The Roman temple in Bath

Teaching ideas

It is a good idea to start by getting students to look closely at what is left of the pediment and to identify what is different from a Mediterranean version.

Use the pot painting and terracotta gorgon in For the classroom to start exploring the story of Perseus and the gorgon Medusa, ending with Athena taking the head for herself. Show students the pediment and discuss the carvings. How do the carvings link to the story? Compare with the Greek examples. Does anything surprise them? Why? Ask them whether they think the sculptor of the temple may have got the story wrong in having a male gorgon and why that might have happened. Then introduce the idea of a native tradition.

The next four activities develop the idea of Bath as a religious site and of religions in the Roman empire.

Discuss why the students think a hot spring became associated with a god or goddess. Introduce the idea of the spring as a place of healing and how that hope could be associated with religion. You could look at healing sites in other religions. You could also consider what it is that people want from religion. One of the broader enquiry questions below could follow from this.

Show the class the BBC video in For the classroom. Ask students to script a new clip, this time featuring a conversation between a Roman and a local Briton discussing their beliefs about the sacred spring. The children’s pages of the Roman Baths Museum would be useful in helping them research this.

Look at all the objects in this Object File and make a list of the gods that are Roman, the gods that are local British and the gods that are from other parts of the empire. Do some map work to locate the countries of origin of the different gods, including the Roman ones. Discuss how the Roman and other gods got to Britain.

Use the objects in A bigger picture, the Young Explorers guide and the objects in For the classroom to create a timeline of religion in Roman Britain.

This enquiry focuses on the nature of evidence for religious belief.

How do we know about religion in Roman Britain? Discuss how we could find out what modern people believe and how they practise their religion without speaking to them? Discuss what we can learn from the objects in this Object File. What can’t we find out from these objects? How else might we find out? Extend the students’ enquiry to the temple at Bath and other Roman religious buildings in Britain.

Here are two broader enquiry topics.

Why did foreign gods become so popular among the Romans? Look at the gods in A bigger picture. Find out more about them and make a list of the good things they bring to their worshippers. Find out about official state Roman religion and decide what advantages the other gods and goddesses offered. Discuss the difference between public and private religion. Consider whether it makes sense to talk about Roman and foreign religion as the empire grew and more and more foreigners became Roman citizens.

How tolerant were the Romans of different religions? Consider what reasons the students think there were for the Romans to adopt gods and goddesses from people they met as their empire grew. What reasons might the Romans have had for not stopping local people worshipping their own gods and goddesses? Find out which religions did come into conflict with the Romans and discuss why this was the case. Do research on what the Roman reaction was.

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The Roman temple in Bath