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Make a Roman Shield

This Roman shield has been a long time coming. We have had many previous attempts when the boys were smaller but had problems keeping the curved shape of the shield. So when my daughter decided that she wanted to make one for a school topic we just had to come up with the new improved version..

make your own Roman Shield

The original Roman shields or Scutums were made of layers of wood, with a metal frame and boss (the sticky out bit). They were most commonly rectangular in shape and big enough to properly hide behind. The wood was enough to stop most missiles but still light enough to carry.

In battles ranks of Roman Legionaries could overlap their shields to form a wall, or even make a roof above their heads to form a testudo (which is latin for tortoise.)

Form testudo!

To make your very own shield you will need:

  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Red paint
  • Gold card
  • Silver paint
  • Plain card
  • Round plastic tub or the bottom of a plastic bottle
  • Silver duct tape

First cut out a large rectangle from the corrugated cardboard. Make sure that the corrugations run from top to bottom – this is essential so that the shield can curve around your body.

Next round off the corners – we used a bowl as a template.

Make your own Roman Scutum

Cut two long buy cheap cytotec online strips of cardboard and stick them across the back of the shield in the middle. Then stick the two ends together (you could also staple them for extra strength.) You want to make the strap short enough so that the whole shield curves.

make your own Roman shield

make your own Roman shieldNow make the metal boss. Cut a circle in the centre of a piece of card just smaller than your pot slip the pot through it. Either tape it or glue it in place. Once the glue is dry you can paint it silver or gold. We sprayed it with some metallic paint we had but acrylic paint would also work well.

make your own Roman shield

Paint the front of the shield, stick on the boss and then you can decorate it with the gold paper. Make sure you get your pets to help out.

To finish it off stick some of the duct tape round the edge of the shield.

Finished!

prepare to receive missiles

take cover!We had great fun using it to protect against hails of nerf bullets and a toy cross bow. Now we just need to make a few more so we can form a testudo…

 

Make a Victoria Cross

Our Victoria Cross
The boys are both doing World War 2 as their history topic this year, so we have been doing a bit of extra reading and finding out about some of the astounding bravery shown by soldiers, spys, animals and members of the public during this war.

We found out a bit more about the Victoria Cross, the highest level of award, given for “… most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.”

It was only awarded 182 times during the whole of the WW2, often posthumously, meaning that it was awarded to someone who died as a result of their actions. One soldier from New Zealand, Charles Upham, amazingly won the Victoria Cross on two separate occasions and lived to tell the tale.

Interesting Facts about the Victoria Cross

  1. It was introduced by Queen Victoria during the Crimean War.
  2. The original Crosses were supposed to be made from the metal from a Russian cannon captured during the Crimean War.
  3. There is enough of this metal left to make another 80 medals (approximately.)
  4. If a group of men were found to be all brave then a ballot is drawn to see who would receive the medal.
  5. If you are awarded a Victoria Cross the government will also give you a small amount of money each year for the rest of your life.
  6. Since WWII it has been awarded another 16 occasions.
  7. A total of 1,359 Victoria Crosses have ever cytotec online no prescription been awarded.
  8. No woman has ever been awarded the Victoria Cross.

Make your own Victoria Cross

After reading all of this, it only seemed right that we should make some of our own medals. We used some Newclay Airdough to make them, but I think any air drying clay would work just as well.

First take a look at some of the original medals – the Victoria Cross is made of bronze, in a cross shape with the words ‘for valour’ on the front. It also has the crown of Saint Edward with a lion on top of it, though this is much trickier to make, so best of luck with that!

Victoria_Cross

We cut the cross shape out, then added details as best we could.

Make your own Victoria Cross

We left it overnight to dry then mixed some gold and black paints to make a bronze colour.

Once the paint was dry we stuck the crimson ribbon on with some glue.

Our Victoria Cross

Finished! We made a few other medals while we were at it. You can copy some real medals – have a look here to see some, or you can create some of your own. How about the ‘Friendship medallion’ the ‘Kindest Sibling Cross’ or the ‘Homework Star’?

medals

 

Read some of the amazing stories of some of the people who won the Victoria Cross here and here.

STOP PRESS! Have a look at this news story about the most recent soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross, Joshua Leakey, a paratrooper who showed “complete disregard” for his own safety during a Taliban attack in Afghanistan.

Celebrate Saturnalia!

Does it feel like you are getting up in the middle of the night at the moment? That you are dragging yourself to work or school when you should be in bed because it’s just so dark? Now imagine that you don’t have any electric lights and the only light you have is from candles or oil lamps and open fires. So maybe it should be no surprise that people have been marking the day that the nights stop getting longer for as long as we can tell.

The midwinter solstice, the shortest day of the year, has been celebrated for thousands of years. How do we know? Well, many neolithic henges and chambers have been found to be aligned to the winter solstice dawn or sunset. Stonehenge, for example, is aligned with the setting sun on midwinters day. Although this might not prove that the people who built these monuments ‘celebrated’ midwinter as such, it must have been an incredibly important time of year. It also shows that they must have had a good understanding of astronomy and have studied the sky over many years.

stonehenge

The Romans also had one of their most important order cytotec online festivals over the midwinter period – Saturnalia. On the 17th of December, a ceremony dedicated to the God Saturn would start the festival followed by feasting, gift giving and general partying. Slaves and their masters would trade positions, gambling was allowed for the only time in the year and children would become masters for the day. Greenery was taken into the house and lots of candles were used. These festivities could last a week! Does it remind you of any other winter festivals by any chance?

