Animals in Ancient Rome
Lesson plan based on Mosaic Floor
Discuss a fictional account of a gladiatorial combat and write an editorial that defends or criticizes the type of justice presented in the story.
Skills and Focus: Reading, Discussion, Critical Analysis, Writing
Subject Area: English Language Arts
Thematic Connection: Animals
Grade Level: Secondary School
Time Needed: Two 90-minute class periods
Understand the various purposes of animals in ancient Rome.
Comprehend a fictional account of a criminal pitted against an animal in a public display similar to the ancient Roman amphitheater.
Discuss this account, student reactions to its inconclusive ending, and its cultural and moral implications.
Write a defense of or a criticism of the king's type of justice.
Instructional Materials Needed
Story: What Animal Is This?
Stockton, Frank R. "The Lady or the Tiger?" in Prentice Hall Literature: Gold. New York: Prentice Hall Books. pp. 4953.
Corbishley, Mike. The Roman World. New York: Warwick Press, 1986.
James, Simon. Eyewitness Books: Ancient Rome. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979. Pp. 2425, 2835.
Images of the colosseum: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online:
http://www.eb.com (search for colosseum)
Step 1: After showing the story What Animal Is This?, introduce students to the role of animals in ancient Rome. Animals served many purposes. Some were used in sporting events, others were sacrificed to the gods in religious ceremonies, and many served as symbols for gods or geographic areas. If possible, show some of the images in the James book. Also, distribute the chart.
Step 2: Have students read Stockton's short story, "The Lady or the Tiger?". Explain to students that the story demonstrates the popularity of public games and combat involving animals among ancient Roman people.
Step 3: After students have read the story, encourage them to discuss the conclusion. The inconclusive ending is certain to inspire some discussion about whether the lady or the tiger came out of the chosen door, as well as some criticism of the story and perhaps of the author, who left his work open to interpretation. Encourage the students to support their arguments with evidence from the text.
Step 4: Guide the class in a critical discussion of the punishment.
Critical Thinking Ask students to
explain why the king found this to be a good punishment.
describe the kind of culture that would support and enjoy such justice.
Step 5: Assign students to write a short editorial in a fictional newspaper of the "semibarbaric land" that either defends or criticizes the king's method of punishing or rewarding criminals. Tell students that supporting evidence from the story will strengthen their arguments.
This activity meets Illinois State Goal 1: Read for understanding and fluency.
This activity meets Illinois State Goal 3: Write to communicate for a variety of purposes.
This activity meets Illinois State Goal 5: Use the language arts for inquiry and research to acquire, organize, analyze, evaluate, and communicate information.
The Place of Animals in Ancient Rome
Sports and Personal Use
Religious or Symbolic Use
bears, giraffes, elephants
wild boars, fish, fowl
cats, dogs, insects
Venus and dove, Jupiter and eagle
association with gods
founding of Rome
goats, boars, small birds
sacrificial offerings to gods
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