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The Romans

The Romans came from Italy and their capital city was Rome. The Roman Empire lasted from around 146 BC to AD 476. They built many defensive walls along the border of the whole empire. Hadrian's Wall in northern England and the Raetien border in Germany are two famous frontiers and they form part of a network of forts and towns that covered the whole roman Empire.

A centurion was in charge of a unit of 80 men called a century. Each century had a second-in-command called an optio, a trumpeter and standard bearers. Six centuries made a cohort and often included cavalry. Centurions and decurions had their own quarters at the end of each barrack block.  The cavalry soldiers often shared with their horses! A soldier's life was tough. Deserters could be badly beaten, or even stoned to death. The soldier's daily ration of food was about 1.5 kgs (3lbs) pf bread. 1 lg (2.25lbs) of meat, 1 litre (4.5 cups) of wine and 400 millilitres of olive oil.  

Romans built straight roads, so the army could march quickly and easily from place to place, making it safer for everyone.  Roads were kept as straight as possible but they did bend around burial grounds and holy places because the Romans were superstitious. Roman engineers also built bridges and aqueducts. They used shovels, just like the ones you can find today in any hardware store. By mixing broken tiles and small stones with cement, Romans made strong concrete. Concrete is still used by modern builders.

Romans could stitch wounds, mend broken bones and even do amputations. But sickness and infection were the biggest killers.

Going to a Roman toilet is a time for a chat - no one is embarrassed or shy. a short roof keeps the rain off the seats but allows fresh air in. running water trickles along the floor.  A typical toilet could seat many people at a time.  Sponges on sticks to wipe your bum and you was your sponge stick and put it back for someone else to use. There is a stone trough to wash your hand - but no soap!

The bath house is another important socialising place for Romans. The bath has decorated plaster walls and cold plunge pools. It has warm baths and steamy sauna rooms. It even has a changing room with board games and music. Romans used olive oil instead of soap. The scrape off the muck with a metal scraper called a "strigil".

The bath houses  were kept warm with an under-floor heating system called a hypocaust. Warm air from a special fire circulated under the stone floors and earmed the rooms. Some floors got so hot that people had to wear wooden shoes to protect their feet. Hollow clay bricks in the walls let the warm air circulate. The windows were double-glazed too!

Romans built many arenas, the most famous arena in the world was the Colosseum in rome, but small arenas were built all over the Empire.  At the Colosseum, unarmed prisoners were often fed to hungry lions to entertain the crowds. Most gladiators fought to the death and usually survived for only 2 or 3 fights.



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