Episode 1 - Curricular Overview


Essential Question: Who were the Romans?                                     (Jump to Instructional Resources: Ep 1.1Ep 1.2, Ep 1.3)


Cultural and Historical Learning Targets:

  • Analyze Roman naming conventions and construct Roman greetings,
  • Identify geographical items around the Bay of Naples, 
  • Analyze and evaluate Lucius Caecilius Iucundus
  • Examine the lay-out of the Roman house, 
  • Identify routes around the major neighborhoods of Pompeii, 
  • Identify, describe, and use customs of Roman dining


ACTFL Proficiency Benchmarks:

 Interpretive Mode (Novice) Cultural Investigation  (Novice)
 I can identify the general topic and some basic information in both very familiar and everyday contexts by recognizing practiced or memorized words, phrases, and simple sentences in texts that are spoken, written, or signed. In my own and other cultures I can identify products and practices to help me understand perspectives. 


Episode 1.1 - The Boy in the Tree


Synopsis: The operatives (as the Recentii characters in the story) are immersed near Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius in the summer of 79 CE. They immediately meet two main characters -- Tiberius Caecilius (the boy in the tree) and Marcus Maecenas (fictional grandson of the real Gaius Cilnius Maecenas). Marcus is intimidating Tiberius in an attempt to bring the fictional organization known the Milites Lapidis (populares) out of hiding since the boy has a connection to Sextus, the ML’s leader. Marcus’ organization, the Societas Potentium (optimates), knows that the Recentii have been sighted at important moments in history, always working to secure the Lapis for the populares.


The Recentii must drive Marcus away from Tiberius. Once they have done so, although he doesn't know why Marcus was threatening him, Tiberius suggests that it might have something to do with his friend Sextus Aemilianus, who lives in Pompeii, and whose house is conveniently marked on a map of the city left behind by Marcus. (Marcus left the map, of course, because he is setting an elaborate trap for the ML and, in particular, the Recentii.)


Instructional Resources, Episode 1.1:



     (form preview)



Suggested Work Flow:

  1. Introduce the beginning of the episode, reading together for comprehension
    1. After reading Marcus’ question, pause to consider what information would be needed to answer the question effectively (i.e., what are Roman naming conventions?)
    2. Read the informational text on the “Tria Nomina”
      1. Complete the Cuturalia comprehension questions on Roman names
      2. Instructors may find it beneficial to also include the culturalia page for additional depth of content knowledge.

  2. Return to the episode and present the learners with a choice of actions to take
    1. Continue working through the second part of the episode, confusing Marcus with various false statements about Tiberius’ location.
    2. This is a good opportunity to weave in the attunement exercise on prepositional phrases.

  3. Conclude the episode with successfully rescuing Tiberius and discovering what the next steps will be.
    1. It would be appropriate at this point to weave in the informational text on geography.
    2. The informational text here is also a good opportunity to start the important work of intercultural comparisons through the language. It's both helpful, and powerful, for learners to compare and contrast Ancient Rome with their own experiences.

Episode 1.2 - To the House of Sextus Aemilianus


The Recentii make their way to Sextus' house, only to find that Marcus is there, standing threateningly outside the door and demanding the Lapis. Octaviana and Bellator must drive him away again, and meet Sextus, who will be their first nitidus guide (in the TSTT, things which have to do with the operation itself are always marked out as nitidus, much like important characters or items in video games). They are able to ask him a few preliminary questions about their mission, before he sends them to the house of Caecilius, father of Tiberius. Again, Marcus is not as silly as he appears: he intends the Recentii to think they are beginning to uncover the truth about the Lapis, so that the Societas Potentium (SP) can secure it.


For the instructor, here’s the “history” of the Lapis up to the founding of the Republic:

  • Cut from the stone swallowed by Saturn.
  • Taken by Neptune and built into the walls of Troy.
  • Demanded by Hercules as payment for killing the sea-monster at Troy but refused, causing the first sack of Troy.
  • Lusted after by Agamemnon, who has heard from Paris it is in Troy, and thus the “real” object of the Achaean expedition.
  • Aeneas fled from Troy with the Lapis (in response to the “real” advice of the Ghost of Hector), almost unloads it in Carthage, passed to Ascanius who hides it in Alba Longa.
  • Discovered by Romulus, used in the first walls of Rome.
  • Secretly known to the Kings, instructed first by Romulus.
  • Revealed by Tarquin to Lucretia; revealed by Lucretia to Brutus before her suicide.


