I will be in costume and in character as Claudia Marcia Capitolina, a real centurion’s wife whose husband was stationed at York . I begin by introducing myself in Latin – it’s not much, just “Hello, my name is…” before telling the class that I’ve come to Romanise the them (and having a little whinge about having to follow my husband all over the empire!).
I’m dressed as a Roman lady from Rome itself, so I explain how you can tell where someone comes from in the empire by the way they’re dressed, before getting some of the kids to come and dress as a Romano-British girl and boy, as well as Roman man from Rome. This also points out the difference between rich and poor.
Because the production of clothing was such an important part of the lives of women in the ancient world, we then go on to look at how clothing was made. The preparation of wool for spinning allows for a brief discussion of the importance of slave labour in the classical world, then I do a little spinning (audience participation required), before asking for a couple of volunteers to demonstrate how my warp-weighted loom works. Looking at the dyestuffs used to colour the clothing also leads to a discussion of Celtic life. Food and cooking may also be discussed during this session.
As I am speaking I ask the children questions, firstly because this allows me to guage their level of knowledge and adjust my performance accordingly, and secondly because it gets them to make direct comparisons between their everyday lives and the equivalent aspect of Roman life. My performance is also interspersed with little anecdotes from history and mythology.
During the second half we examine wider aspects of Roman life and the empire by looking at things the Romans did to spread their influence. Firstly we look at things they did for fun which also spread their cultural influences across the empire, focusing on baths and bathing. To do this we need a boy with a good sense of humour to come to the baths and be “Stinkius Maximus” as well as someone to be his slave.
Next we look at the army, so we need another volunteer to come and be an auxiliary soldier and dress in armour.
I usually pause for a while to allow an artefact handling session using the pieces we have been looking at so far – armour, strigil, mortarium, etc. I prefer not to talk at this point because it’s nice to let the class discuss the objects for themselves.
We can also have either a short or long story from Roman mythology.
Questions and answers to finish as time allows – I normally ask the teacher to choose who asks because that way you are in charge of when the session ends.
Time for each session is approximately two hours – however this is flexible to fit around your timetable for breaks, assemblies etc. Obviously for a half day some of the above might have to be omitted, so if there is a particular subject you want to focus on please let me know.