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.

What next? Learn more about the Romans.

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.

What next? Learn more about the Romans by visiting our 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 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 Mosaics: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Roman mosaics.

  • Roman mosaics were popular in public buildings and homes, and many examples can still be seen today. Mosaics were made from hundreds of small pieces (or tesserae) of coloured stones and gems put together to make a picture.

  • Mosaics were used for different reasons. As well as being used for decoration, they provided a strong surface for walking on, and were also sometimes used as advertisements or signs.

Roman mosaic

  • Mosaics were also waterproof and easy to clean, making them popular in public buildings. They also reflected the light, making rooms seem bright. Mosaics were very popular in Roman bathhouses.
  • People who designed and created Roman mosaics were thought of as craftsmen, rather than artists. They did not usually sign their work or take any credit for it.
  • Mosaics featured geometric designs, as well as other images. Common themes were animals, fighting gladiators, romantic images and scenes from mythology and astronomy.
  • Roman mosaics can be seen in many places in the UK. The British Museum in London has some of the best mosaics. The Roman Museum in Cirencester – which was once an important Roman town – also has an excellent collection of mosaics.
  • The Roman Empire covered a huge area at its height. Well preserved Roman mosaics can still be seen today in many parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
  • One of the best places to see Roman mosaics is in the city of Pompeii, which was buried under lava in 79 AD. The mosaics are well preserved because the layers of volcanic ash protected them.
  • Romans liked to keep dogs as companions and for protection. Many mosaics in the Roman city of Pompeii had the Latin words for ‘Beware of the Dog’ written into the design.
  • Mosaics were also used on walls and ceilings, although they were not as common as floor mosaics. Wall mosaics were commonly used behind fountains and often had a maritime theme.

What next? Find out more about the Romans by visiting our Romans resources page.

What did the Romans bring to Britain?

The Romans successfully invaded Britain in 43 A.D. In the years that followed, Roman culture and traditions spread across Southern England. The Romans imported many different types of food and materials to Britain from all over the Roman Empire, and they also introduced new ideas, laws and inventions.

Here’s a list of some of the things the Romans introduced to Britain:

  • The calendar we still use today.
  • The census – the practice of counting a population.
  • High-quality straight roads
  • Central heating
  • Aqueducts (water bridges)
  • Indoor plumbing
  • Towns
  • Cabbages
  • Peas
  • Public libraries
  • Public noticeboards
  • Firemen
  • Police
  • Stinging nettles
  • Cats
  • Grapes
  • Pears
  • Paved streets
  • Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Cement
  • Bricks
  • Heated baths
  • Language (Latin)

This is far from an exhaustive list, but it should give you an idea of the range of different things and ideas brought to Britain by the Romans. When the Romans left Britain, some of the things they introduced continued to be used, and others were forgotten.

What next? Find out more about the Roman invasion of Britain, or discover more facts about the Romans.

The Roman Invasion of Britain: When and Why?

When did the Romans invade Britain?

Over the course of nearly one hundred years, the Romans attempted to invade Britain three times.

  • In 55 B.C. Julius Caesar invaded Britain with two Roman legions. The Romans fought several battles against different Celtic tribes before returning to Gaul (France).

  • In 54 B.C. Caesar returned to Britain with a much larger army. He crossed the English Channel with five Roman legions, landing near Deal in Kent. The Romans marched inland and crossed the river Thames. Again they fought against the Celtic tribesmen and demonstrated the strength and power of the Rome. Caesar agreed to leave Britain, but only if the tribes agreed to make a tribute (payment) to Rome.
  • In 43 A.D. Emperor Claudius launched a third and final invasion of Britain. Four Roman legions, led by General Aulus Plautius, landed in three locations on the coast of Britain – Richborough, Lympne and Dover. A large battle was fought between the Romans and the Celtic tribes near to the River Medway. The Romans emerged victorius, but it took many years to gain control of Britain, as many tribes (such as the Iceni led by Boudicca) continued to fight against Roman rule. The Roman invasion of Britain was a gradual process.

Between Caesar’s second invasion and the final invasion under the Emperor Claudius, Roman traders and merchants had established trading relationships with the Celtic tribes living in Britain. As a result, some areas in the South of England were being influenced by the Romans and their culture before the final invasion.

Why did the Romans invade Britain?

The Romans were constantly making moves to extend the Roman Empire and push the boundaries of the land under Roman control. Having subdued the Celtic tribes in Gaul (modern day France), the Romans turned their attention to the tribes living in Britain. Britain was full of natural resources, and the Romans believed that it would be of great benefit to the Empire if the island could be successfully invaded.

What next? Find out more facts about the Romans, or learn about Boudicca, the leader of the Iceni tribe, who fought back against the Romans in East Anglia.

The Roman Colosseum: Facts About the Great Amphitheatre

Here are some facts about the Colosseum, one of the great buildings of Ancient Rome.

  • The Colosseum took ten years to build. Its construction was ordered by the Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD and it was completed under the rule of his son, Titus, in 80 AD.
  • It had a capacity of over 50,000 and it could be filled in about half an hour.

  • Spectators could watch gladiators fighting each other, executions, demonstrations of animal hunting, battle re-enactments and even sea battles – the arena would be flooded.
  • The Colosseum was built on the site of a former lake. Drains were built 8m below the building to deal with the water flowing in from nearby streams.
  • It has massive foundations which are over 10 metres deep in some places.
  • Historians haven’t been able to discover the name of the Colosseum’s architect.
  • The arena in the centre of the Colosseum was covered in sand and contained a number of trap-doors so that wild animals could leap in to spice up the gladiatorial combat.


  • It is estimated that over 400,000 people lost their lives in the Colosseum.
  • The Colosseum is the largest of the 200+ amphitheatres built in the Roman Empire.
  • The outer walls are nearly 50 metres high.
  • When it rained or when the sun was beating down too strongly on the spectators, a large fabric covering called the velarium was drawn across the Colosseum and anchored by ropes.
  • The last recorded evidence of Roman gladiators fighting in the Colosseum was in 435 AD.
  • The Colosseum was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1349. Lots of its stone was used to build churches, hospitals and palaces in Rome. Over the centuries, much of the building’s most valuable materials were stipped away. Today only a fraction of the original building remains intact.
  • The Colossuem is one of Rome’s key toursit attractions.
  • During its years of neglect, the Colosseum was home to many exotic species of plants. These probably grew from seeds which were brought in from across the Roman Empire when wild animals were used in the amphitheatre.

What next? Learn more about other forms of Roman entertainment, or check out our Roman facts and resources page.

Who Were The Romans and Where Did They Come From?

Here are some basic facts about the Romans, explaining who they were and where they came from.

  • The Romans are the people who originated from the city of Rome in modern day Italy.
  • Rome was the centre of the Roman Empire – the lands controlled by the Romans, which included parts of Europe (including Gaul (France), Greece and Spain), parts of North Africa and parts of the Middle East. The Empire was truly multi-cultural, and many Roman citizens had never even seen Rome.

  • The Roman Army that invaded Britain in 43 A.D. was made up of legionaries and auxiliary soldiers from all over the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire

The map above shows the Roman Empire at its peak. The vertical line to the right of Italy shows the division of the Empire between the Western Empire, centered around Rome, and the Eastern Roman Empire, centered around Constantinople.

Check out our Roman resources page to learn more Roman facts and information.