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Ancient Rome - True or False?

Try to guess whether these statements about Ancient Rome are true or false.
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: September 4, 2021
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First submittedSeptember 4, 2021
Times taken23,669
Average score73.3%
Rating4.60
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1. There was an emperor known as Gluteus Maximus
True
False
2. At one point, the Roman Empire controlled the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea
True
False
3. The toga was the common everyday garment of Roman men
True
False
The toga was an unwieldy garment worn mostly on ceremonial occasions
4. Sexual promiscuity in women was socially acceptable, even encouraged
True
False
Sexual promiscuity in women was extremely taboo. Even the suggestion of impropriety was enough for Caesar to divorce his wife.
5. Generally, only rich people served in the Roman Senate
True
False
6. Julius Caesar conquered much of what is today France
True
False
7. The Romans founded Moscow
True
False
8. The ancient Romans enjoyed spaghetti with marinara sauce
True
False
Tomatoes are a New World crop that didn't exist in ancient Rome. Spaghetti hadn't been invented yet either.
9. Slavery was a common practice in ancient Rome
True
False
10. A legion consisted of about 100 soldiers
True
False
A legion had four or five thousand troops
11. Chariot racing was a popular spectator sport
True
False
Rome's "Circus Maximus" could hold over 200,000 chariot racing fans
12. Upper class Romans preferred wine to beer
True
False
13. During the so-called "Dark Ages", the population of Rome actually increased
True
False
From 400 AD–1084 AD the population of Rome declined by over 95%
14. Ancient Rome is considered a matriarchal society, not a patriarchal one
True
False
15. Many Roman buildings were built from concrete
True
False
The Pantheon is a notable example
+19
Level ∞
Sep 5, 2021
Because I know many of you have watched too many movies and TV shows about ancient Rome where people are having non-stop sex, read this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_ancient_Rome#Women_and_sexuality

Female promiscuity was highly taboo.

+19
Level 88
Sep 5, 2021
I always knew Incontinentia Buttox was a prude.
+5
Level 74
Sep 5, 2021
The sexual promiscuity question is correctly worded and accurate, but my opinion is that normal people were probably pretty normal. I really don't think that sexual promiscuity of women was very different in ancient Rome than it is today. That is to say generally frowned upon, especially for prominent women, but complex and varying. (But note I'm referring to places that do not have extreme intolerance towards women's rights.)

Sex is very difficult to speak with authority about even in contemporary times because it's always going on in the background, but no one truly knows the habits of other people. As Prince George said, "Sex is like socks: tons of it about but I can never find any." (Blackadder)

So yeah, basically we don't know, but the few examples that have survived 2,000 years can't tell us a great deal. Imagine trying to extrapolate the sexual habits of western people by examining Trump, Biden, Johnson, Merkel ... *shrug*!

+3
Level ∞
Sep 6, 2021
"I really don't think that sexual promiscuity of women was very different in ancient Rome than it is today."

Only about 5% of women in the western world are virgins at marriage today. In ancient Rome, it is likely that the number was close to 100%.

But while the Romans had extreme aversion to female promiscuity, they were not always prudes. Drawings and sculptures of pensises were common as a good luck charm. Furthermore, certain forms of male sexuality were considered acceptable. (Although nothing like today).

+11
Level 74
Sep 12, 2021
Biggus makes a good point, but even disregarding that you can't say that "close to 100%" of women were virgins at marriage in ancient Rome. I can't even start to imagine where a statistic like that would come from.

Imagine knowing close to zero about 95% of women today, and only knowing a small amount about the most prominent women - and all of that told by men. You might just as confidently assert that close to 100% of women today are virgins at marriage.

Remember, the vast majority of what survives from ancient Rome has nothing to do with the lives of ordinary people. What does survive that deals with the lives of ordinary people, especially from sites like Pompeii, suggests nothing more and nothing less than normal people going about their normal lives.

+5
Level ∞
Sep 13, 2021
Good point that we can never know about the exact details of the past. But if everything that we DO know about the ancient Romans suggests an extreme aversion to female promiscuity, to theorize that it was common among the regular people would require quite the leap of faith.

For example, you could say "we don't know for sure that regular peasants in the Middle Ages didn't like to dress up like chickens and go around clucking for fun". But there is no reason to think that they did.

The same for the Romans. While it's impossible to prove a universal negative, the simplest explanation is that the surviving literature and laws from the time are an accurate representation of the culture.

