown that the Romans introduced rabbits to Britannia when they invaded and farmed them for food and fur. Inevitably some rabbits escaped and colonised these shores, but where not established in the wild in Britain until the 12th century.

3. Gladiatorial contests were not the most popular shows with ancient Romans

Films such as Gladiator and Spartacus, drew the public’s interest in gladiatorial and chariot racing events that entertained Roman citizens all over the empire.

But chariot racing was far more popular – the equivalent of Formula 1 racing and on a par with the popularity of football today across the world. Teams were called factions. In 2005, at Colchester, Essex, a chariot racing circus was discovered by archaeologists.

Archaeologists estimate that the Colosseum in Rome – the premier arena for gladiatorial combat– could accommodate 50,000 people. This is small in comparison to the Circus Maximus, where some 250,000 spectators could watch chariot racing.


To find out more about how Portals to the Past can enhance your history teaching call us on 0800 112 3192 or contact us.