History students experience chaos of Roman Republic
History students experience chaos of Roman Republic

Students in Dr. Jeremiah McCall's Honors Roman Republic class traveled back in time to experience the chaos of the republic. The senior elective explores how Roman aristocrats competed, fought and squabbled, which destroyed their political system.

To illustrate the chaos, McCall had students play his prototype game of SPQR – the Roman Aristocratic Competition Sim. McCall is known for using games in his interactive history lessons. "I don't use them all of the time in my classes because it's a tool. You've got to use it at the right time for the right purpose," he said.

The basic idea is to put students in the role of competitive aristocrats trying to win political office and gain honor and distinction, while trying to limit their rivals from doing the same. Students play as individuals, each representing senatorial groups.

Each turn in the game starts with elections where players vote followed by a political round, playing cards designed to help their own careers, harm the careers of rival players, and increase political rivalry. Every card represents something historical that happened, such as "dedicated a new bronze statue to your family," or "declared that the gods had caused the skies to thunder, and that's why the elections had to be cancelled," McCall said.

"For me, what's important is the behaviors that it brought out," McCall said. "My understanding of Roman politics is it was very personal, intense and competitive. It's not unlike modern politics. In the simulation, students were able to exhibit what we expect of classic cut-throat Roman politics."

"I really felt the students got it, and it helped prepare them for the second part of the class, which was looking at these particular rivalries and thinking about why clashes occurred."

McCall considers himself fortunate to be at a school where he is able to teach students in a creative, innovative way.

-Cindy Kranz

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Information on Dr. Jeremiah McCall: He is a leading expert on the use of simulations, especially historical simulations, in education. He regularly attends and presents at the University of Wisconsin's Games, Learning and Society Conference. He also has presented at both regional and national conferences of independent schools, during a summit at the University of Cincinnati, and as a panelist for the MIT Education Arcade.

He maintains a blog and information site about historical simulations in education called Gaming the Past, is a member of Play the Past, and chairs the board of advisors for the Playful Learning Initiative by the Learning Games Network. He has also been the subject of or quoted in articles in Business Week, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the Scholastic Administrator,among others.

He has currently published four books and has a fifth book in production that will be released in 2018.

The Cavalry of the Roman Republic (Routledge, 2001)

Gaming the Past: Using Video Games to Teach Secondary History (Routledge, 2011)

The Sword of Rome: A Biography of Marcus Claudius Marcellus (Pen and Sword, 2012)

Swords and Cinema: Hollywood vs the Reality of Ancient Warfare (Pen and Sword, 2015)

Forthcoming in 2018

Clan Fabius, Defenders of Rome: A History of the Republic's Most Illustrious Family (Pen and Sword 2018)