Finally, from a common sense standpoint, prior to birth control, promiscuity was much more difficult due to the likelihood of getting pregnant.

In any case, I'm glad we can both agree that the question is correctly worded and accurate. :)

+6
Level 74
Sep 18, 2021
The question is indeed lovely. (What was the question?)

But, promiscuity has been seen widely throughout the history of our world, and chicken costumes haven't.

"if everything that we DO know about the ancient Romans suggests an extreme aversion to female promiscuity..." - I don't agree at all that it does. I would suggest that this idea comes from trying to extrapolate the experience of 99% of women from what men have told us about 1% of them.

The little we do know of daily life in ancient Rome (a very blurry term in itself) suggests a culture comfortable with sex in its midst. Taboo, yes. Naughty, certainly. Discouraged, absolutely. Common, why not?

+2
Level ∞
Aug 7, 2023
I know at this point we mostly agree, but I will address this comment.

"Common, why not?"

For one, the population density of Rome was insane. There was no private place for women to conduct extramarital sexual relations.

But the biggest reason would be lack of opportunity.

Caesar divorced his wife at even the hint of impropriety. For a woman to even spend time alone in the company of a man who was not her husband would have been highly inappropriate.

An unmarried women who was not a virgin would have been considered unworthy to be married and would bring shame on her house. Even spending time alone with a man could permanently ruin her reputation.

Women were physically prevented from even having the opportunity of having extramarital sex.

+1
Level 76
Jan 12, 2022
I don't really want to Google this and have it on my search history, but didn't Ancient Romans famously use sheep intestines as condoms?
+1
Level 52
Apr 8, 2023
"Only about 5% of women in the western world are virgins at marriage today. In ancient Rome, it is likely that the number was close to 100%"

Didn't Roman women also get married quite young? The amount of women today who are virgins at the age Roman women got married is probably much higher, right?

+1
Level 76
Sep 7, 2023
Was thinking the same thing. When you have women getting married at 13 years old or thereabouts, you're gonna get a lot more virgins marrying.
+1
Level 66
Sep 18, 2021
Anyone who quotes Blackadder to illustrate their point is all right by me.
+2
Level 74
Sep 20, 2021
The question is far too broadly phrased. While it is abundantly clear from the historical record that upper class women's sex lives were typically heavily restricted, and that the vagaries of historiography and curation reflect these prestige norms, there is also much to contrast this with. For example, "women" includes sex workers. Sex work was legal and socially acceptable, and sex workers/courtesans/prostitutes could live lives featuring prestige and influence. It's also important to note the blurring of lines between religion and sex; secular and non-secular orgies, and the role of sacred sex. "Sacred sex" (without remuneration) and "sacred prostitution" (with remuneration) were practiced by members of society who were not made pariahs, and who went on to live in regular society as non sex workers. Rome spanned a huge geographic area as well, so it's a huge assertion. I know the answer the Quizmaster wanted, but perhaps it could be rephrased. It's so simplified it's wrong.
+1
Level 74
Sep 20, 2021
I'll add that using the term 'promiscuity' is especially problematic -- perhaps that the heart of the issue for me. Contemporary notions of 'promiscuity' are not interchangeable with Roman ones. Is the question about monogamy? Heteronormativity? Open lewdness? Post-Constantine laws? Sex with the gods?

And to wax pedantic briefly -- by way of giving another argument -- Roman legal frameworks, including licensing, did in practice accept and encourage promiscuity in sex workers including 'meretrices'.

If a Roman woman can be policed & denigrated for having sex in the wrong way, or for being a slave, or having a uterus, a high voice, or just for being a woman...and if a Roman man is policed & denigrated for exhibiting 'women-like' qualities, we must carefully consider the nuances of the past power relations we're trying to understand.

Or is the question just asking re: general commission of sexual transgression? (I mean, transgressions aren't generally condoned, kind of their point ;)

+1
Level ∞
Sep 20, 2021
"If a Roman woman can be policed & denigrated for having sex in the wrong way, or for being a slave, or having a uterus, a high voice, or just for being a woman...and if a Roman man is policed & denigrated for exhibiting 'women-like' qualities, we must carefully consider the nuances of the past power relations we're trying to understand."

It sounds like you understand well the relations of Roman men and women.

