Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Clothes and Crafts in Roman Times


Have you ever wondered how producers in ancient Rome used resources in the production of goods? Luckily, Philip Steele provides a comprehensive book that explains how Roman craft workers used the resources available to them to and produced beautiful jewelry, woodwork, metalwork, pottery and clothing in his text, Clothes and Crafts in Roman Times. The book starts off by giving a brief introduction of the Roman times including a map as well as a small history lesson.  The book then goes on to explain how Romans made their crafts (pottery, glass, woodwork, metalwork, stonework, and mosaics), clothes and fashion (weaving and textiles, clothing, boots and shoes, hats and sunshades, jewelry, makeup) as well as things they made for different festivals and holidays.Each section provides lots of pictures and representations of how Romans used the resources available to them to make things they needed in their every day lives.  In describing how the Romans made clothes, Steele explains:

 The Romans used woven material, or textiles, for clothing.  A plant called flax was used for making linen cloth.  it was grown in Egypt.  cotton and silk were rare and costly imports from Asia.  The most important material was wool, which was produced all over the empire.  After the sheep were sheared, the wool had to be washed to remove its natural greasiness and any dirt.  it was then dried and wound onto a stick called a distaff, which spinners held under their arm.  The woolen threads, or fibers, were pulled out and tied to weighted stick called a drop spindle… (the section goes on to provide in further detail how they produced their clothes from natural resources).

The book also provides some interesting facts about the Romans including some mottoes that Romans put on their pottery: BIBE (Drink!), REPLE (Fill Up!) and DA VINUM (Bring Wine!).  At the end of the book, Steele offers some fun activities where directions are provided for students to make their own mosaics or crowns!  The back of the book also contains a useful glossary with very simple and student-friendly definitions.

Curriculum Connections
This book can be a fun way to introduce students how producers in ancient Rome used natural resources, human resources and capital resources in the production of goods and services.  Although the book doesn’t explicitly use these phrases, there are multiple examples of each of them throughout the text that students can use to understand the concepts.  In Virginia, this book would be suitable to fulfill the Social Studies Standards of Learning 3.7.

Additional Resources

  • This lesson plan can explain the concepts of natural resources, capital resources, and human resources.
  • Here is a fun activity for students to make a Roman mask while also learning about different types of resources they are using.

Book: Clothes and Crafts in Roman Times
Philip Steele
Gareth Stevens Publishing
Publication Date:
 32 pages

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