Title: A murder in the forum!

Time: 1-2 hours

Rationale: By playing the role of investigators, students will be able to explore the life and death of Julius Caesar, and apply their findings to understand aspects of Roman culture, specifically the role of women, the haruspex and the Senate, and the problems of a dictatorship.


  • Students will be able to determine the factors involved in Caesar’s death, using information they gather from stations and a teacher-created dossier, and support or defend the Senators’ choice to murder him in writing.
  • Students will be able to examine aspects of Roman life, namely the position of women and the influence of religion, using information they gather from stations and group discussion, and describe the attitudes toward these aspects in Roman times in discussion and writing.



  • NCSS #6: Power, Authority, & Governance
  • NCSS #1: Culture
  • Math process: problem solving
  • Science process: observation, communication


  • Costume for teacher (toga/sheet, opt. sandals)
  • Teacher-created Caesar dossier and suspect information
  • Crime scene – chalk outline, yellow tape
  • Stations: pictures of haruspex, Calpurnia’s plea, character sketches of the Senators/list of Senate complaints (NOTE: These are teacher created materials, not historically accurate documents)
  • ‘You Decide’ worksheet
  • Letters to students
  • Optional: Julius Caesar DVD

Gearing Up

  • Encourage students who finish early at their station to think about other ways they could research their topic, and allow them time to do so later in the day.
  • Have students begin to construct their ideas of the role of women/haruspex/Senate.

Gearing Down

  • Encourage students by either asking more leading questions or offering them some more information from the perspective of a Roman citizen if they are having trouble reading or interpreting information.
  • Instead of a written argument with three reasons, have students summarize the role of the Senate in Roman life.



*Teacher begins the class dressed up in a Roman toga and plays the role of a concerned Roman citizen.

*Tell students that they are the best investigators Rome has to offer, and today they are needed to solve a very important crime: Julius Caesar has been murdered!

*Tell students that you have provided them with important information about Caesar, and since time is ticking, they will split up to explore more of Caesar’s life. Remind students that as investigators, it is important that they take detailed notes and are ready to relate the information back to the team.


*Students will split up into teams (number depending on amount of students in class) and go to their respective stations. Once there, they will read the instructions provided and learn more about Caesar. Students will cycle through the stations but concentrate on one to report back to the group about.

Station 1: Spurrina’s place: Students will learn about the role of the haruspex and speculate as to why Caesar did not believe the omen.

Station 2: Calpurnia’s room: Students will read Shakespeare’s interpretation of Calpurnia’s dream and Decius’ response and think about why Caesar still chose to leave on that day.

Station 3: Senate: Students will look at the Senate’s complaints about Caesar and think about why Caesar was disliked by the government

*Gather students back together and have them relate their findings to each other, asking questions as a citizen of Rome (Why wouldn’t Caesar believe the haruspex? Why do you think Caesar didn’t listen to Calpurnia? Because women were not respected in Roman society, Decius gave a better answer, Caesar was power-hungry; Why was the Senate so angry with Caesar? Because he ignored them, took over as dictator)

*Ask students to decide who was most likely to kill Caesar: Calpurnia, Spurrina, or the Senators; if time, if there is time (and it is appropriate for your classroom), watch “Julius Caesar” to find out.

*You have just recieved a message! The Senators who killed Caesar are pleading innocent on grounds of saving the government! Thanks for all your help! You also have a message from your head investigator: it’s time to return to headquarters. Hope to see you soon in Rome!


*What do you think was the underlying reason behind Caesar’s murder? (tyranny or the Senate was fed up)

*If you were Caesar, would you have acted in the same way? What if you were a Senator? (yes – Caesar was too powerful; no – it is wrong to murder, the Senate should have taken other steps to reason)

*Think about the role of women and religion in Roman culture. Were they respected or not? How do you know?

*Present a written argument in support or opposition of the Senate’s actions, with at least three reasons to support your claim.


  • Collect student note worksheets and check for accuracy – student’s should have detailed notes concerning the role of the haruspex, women, and the complaints of the Senate. Students should also be able to create an argument either supporting the Senate’s actions or opposing them with at least three reasons to support their claim.

Lesson Success

_______Excellent _________Good _______Fair ______Flop