DRIVING QUESTION: Can we use current knowledge, information, and resources to solve the problems of the Roman Empire?
Answer the call from Emperor Numerianus written in 283 C.E.

My dear and loved Romans,
We have risen from the ranks of a small tribe who was able to overthrow the Etruscan kings to build a successful city on the banks of the Tiber River. From that we have grown into the greatest empire spanning from the isle of Britannia to the land of the pharaohs and as far east as the Arabian Desert. Our problems seemed to have been solved by the Great Julius Casear and the emperors that immediately followed his reign, but a long string of corrupt leaders and expanding problems leaves our great state in deep despair. If only we knew how to solve all of these problems! During the days of the Republic, we would call upon the Tribunes to speak their voice and provide ideas to help Rome, but those days are over. I am calling upon all citizens of Rome to help save our great empire!

Our cities are filthy and sewers are overflowing with waste. The wooden buildings have caught up in flames many times and now many of them sit empty in ashes. In our cities, especially Rome, we simply have too many people and not enough jobs because the amount of non-Romans willing to work for less! Since we no longer are conquering new peoples, we have no new tax money to fix the urban decay. We need new roads, sewers, and aqueducts! So many Senators wanted to mint more coins, which we did, but that caused inflation!! Of course we could continue to use the slave labor to clean up the cities, but that only worsens the unemployment problem. Our farms are sitting empty with no one to grow the crops as the farmers are out serving as legionnaires, fighting off enemy attacks, the barbarians. With no food many people are starving to death and too many families are applying for the Roman welfare program. As your leader, I wish I could feed you all, but there is simply not enough tax money coming to Rome to redistribute to those in need! You all complain when I see you in the Colosseum about corruption in the government. I have tried to stop Senators from receiving bribes, but there is no systematic way to control the corruption! If only we had enough money for a police force, we may be able to stop this problem. I know how hard it is to live in areas that do not receive proper waste management, lack resources such as timber, and have the effects of mining in your hometown. Please be aware that I am putting to work Rome's best scholars to fix these problems. And finally, as I realize this letter is being read to many of you aloud as you yourself cannot read…we must open secondary schools to all Romans, not just the nobles. The price of education is too high and to fix problems we must have an educated society!

As the great 1st century BCE philosopher and lawyer, Cicero once stated in a speech to the Forum, “Advice is judged by results, not by intentions.” We NEED your advice to create results for Rome, not empty intentions.

I wish you well in the provinces, conquered areas, and to those in our eternal city, Rome!

Your Great Leader,

Task: Choose ONE of the problems from the letter above. Research how this problem impacted life in ancient Rome. The, decide if, with the knowledge and technology available to modern people (us!), if we could go back in time and solve this problem. Create a product of your choice that clearly explains how you would solve the problem OR, if you think we could not solve the problem, explains why you believe we could not.

NOTE: Assignment adapted from Forest Hills "Inventive Thinking in the Middle School Classroom" project.