First Year: Ancient Rome

The ruins of the Colosseum in Rome.
Even before First Year you probably knew a few things about the Romans. They conquered most of Europe (although they didn't take Ireland because they thought it was too cold and wet), they enjoyed gladiator fights and chariot races, they had Emperors, they had different gods for different things... there's a lot to know about them. When you study them in First Year, you'll find out how they lived, how they worked, how they went to school, and what they did for fun, amongst other things.

The Ancient Rome section is longer than any chapter you've learned so far, and you'll learn more about them than you did about any of the previous civilisations you studied. But they're easy and fun to learn about, and they come up very often in the exam.

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  • What evidence do we have about the Romans?
  • Roman society - patricians and plebeians - how they lived.
  • Roman houses - domus and insulae.
  • What kind of work the Romans did.
  • The Roman army.
  • What Romans did for leisure - gladiators, chariot racing, plays, baths.
  • Roman religion and Christianity - funeral customs.
  • The fall of Rome and its legacy.

 Click here for advice and tips on answering exam questions.


The short questions for the ancient civilisation outside of Ireland always ask you to name the civilisation you studied (in this case, Rome) and name a fact or two on one or more of the following: housing, religion or burial customs from that civilisation.
(2015, 2011, 2009 OL)
(2015 HL)


2007 HL, Q.6

(i)   Name two achievements of a named ancient civilisation outside of Ireland. (4)

(ii)  Explain how information about this civilisation was discovered. (6)
    A Roman army re-enactment.
    (iii) Write an account of two of the following
          aspects of the named Ancient Civilisation:
             (a) Burial customs and Religion.
             (b) Food and Clothing.
             (c) Arts, Crafts and Work. (10x2)

    Question 6 on the Higher Level paper is split into four sections. Each section asks questions about a particular topic you studied from 1st to 3rd year. You could be asked to write an account of something, like in the question above. That question asks you to pick two of three features of your ancient civilisation to talk about, and the marks are 10x2. So what does this mean?

    The two you pick are worth ten marks each. You should know by now that in every History answer, a good, relevant fact is worth 2 marks. So if the two you pick are ten marks each, that means you should have at least five good, relevant points for each one. So, at least five good points about Burial customs and Religion, five good points on Food and clothing, or five good points on Work, arts and crafts, whichever two you pick.

    It's always a good idea to have more facts than you need, just in case you get one wrong by mistake. The more extra facts you have, the less chance there is of you losing marks. You should try to have 7-8 facts in each part of this answer.


    A re-enactment of a Roman chariot race in France.
    A person living in a NAMED civilisation OUTSIDE of Ireland.

    The first thing to be careful of with this question is to make sure what it is asking. Check to see if it says "outside of Ireland" or "in Ireland". If you're supposed to write about Rome but write about Neolithic Ireland instead (or the other way around), you'll get no marks, no matter how many good, correct points you include.

    This came up as a People in History most recently in 2014, 2011, 2009 and 2006 in Higher Level and 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010 and 2008 in Ordinary Level. It is a popular option.

    Writing a People in History answer about Ancient Rome is similar to how you'd write one for the ancient Irish civilisations.

    • Introduce yourself. You might be living in Rome, Londinium (hopefully not Pompeii!), or another part of the empire. Are you a patrician or a plebeian? It's up to you, but remember which one you pick! Don't pick plebeian and then say you live in a domus!
      • So, once you've that done, talk about your house. If you're a patrician you live in a domus. If you're a plebeian you live in an insulae. Whichever one it is, write about it. Describe it to the reader. The more things you can say about it, the better.
        • Talk about your family. Who is in charge? What do your parents do? What kind of clothes do you wear? Do you go to school? If you do, talk about that. There's a lot to talk about in this part alone, especially work.
          • What kind of food do you eat? Again, this depends on whether you're a patrician or a plebeian.
            • What do you do for fun? This is easy to talk about, as you can talk about going to the Colosseum, going to see a chariot race, and going to see a play.
              • What are your religious beliefs? What gods do you pray to? Maybe you've converted to Christianity, so you have to pray in secret. Describe both religions.
                • You can finish up by saying you went to a Roman funeral service last week. Describe what happens at one.

                  So, in short...

                  1. Introduce yourself - a plebeian or a patrician.
                  2. Talk about your house (domus or insulae).
                  3. Talk about your family: clothes, school, your parents' work, and food.
                  4. Talk about what you do for fun: gladiator contests, chariot races and plays.
                  5. Talk about your religious beliefs - both the Roman religion and Christianity.
                  6. Talk about being at a Roman funeral service.

                  Don't talk about...
                  • playing games with your brother and sister.
                  • the weather.
                  • any of the other ancient civilisations you've studied. "Neolithic Britain" does not count as an ancient civilisation outside Ireland. This section is about civilisations that were never in Ireland.
                  Making mistakes like those will cost you marks, as the information you write down must be relevant (important). You get 2 marks for every relevant point you make, so try to make sure you have at least 10 relevant points in each answer. The more you have, the less chance you have of losing too many marks if you get anything wrong or mix anything up.

                  Fun Latin Phrases
                  Ever wondered how to say "I was kidnapped by aliens" in Latin? Me neither. But this is a list of different interesting phrases to say in Latin. Harry Potter fans might be interested to know that Severus means "grumpy".

                  A History of Ancient Rome
                  This site has a long list of Roman topics which you can click on to find out more about. A lot of the topics are about Roman Britain, and how the Romans and Celts in Britain clashed with each other.

                  How Stuff Works: Ancient Rome
                  This site has a small tab at the side allowing to choose between Battles and Wars, Sites and Structures, and a few other options. You can learn a bit more about battles the Roman army fought, and how Roman structures like the Colosseum were built.

                  Ancient Rome
                  This site has a huge list of topics you can learn more about, from Romulus and Remus to Roman weddings to Spartacus. It also has links to games.

                  BBC: The Romans
                  The BBC have an interactive site about the Romans with pictures, facts and quizzes.