Pliny the Younger: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Pliny the Younger.

  • Pliny the Younger was a writer, lawyer and magistrate in Ancient Rome.

  • He was born in Como in Northern Italy in 61 AD.
  • His uncle was Pliny the Elder (a writer and philosopher) and the two were close until Pliny the Elder died trying to rescue people from the Vesuvius eruption.
  • His full name was Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus.
  • Pliny fulfilled many roles in Roman political and legal society during his lifetime. He was a judge, a member of the Senate, a superintendent, a member of judicial councils and a governor.
  • He wrote many poems and hundreds of letters. His letters give us  glimpse of Roman life in the 1st century. In two letters, he described the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. These were penned 25 years after the event and were sent to Tacitus, a famous Roman historian.

Pliny the Younger

  • Pliny was very wealthy. He owned many villas, including ones in Lake Como and Umbria.
  • He knew the Roman biographer Suetonius and the philosophers Artemidorus and Euphrates the Stoic.
  • He published nine volumes of his letters from 100 and 109 AD.
  • He was married three times.
  • Pliny the Younger is thought to have died around 112 AD. His death isn’t recorded, but his letters don’t refer to any events that take place after 112.

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Roman Gods and Goddesses: Mercury Facts

Here are some facts about Mercury.

  • Mercury was the Roman god of commerce and financial gain and has given his name to the word merchant. He was also the god of poetry, thieving, trickery and travellers.

  • Mercury was the son of Jupiter and Maia. His children were Pan and the Lares, a group of invisible gods who were responsible for protecting homes and families.
  • The temple devoted to Mercury was situated in Rome near the chariot racing stadium. Because the racetrack was a marketplace too, it was considered the ideal place for his temple.
  • The DC Comics super heroes the Flash and Shazam are partly based on Mercury and his powers. Ford’s Mercury car brand, popular in the 1950s, also took its name from the god.
  • Because he was able to travel quickly, he became known as the messenger of the gods. He was also given the task of leading the souls of the dead to the underworld.
  • The planet Mercury, the smallest in our solar system, took its name from the god Mercury. He also gave his name to the element Mercury, often also known as quicksilver.
  • He was known for wearing a winged helmet, allowing him to fly. He also often carried a stick showing entwined snakes, which was supposedly a gift from Apollo.
  • Mercury was also a popular god in countries invaded by the Romans. He was associated with the arts in Britain, and in Celtic countries was thought to be a three headed creature.
  • According to legend, Mercury stole an unbreakable steel net from the god Vulcan. He then used it to try to catch a nymph named Chloris with whom he was in love .
  • Mercury’s festival was known as the Mercuralia and took place on May 15th. To bring good luck, merchants sprinkled water on their heads, their businesses and their belongings.

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Roman Gods and Goddesses: Venus Facts

Here are some facts about Venus.

  • Venus was the Roman goddess of love, beauty and fertility. She has become one of the most well-known figures in Roman mythology.

  •  Her father was Jupiter and she was married to the god Vulcan. Vulcan was the god of fire and the forge, and was also one of the 12 Olympian gods.
  • Venus’ sacred month was April and she was honoured in several festivals. Roman men and women would ask for her help and advice concerning love during her April 1st festival.
  • Many paintings and sculptures of Venus were created, especially during the Renaissance. One of the most famous paintings of her is Botticelli’s 15th century painting The Birth of Venus.
  • Another widely recognized image of Venus is the marble statue Venus de Milo. The statue’s arms were lost soon after it was carved, sometime around 130 BC. It is on permanent display in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
  • The planet Venus was named after the goddess. It has been sighted since prehistoric times, and is the hottest planet in our solar system, and the planet second closest to the sun.
  • Venus was associated with two flowers, the rose and myrtle. Worshippers often wore myrtle crowns at her festivals, and victorious Roman generals also often wore a myrtle crown.
  • There were several temples devoted to Venus, the earliest of which was built around 290 BC. Hadrian built a temple in Rome in 135 AD, the largest in the city at that time.
  • She was depicted on coins, and decorative frescoes. Many citizens had statues or paintings of her in their garden, as it was believed she could help to make flowers and crops grow.
  • Julius Caesar claimed that Venus helped him to be successful on the battlefield. The emperor Augustus believed that she approved of his powerful position and his ability to rule.

What next? Discover more Roman facts by visiting our Romans resources page.

Roman Gods and Goddesses: Neptune Facts

Here are some facts about Neptune.

  • In Roman mythology, Neptune was the god of the sea and of fresh water. He was also worshipped as a god of horses.