Saturnalia

So tonight we had our own Saturnalia celebrations – we decorated the table with leaves and candles and had a Roman style feast with breads, cheese, olives, stuffed chicken, salads, eggs, grapes, cheesecake and grape juice to drink. Had we really got our act together we could have made some stuffed dates, pizza or honey cakes too, but well, we also a bit busy getting ready for christmas!

saturnalia

The kids were happy enough to be the masters during the feast but I had to draw the line at staying up all night. It would be interesting to find out how that would have played out in real Roman houses!

Make a Roman oil lamp

lamp6

We recently went on a camping holiday which made me think about how different life must have been before there was electric light. It is very hard to do anything once the daylight goes, even with plenty of candles about. So what was it like before electricity was invented?

Oil lamps have been found in many Ancient civilizations and there are many examples of Roman oil lamps. Many of these were made from clay which was set in moulds and then fired. The lamps were often decorated with patterns or pictures like this one in the British Museum, which has a picture of gladiators fighting on it!

We thought it would be a good idea to have a go at making one. It turned out to be quite a difficult thing to do so children might need a bit of adult help at some points.

How to make your own Roman Lamp

You will need:

  • some air drying clay
  • a piece of kitchen towel
  • some olive oil

First make the base of the lamp – take a lump of the clay and roll it out until it about a cm thick. Keeping the bottom of the lamp circular, start pinching up the sides until it start to look like a small circular bowl. Then you can  pinch one side together to make the spout.

lamp1

Next tool out another circle to make the lid. Decorate it and make a hole to pour the oil into. We did this using a felt tip pen. Cut the circle to fit the size of the lamp then use plenty of water and stick the two pieces together.

lamp4

Attach a small piece of clay to the lamp to make the handle and let the lamp dry out for a couple of days.

lamp3

Once it is dry you can try it out! buy misoprostol online take a piece of kitchen roll the length of the lamp base – roll and twist it into a thin rope. This will be the lamp wick which draws the oil out of the lamp. In Ancient Rome rolled up linen was often used in a similar way.

lamp7

Pour some olive oil into the hole in the top of the lamp and wait a while until you can see it  soaking into the wick. You can now light the wick.

lamp6

Finished – this is the perfect light to use at a Roman feast.

The only slight problem with our one was the smell. It was slightly stinky when we blew it out , and gave off quite a sooty smoke. It might be worth experimenting with some different kinds of oils or wicks to see if some other vegetable oils are better, but is likely that olive oil was used in many of these lamps. Did the whole of Rome smell like this in the evenings? It would be lovely to know!

But actually I am pretty impressed with this lamp. It burns brightly and evenly and is easy to use. I can imagine slaves in Ancient Rome going round topping up the oil in them each day. It is also a very eco-friendly way of lighting the house – especially if you owned a few olive trees. Just the job if you have a power cut and have run out of candles.

Find out more about this kind of lamp here and see a cute lamp on the BBC’s Roman page here.

Make a Roman Pizza

I have just got hold of a fantastic book by Mark Grant; ‘Roman Cookery, Ancient Recipies for Modern Kitchens’. Some of the recipes, it has to said, may not be entirely kid friendly (Pig’s trotter for tea tonight kids?) but a lot of them are quite similar to food we eat a lot. So it wasn’t too hard to persuade everyone to have a go at making a Roman Pizza, based on the recipe for Staititai or Honey and Sesame Pizza.

We followed the recipe properly using a spelt flour, but actually I think any regular pizza dough would be fine. So here is our simplified recipe:

  • 1 piece of pizza dough (preferably made with spelt flour) or ready made pizza base
  • olive oil for frying
  • some feta cheese crumbled up (or other cheese of choice)
  • sesame seeds
  • a drizzle of honey.

Roll the dough out until it is thin, and leave to rise for 20 mins. Heat the frying pan with the olive oil and fry gently on both sides until it is golden brown. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with the cheese, sesame seeds and honey. Melt the cheese buy cytotec misoprostol under a grill then cut into pieces to serve.

pizza

We made a couple of variations – one cooked in the oven instead of being fried, and one made with cheddar cheese. The oven baked one was good but much crunchier and not as moist, the fried one was more like flatbread.

The verdict? No child was very keen on the feta version which smelt quite whiffy when the feta was melted, but the cheddar cheese version was lovely – like cheese on toast and was happily gobbled up with some lentil soup – a very Roman meal.

The most interesting thing though was the obvious missing ingredient. Where were the tomatoes?!! Did the Romans not like them? No, after a bit of research we discovered that the tomato was not introduced to Europe until the 16th century when in was brought back by the first explorers of Mexico. So the poor Romans had no tomatoes, no peppers and no aubergines (which were brought back from the Middle East). It was worth making a Roman Pizza just to learn this!