As I'm sure you know, virginity was absolutely paramount for any women looking to maintain respectability in Roman society. Contrast that to today where, in the West, people of both genders are expected and even encouraged to sexually experiment before marriage. I'm sure you know this of course.

+3
Level 66
Sep 18, 2021
What's funny is that contrary the Quizmaster's concerns, it appears the "dark ages weren't actually dark" nonsense is catching even more than the acceptable promiscuous women, despite being even less supported by the facts. Between the fall of the Western Roman empire and Charlemagne was an especially nasty, isolated, violent and backwards era for Western Europe and Rome in particular. Wolves roamed the forum.
+5
Level 64
Sep 18, 2021
The issue with the term Dark Ages is that it really needs to be called "Western European Dark Ages". The way the Eastern Empire continued on basically just as strong for the first half of the period, the peak of the Mayans in the 500s-800s, the intellectual blossoming in the Islamic world in the 900s, the Song Dynasty putting out iron and coal production in the 1000s that wouldn't be matched again until the 1850s, and we call it Dark because there's still this ludicrous idea in our culture that the only Real History is of everything in Europe in or west of the Alps.
+3
Level ∞
Sep 20, 2021
You are right. The Dark Ages were only really dark in Europe. The author of the linked article addresses this criticism.

"What about the Bronze Age? There wasn’t any bronze in Australia. The Hellenistic period? Huge swathes of the Earth’s land area remained un-Hellenized. The Time of Troubles? Actually, outside of Russia there were no more troubles than usual. The Era of Good Feelings? Maybe there were a bunch of bad feelings not in the US."

"Every other historical age name is instantly understood by everyone to refer to both a time and a place. The only time anyone ever gives anybody else grief over this is when they talk about the Dark Ages. This is an isolated demand for rigor. And if this is really your true objection, let’s just agree to call it the Western European Dark Ages, as long as we can also agree it existed and was bad."

+2
Level 71
Sep 18, 2021
Was senate eligibility not mostly related to family prestige/lineage as opposed to strictly monetary wealth?
+3
Level 60
Sep 19, 2021
Senators did indeed require a minimum amount of wealth to be eligible for election, which was put in place exactly to limit senators to only the most prestigious and richest families. This reform was put into place by Augustus, so it didn't exist during the Roman Republic.
+1
Level ∞
Jul 15, 2023
The late republic also had a wealth requirement.
+1
Level 64
Sep 18, 2021
We may not have a Gluteus Maximus but if you're British Commodus is close enough.
+1
Level 69
Sep 18, 2021
I feel fairly certain that plebeians were eligible for the Senate, even if most were in patricians. I am not aware of any legal requirement of wealth for the office.
+1
Level 70
Sep 25, 2021
Togas were actually worn by most romans as normal clothes, not just as ceremonial clothes
+2
Level 82
Dec 10, 2022
just open Wikipedia ...
+2
Level 77
Mar 10, 2022
i may have only gotten 9/15 but at least I wasn't one of the people who thought Gluteus Maximus was a Roman emperor
+1
Level 59
Sep 10, 2023
Opposite here. First time doing so well with 14/15, but fell for that one. I thought that might be the namesake of the real Gluteus Maximus.
+1
Level 48
Sep 7, 2023
nice 13/15 first try
+4
Level 65
Sep 7, 2023
Great quiz. Got 13 / 15.

Was #4's explanation supposed to say 'enoguh fo?' A new Latin phrase, perhaps?

+1
Level 78
Sep 7, 2023
There's an error in the explanation of #4: Even the suggestion of impropriety was enoguh fo
+1
Level 65
Sep 7, 2023
While spaghettis didn't exist yet, the Romans already knew lasagnas (without tomato of course).
+1
Level 72
Dec 27, 2023
Roman food ranged from bland to outright minging, depending on your wealth
+1
Level 65
Sep 7, 2023
There was no Gluteus Maximus (it's the name of a muscle), but an usurper was named Magnus Maximus. His name can be translated to "the greatest great".

He was a footnote in Rome's history, just being yet another usurper in a troubled time.

+2
Level 66
Sep 7, 2023
Did you have a stroke typing the explanation for #4 or
+3
Level ∞
Sep 7, 2023
Weird. Fixed.
+1
Level 33
Sep 17, 2023
Dang I thought i knew a lot about ancient rom but I did NOT know that they hhad concrete back then! That's the only one i missed xD