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History vs. Hollywood

Name: Megan Wallis and Katy McGillin

Subject/ Grade Level: World History/10th grade

Topic/Title of Lesson: Ancient Rome: History vs. Hollywood

Essential Question: What inaccuracies appear in films about Ancient Rome? Why do these inaccuracies occur?



SS.912.W.1.5: Compare conflicting interpretations or schools of thought about world events and individual contributions to history (historiography).

SS.912.W.1.3 : Interpret and evaluate primary and secondary sources.



By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

·       evaluate films as historical secondary sources for accurate and inaccurate portrayals of ancient Rome.

·       compare and contrast the differences between film representations of Rome and historical representations.

·       work cooperatively as a group to create, add information to, and edit a wiki page



Ancient Rome has been a frequent subject of Hollywood films, portraying a wide variety of people, social groups, occupations, time periods, and daily activities in ancient Roman history.  The four selected movies will all highlight different themes that students will have been exposed during their time studying Ancient Rome.  Some films support the stereotype the “gleaming marble Rome” of the wealthy Empire, while other films focus on the experience of the poor, slaves, and middle class citizens of all occupations.  Hollywood films have also portrayed the violent entertainment that Romans enjoyed, including chariot racing and gladiator fights.  Some films also highlight the areas of Roman government and power, including their Senate and world famous armies that conquered an empire.  The introduction of Christianity into the Roman Empire was a pivotal event.  The early Christians first experienced persecution, but later was adopted by Emperor Constantine as the official religion of the empire.   



·       Students will work individually to take notes on Roman society.

·       Students will watch movie clips as a class and engage in miniature discussions to help understand the content.

·       Students will work individually, but cooperatively to complete wiki. This is to encourage cooperative work without requiring dependence on a few students to complete assignments.



·       Direct Instruction- This method will be used for delivery of notes to ensure that students all receive the same information in a quick and easy manner.

·       Class Discussion- This method will be used during the mini-discussions following each film clip to ensure that students recognize key aspects of each clip.

·       Cooperative learning: This method will be used for the wiki. The class must work together in small groups to produce a cohesive and extensive wiki. This enables students to develop appropriate cooperative working skills and language



·       Day One- Lecture: Students will take notes on a review lecture about ancient Rome. This lecture will review all aspects of Roman society and government, as well as set up the necessary background for the film clips. During this lecture, the teacher should constantly assess student knowledge by asking questions.  This lecture and History vs. Hollywood project will act as the final part of the 2-week unit on Ancient Rome.

·       Day Two and Three- students will watch the four film clips. Each clip is 7-15 minutes long. After each clip, students will discuss as a class the Roman history being portrayed in the clip as well as whether this is an accurate portrayal of the historical event.  Teacher will provide guiding questions for students to consider before and after viewing each clip.

·       Day Four- This day the class will meet in the computer lab. Students will be divided to four groups of 4-5. Four groups will be assigned to one of the films in groups of three. One student will summarize the film clip, the second student will give the historical background of the film clip, and the third student will be responsible for composing an analysis of the film for its accuracy and educational value. Students in these groups can work together to formulate their answers, but each student is responsible for posting one component to the class wiki on Ancient Rome and including their name at the end of their entry. The fifth group is responsible for checking over the other groups’ work. Half the students in this group will be fact checkers, responsible for making sure the information provided is accurate. The other half will be responsible for checking and editing the grammatical structure of each entry. These students will include their names after each change they make (in parentheses).  If students do not finish their component in class, they are responsible for completing it for homework.



·       PowerPoint presentation about Roman daily life, economy, social hierarchy, and military as related to what the students have already learned and what they are about to see in the film clips

·       Projector with ability to play movies

·       Clips from Gladiator, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Ben Hur, Quo Vadis? showing aspects of Roman life including fighting/military/architecture (Gladiator), daily life/entertainment (Ben Hur), economy/commerce (Funny Thing), and Great Fire of Rome/religious persecution (Quo Vadis)

·       Access to computer lab

·       Wiki page


Students will be evaluated on their involvement with the wiki page. Student contributions will be evaluated for accuracy, insight, and grammatical structure.

Students will also be evaluated at the end of the unit for knowledge of the society of Ancient Rome through a unit exam and essay.

Megan Wallis,
Nov 25, 2009, 11:22 AM
Dec 3, 2009, 11:00 AM