  • Neptune’s Ancient Greek equivalent was Poseidon.
  • He was the brother of Pluto and Jupiter and the son of Saturn and Rhea.
  • His wife was Amphitrite, a goddess who was the daughter of Doris and Nereus.
  • Neptune features in dozens of paintings and there are many statues and sculptures of him. There are statues of Neptune in cities such as Bologna, Gdansk and Bristol.
  • One of the most famous statues is the Fountain of Neptune in Florence, designed by Ammannati in 1565. Soon after it was built, the city residents started to wash their laundry in the fountain.
  • In 1846 the planet Neptune was discovered and was named after the Roman god. Astronomers thought that its swirling blue clouds of gas looked like stormy seas.
  • Neptune was also the patron of horse racing in the Roman Empire. There was only one temple dedicated to him, built near the Circus Flaminius, one of Rome’s horse racing venues.
  • He is often shown using a trident, a long spear with three prongs. According to Roman myth, Neptune often used his trident to cause earthquakes and to create new lakes and seas.
  • Neptune was one of the 12 Olympian gods. The 12 gods supposedly feasted all day on nectar and ambrosia, and listened to Apollo playing music on his lyre.
  • Neptune’s name may have come from the god Nethuns, an important Etruscan god. The Etruscans thrived in north and central parts of Italy around 800 BC, although not much is known about them.
  • Neptune features in the famous book The Aenid, by Virgil. In the book, he helps the Trojan army after Juno, the queen of the gods, tries to destroy their ships.

What next? Discover more facts about the Romans.

Roman Gods and Goddesses: Mars Facts

Here are some facts about Mars.

  • Mars was the Roman God of War and the most important Roman god after Jupiter.

  • The planet Mars, known as the Red Planet, was named after him.
  • He was also one of the most important military gods worshiped by the Roman army.
  • Most festivals honouring Mars were held in March, and the month was named for him.
  • Mars was one of the first gods to appear on Roman coins, in the late 4th century. He is usually shown carrying a helmet and spear to show his war-like nature.
  • The symbol for Mars is a circle with an arrow extending from it, pointing to the upper right. It is also the symbol for the male gender and for the planet Mars.
  • Mars was the son of the goddess Juno, the protector of the state.
  • The wife or companion of Mars was Nerine or Nerio who represented majesty, vitality and power.
  • The priests of the god Mars were called Salil and came from Rome’s noble families. The 12 Salil carried sacred shields between towns, accompanied by men playing trumpets.
  • A fierce goddess named Bellona was said to often accompany Mars, armed with a spear and a whip. A temple was built to her on Rome’s Campus Martius, a popular city meeting place.
  • There were several temples devoted to Mars throughout Rome. The main temple was built in 388 BC and was a popular meeting point for Roman soldiers who were departing throughout the Roman Empire.
  • The Romans held several festivals to honour the god Mars, most of them in March and October. Festivals featured singing hymns, displays of military might, and chariot races.
  • The goose, the woodpecker and the wolf were closely associated with Mars. The appearance of wolves in 295 BC at the battle of Sentium was taken as a sign of a Roman victory.

What next? Learn more about the Romans or discover more facts about Roman Gods and Goddesses.

Roman Forts: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Roman Forts.

  • Roman forts, also known as castra, could be found all over the Roman Empire, to protect it from attack. The huge empire stretched from northern England to North Africa and from Portugal to the Middle East.

  • Some Roman forts could hold up to 6,000 people. As well as barracks for soldiers, they had stables, a butcher shop and bakery and administrative offices.
  • Forts were always built in defensive locations and surrounded by a deep ditch. They were first built of wood, but later, many were replaced with stone.
  • Roman soldiers sometimes stayed at a fort for 25 years, and the daily routine was hard. Soldiers had to run 30 km, practice archery and throwing spears, and complete various chores.
  • Hadrian’s Wall which stretches for 117 km near the English / Scottish border had over 12 forts along its length. These could hold up to 1,000 men. The remains of some of the forts can be visited today.
  • One of the best preserved Roman forts is Vindolanda, near the wall. It is famous for wooden tablets containing military and personal letters which were found there.
  • Housesteads is another large Roman fort near Hadrian’s Wall. It had its own toilets and hospital, and a nearby building known as the Murder House, where two skeletons were found.
  • The Roman fort of Londinium (London) was built around 120 AD and originally covered about 12 acres. Parts of it remain under a road called London Wall.
  • The fort at Eboracum grew into the city of York, and was visited by the great Roman Emperor, Hadrian. Parts of the original Roman baths can be seen today in the cellar of the Roman Bath pub.
  • Binchester, in County Durham, was one of the largest Roman forts in the UK. Today, the site is open to visitors. It has a small museum and one of the best preserved private bath houses.
  • In the village of Baginton, near Coventry, a Roman fort has been reconstructed by archaeologists. Made from timber and turf, the Lunt Roman Fort is an example of the type of buildings the Roman Army constructed in Britain in the years after the uprising by Boudicca.