Instructional Resources, Episode 1.2:




Suggested Work Flow:

      1. Introduce the beginning of the episode (1.2a), reading together for comprehension.
        1. The first part of the episode is devoted to driving off Marcus once again. It may be worthwhile to pause at some point to read the fictional text "de Marco Sextoque" to provide a bit of extra background information for the students.
        2. There’s a T/F task associated with the fictional reading on Marcus and Sextus. This task is designed to help students begin to learn how to do close reading of a text.
          1. Return to the episode, if the students haven't driven off Marcus just yet.
          2. In driving off Marcus successfully, the protagonists Octaviana and Bellator will be introduced to the “guide-like” figure throughout their adventure -- Sextus Aemilianus.

      2. The second act (1.2b) of the episode involves the Recentii questioning Sextus to gain some additional background information. The elephant in the room is in fact that Sextus is glowing. He glows because, as they will discover, he’s not “real” inside of the simulated story. He is put there by the Demiurge to help the Recentii (and the students) learn more about Roman history and culture than they would otherwise be able to. If the students have difficulty accepting this, encourage them to think of it like a video game where important people or objects “glow” to signify importance.
        1. In the course of this episode, a few of the Roman rooms in a typical villa are introduced. It would make sense to supplement with the "Domus Romana" informational text and associated cultural comprehension task.
        2. Before they depart to move on to the house of Caecilius, it may also be a good opportunity to receive a bit of background on their new friend Tiberius by reading the fictional text, "de Tiberio".

Episode 1.3 - At the House of Caecilius


Sextus directs them to the house of Caecilius, which they find, where their new friend Tiberius is happy to recommend them as interesting young people to his father.


Caecilius, having developed a liking for them, offers them a place to stay and the opportunity for an elaborate Roman cena.


This section of the story is packed full of opportunities to explore intercultural competencies; you can spend time examining the customs involved prior to the dinner (the washing of hands to eat with their fingers, taking off of shoes, reclining as opposed to sitting), the elements of the various courses (gustatio, prima mensa, and secunda mensa), as well as the other elements happening with the slaves and the clientes also present at the dinner.


Caecilius shares quite a bit of information regarding Marcus and their relationship. Tiberius gives the Recentii insight into Caecilius’ sources of income. There’s also an opportunity to explore some of the elaborate decorations and storytelling on the walls -- Tiberius makes it a point to show off his knowledge of Romulus and Remus. 


Lastly, if the Recentii thank Caecilius at the conclusion of the dinner, the operatives will get a chance to see the clientes using their mappas to bring leftovers from the dinner home to their families. There will be more on the roles of clients and patrons in future episodes, but this will be a good opportunity to start planting those seeds in a true spiraling curriculum.


Instructional Resources, Episode 1.3:




Suggested Work Flow:

  1. A short task introducing Caecilius and using Wikipedia for research purposes works well to ground the learners in the real versus fictional versions of Caecilius. It will also give them some background as to what unfolds during the episode.
  2. Introduce the beginning of the episode, reading together for comprehension:
    • The episode has an option for three parts to break it up over time if you’d like,
      1. Introduction to Caecilius and convincing him to invite them for dinner, including some customs related to handwashing and reclining on the lectus. There are a few branches where “wrong” choices can be made, which provide some instructional corrections of customs within the narrative itself. 
      2. The gustatio and conversations
      3. Prima mensa, secunda mensa, and wrapping things up
    • After the cena begins, you may wish to break from the main narrative and read the informational text on the Roman Cena, including the accompanying task
    • As noted above, the Cena is a rich opportunity for intercultural comparisons to be made. You should help scaffold interpretive reading skills for your students by pointing out how to think about, analyze, and critically assess information throughout the narrative.
  3. The fictional text in agris gives a small view into daily life for Tiberius and Caecilius on the day after the cena. Tiberius makes references to shaking down olives from the trees during the gustatio.