Consider the new movie Pompeii as a source for good research paper topics. The sword-and-sandal spectacular is filled with gladiators, conquered Celts, horse whisperers, corrupt senators, forbidden love and an angry mountain god. You can consult some of the best history books or a scholarly article for information on Roman gladiators, religious festivals and politics. You could also research a science journal for facts about volcanic eruptions.
The movie Pompeii is like the blockbuster Titanic from 1997—we all know it ends, so the movie is about the journey of the ordinary people caught up in the danger and drama. The historian Pliney the Younger recorded the events of that fateful day of August 24, 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted spewing ash, toxic gases and the life-ending pyroclastic flow that destroyed the city-states of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The movie begins and ends with the heart-wrenching images of the famous ash casts of the whole humanoid forms of the volcanoes victims. About 10,000 to 20,000 people died.
Romans in Britannia
The movie starts in 62 AD with the Romans conquering and plundering northern Britannia (modern day Great Britain). They invade and kill all the people of a Celtic Horse Tribe, who are experts in training and caring for horses, except for a child, Milo. He is taken as a slave and trained to be a gladiator. As an adult, he is a rising star in Londinium, today’s London, when an entrepreneur who wants to show him off in the city-state of Pompeii buys him.
The Romans did fight in the Celtic lands of Britannia. “In the year 43 A.D. an expedition was ordered against Britain by the Emperor Claudius, who showed he meant business by sending his general, Aulus Platuius, and an army of 40,000 men. … Establishing their bases in what is now Kent, through a series of battles involving greater discipline, a great element of luck, and general lack of co-ordination between the leaders of the various Celtic tribes, the Romans subdued much of Britain in the short space of forty years. They were to remain for nearly 400 years,” explained Peter N. Williams, Ph.D. in “Narrative History of England: Part 2: The Roman Period” on Britannia.com posted 2011.
Roman religious festivals
Milo gains the attention of a rich merchant’s daughter Cassia when he calms a skittish horse. Forbidden love and anguish ensue when Milo is scheduled to fight in the gladiator arena as part of the Festival of Vinalia. Since much has been written about gladiatorial games in Roman times, why not write your research paper on Roman religious festivals.
Considered a holiday resort, Pompeii was celebrating the Festival of Vinalia, which honored Jupiter and Venus, the wine harvest, wine vintage and gardens. “Two festivals celebrated the virtues of wine. In autumn (August 19), the rural Vinalia signaled the opening of the harvest by the offering of the first bunch of grapes to Jupiter. The principal festival, the Vinalia priora (April 23) offered Jupiter the first fruits of the new wine,” wrote Sara Iles Johnston in the book Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide, 2004, found on Questia.com. The eruption of Vesuvius happened a few days after the festival.
What really killed the Pompeiians?
Scientists had first thought that the tremendous amounts of ash in the atmosphere asphyxiated the Pompeiians, but new research shows that it was actually the intense heat brought by the pyroclastic flows from the volcanic eruption. Pyroclastic flows bring heated rock and gas that can reach speeds of 100 kilometers/hour. The indoor and outdoor heat in the city of Pompeii reached 300°C (570°F), hot enough to melt lead-tin silverware and kill a human in a fraction of a second. Because of the extreme heat, “when the pyroclastic surge hit Pompeii, there was no time to suffocate,” volcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo said. “The contorted postures are not the effects of a long agony, but of the cadaveric spasm, a consequence of heat shock on corpses,” reported Maria Cristina Valsecchi in “Pompeiians Flash-Heated to Death—’No Time to Suffocate,’” in National Geographic, posted November 2, 2010.
What aspect of ancient Rome would you like to write about? Let us know in the comments.