What next? Visit our Romans resources page to discover more Roman facts.

The Roman Empire: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Roman Empire.

  • The Roman Empire was one of the most powerful and extensive empires the world has ever seen. It reached its height in around 120 AD and began to decline in 285 AD.
  • At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from northern England to North Africa, and from Spain to Syria. One in every four people in the world were under Rome’s rule.

  • Rome was the centre of the huge empire. It had a population of over a million and it was not until the 19th century that another city, London, became larger.
  • The Romans were wonderful architects and invented the arch and the dome, and built many bridges and aqueducts. They constructed over 70 dams in Spain alone, many of which are still used.
  • They built over 100 huge amphitheatres all over their empire, including the famous Coliseum in Rome. The Coliseum could comfortably seat up to 80,000 people. (Click the link to learn more about Roman buildings)
  • The Roman network of roads stretched for over 80,000 km all over Europe. Towns and cities had toilets and a water supply, and rich people enjoyed central heating and running water.
  • Education was important to Romans, although often only boys attended school. Books were very expensive and each page had to be written by hand by specially trained scribes. (Click the link to learn more about Roman education)
  • At one time, almost 35 percent of the people in the Roman Empire were slaves. Slaves were taken to the furthest corners of the empire.
  • Claudius, Augustus and Maximinus were several important Roman emperors. Julius Caesar, another well-known emperor, has been portrayed in many films and the month of July was named after him.
  • The Roman Empire declined for several reasons. These included poor political decisions, too much spending on the army, a failing economy and rebellions in several parts of the empire.

What next? Discover some more facts about the Romans.

Roman Agriculture: Facts About Roman Farms

Here are some facts about Roman farms and farming.

  • Roman farming was necessary to feed the population, and it was also seen as a noble profession. Citizens were considered important if they owned a lot of land.
  • Wheat was one of the most important crops and was widely grown in England. Plenty of wheat was needed to make the bread to feed the large Roman armies.

  • The Romans also grew olives and grapes, kept oxen, cows and goats for milk and cheese, and bees for honey. They also grew onions, peaches, apricots, cabbage, garlic and mustard. (Learn more about Roman Food and Drink)
  • The Romans used aqueducts to carry water to their crops and plants. They also used waterwheels and mills as well as a mechanical device to cut crops without damaging them.
  • Dams and reservoirs were also built to provide fresh water for crops, animals and people. Some of the reservoirs covered over 2,000 square metres and were lined with a type of waterproof cement.
  • In Roman farming, making sure that the Gods were happy was an important of the agricultural process. Fresh bread was put in the fields at harvest time for the Gods to eat.
  • Roman farms were of different sizes. A large farm could cover about 130 hectares. Land was either bought, or given to citizens as a reward for going to war in the Roman Army.
  • Slaves were often used to work on farms as they were a cheap source of labour.
  • Roman farmers faced various problems, including slaves who often rebelled. The weather and rainfall were often unreliable and many battles were fought on valuable farming land.
  • Roman farming used tools including hoes, rakes and spades, made from iron or wood. They also developed a form of the plough and used sickles to cut barley, grass and wheat.

What next? Discover more facts about the Romans by visiting our Romans resources page.

Roman Schools and Education Facts

Here are some facts about education and schools in Roman times.

  • The Romans thought that education was very important. Children were mostly taught at home and learned about law, history and social customs so they could become responsible citizens.

  • A good education was seen as a status symbol, not a way to get a good job.
  • Children did not need to have a minimum level of education and much Roman education was to prepare them for real life.
  • The Roman education system was largely based on the Ancient Greek system, which the Romans admired. Greek language and grammar were important and knowledge of Greek meant sophistication.
  • Children aged 11 and 12 went to school, although the classroom was often just a room in a house or shop. The subjects taught were reading, writing and basic mathematics.
  • The Roman education system was strict and children were caned for performing badly. School took place 7 days a week, although there were many religious holidays and school was closed on market day.
  • Girls did not usually go to school, although some rich families paid for home tutoring. Girls were taught sewing, music and how to run a kitchen, as well as other skills needed to look after the house.
  • Some boys went on to learn public speaking, which was considered important to get a job as a politician or statesman. Students learned other advanced subjects, including literature, geography and philosophy.
  • Physical education was important, as many boys went on to serve in the army. Boys learned to fight, to swim in cold water and to ride a horse.
  • Roman education ended when boys graduated left school at the age of 16. After graduating, they were allowed to wear a white woollen toga, or robe and were considered to be responsible citizens.