Lesson Plans

Mosaic Floor
Animals in Myths and Real Life

Lesson plan based on Mosaic Floor

Research the role of lions, elephants, and bears in ancient Roman life and mythology.

Skills and Focus: Geography, Research, Writing

Subject Area: Social Science

Thematic Connection: Animals, Myths and Legends

Grade Level: Secondary School

Time Needed: 90 minutes


• Develop a strong understanding of the role animals played in important ancient Roman historical events and myths.

Instructional Materials Needed

Story: What Animal Is This?

Print Resources:

• Material about Hannibal crossing the Alps:

Prevas, John. Hannibal Crosses the Alps : The Enigma Re-Examined. Sarpedon, 1998.

•Ovid’s Metamorphoses:

Cuyler, Susanna, Ovid. Ovid's Metamorphoses: An Illustrated Distillation. Complier, 1996.

Ovid, William S. Anderson. Ovid's Metamorphoses. University of Oklahoma, 1998.

• Material about animals in ancient Rome:

Toynbee, J. M. C. Animals in Roman Life and Art. London Thames and Hudson: 1973

Online Resources:

• Myths that deal with animals:



Step 1: Explain to students that many Roman mosaics show images of animals that were imported from the far reaches of the empire for parades, private parks, and public games. Animals also were crucial to the daring invasion of Rome by Hannibal, who came from Carthage, on the north coast of Africa. In addition, many real and composite creatures had prominent associations with religious and legendary figures (e.g., lion is one of Hercules' attributes).

Step 2: Have students consider the following animals that were frequently included in Roman mosaics: lions, elephants, bears, eagles.

Ask students to:

• Select one animal from this list.

• Research and write about its function in ancient Roman parades, private parks, or public games.

• Research and write about its association with certain religious and/or legendary figures.

• Compare the perceptions of the animal in ancient Roman historical, mythological, and religious contexts to its perception in contemporary times.


This activity meets Illinois State Goal 16: Understand and analyze events, trends, individuals, and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States, and other nations.

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