The setting for Androcles and the Lion is ancient Rome. This section of the Teacher's Notes will be useful in helping provide a historical context for students as well as detailing some of the period specific terms found in the play itself.
Coming to terms with an ancient culture can be problematic, however many similarities can be identified between ancient Rome and our own modern society. Often the best way to begin learning about people from an alternative culture is to find the ways in which they resemble us. Just like our own society, the people living in ancient Rome built homes, raised families, farmed the land, wrote books and plays, lived under a system of laws with government administration, bought and sold goods, played sports / games, and prayed to their gods in the temples.
The leader of Rome was known as Emperor or Caesar. The emperor was a powerful ruler who had similar control to that of a King or Queen. Under the emperor was the Senate. This position was restricted to wealthy men, as only free men were considered citizens and had the right to vote. Senators and their families comprised the most powerful upper-class group in Roman society. They would meet in an assembly to vote on issues concerning the running of Rome.
The next powerful group in society was the Equites, comprising prosperous landowners and businessmen. As Rome had increased in size, incorporating so many different countries, this social group emerged and was able to utilise trade, selling goods and importing exotic items from the far-reaching corners of the empire.
Citizens made up the majority of Romans and were in fact mostly lower-class people with very little economic or political power. This group included the farmers, city workers, soldiers etc.
Finally at the bottom of Roman society were the Slaves. This group was made up of people conquered by the Roman army as well as citizens so poor that they had to sell themselves into slavery in order to survive. Slaves were sold by slave traders to people of wealth and had to work as cooks, farm hands, cleaners etc until they were set free (if ever) by their master.
The Senate. Create a Roman assembly, with the teacher in role of Emperor and the students as members of the assembly or senate. An Equite (a prosperous businessman) who trades in jugs of olive oil has brought a concern to the attention of the senate. His neighbour, a citizen or free man, has also started selling jugs of olive oil and is offering them at reduced prices. The Equite does not believe the free man has the same rights and is outraged that his ‘copycat' business is allowed to compete with his own. Should the simple citizen be allowed to continue selling olive oil? It is the job of the senate to decide?
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