Ancient Rome

From Ancient Greece we move forward about 500 years to Ancient Rome. There are many details before even reaching the main scene with characters.


The first thing we see after leaving Greece is a marble statue of Augustus (63 BC – AD 14), the first Roman Emperor.  Augustus had ended 100 years of civil war and achieved over 40 years of internal peace and prosperity but his story makes the current politics look like child’s play.

Augustus statue from Spaceship Earth ride to the left of the vehicles

The inscription at the bottom of the statue comes from the first of The Twelve Tables of Roman Law that were codified about 451 B.C.E. and were regarded by later Romans as the foundation of all their laws (3).  The first table is about Proceedings Preliminary to Trial (1). 

statue inscription of 1st of the 12 tables of roman law

The columns on the statue and in the building for the scene have evolved from the previous doric order greek columns to the Composite order – a combination of Ionic (volute – spiral, scroll) order and Corinthian (acanthus leaves) order styles.  

Corinthian columns in Spaceship Earth as you approach Rome

All Roads Lead to Rome

As every version of the narrations describe, Rome created a mighty and vast system of roads.  The network of roads are depicted in the background of the scene and appear as a web.  At first roads in Italy and Rome to supply the food and materials for the city, but these were not planned and likely not paved.  Later, roads we planned and paved for political and military reasons (4).

network of streets in the city of rome as the backdrop of Spaceship Earth

The network of roads was vital to enabling fast army movements and stimulating trade. The roads were also built for professional couriers and some governors assigned soldiers to send official messages (4).

Sending a Message

Based on the language in the inscription below the statue, I wonder if this scene takes place in front of a Roman Courthouse.  We clearly see a centurion based on the classic wardrobe who is meeting with a Roman Senator.   We know he’s a senator from the toga he is wearing – Toga praetexta –  this toga featured a wide purple border that denoted the wearer was a Senator or some type of Magistrate (2).  There is a third man in behind who is tending to two horses that carried the centurion’s cart.

rome scene from SSE featuring the Senator and the centurian delivering a message by horse

About 20 BCE the emperor Augustus  created the Cursus publicus , the courier service of the Roman empire, to transport messages, officials, and tax revenues from one province to another.   The existence of an infrastructure that allowed reliable communication between the emperors and all parts of the Roman civil and military administration was integral for the dissemination of ideologies, the promulgation of laws, and the implementation of Roman power in an organized and coherent fashion throughout the empire. (5)

Roman Senator and Centurian meeting


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by See Walt Disney World! (@see.wdw)


Bring back the chariot!

Video of the original projected chariot in the background of the scene

On the network of roads there used to be an animated chariot projected on the road.  This image below shows that part of the scene before it was removed around 2007.   For years I would turn around in my time machine after passing just in case it reappeared, but its never come back.  It was a simple effect that added something special – a detail I wish remained.

1982 Spaceship Earth Guide


Because animatronics are complex, time intensive to create, and expensive – its common to duplicate the models that are made and dress them differently.   In this scene – The Roman Senator is said to also be the Teddy Roosevelt from the Hall of Presidents (although this isn’t as easy to verify) (3).

Roman Senator
Teddy Roosevelt from the Hall of Presidents

In addition, the Centurion is said to also be Zachary Taylor from the Hall of Presidents (3).


February 15, 2008 – current
Narrated by Judy Dench

With lessons learned from the Greeks, the Romans create a powerful empire. To move their armies around, they build a system of roads all over the known world. Rome built the first world wide web, and it’s leading us into the future.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007
Narrated by Jeremy Irons

The mighty Roman empire bridged three continents with a vast system of roads; the fastest information highways the world had ever known. East, west, north, and south – all roads led to Rome.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994
Narrated by Walter Cronkite

The Romans build a mighty system of roads – a long distance network to carry laws and tidings over a far-reaching empire.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986
Narrated by Larry Dobkin

North, south, east, and west, all roads lead from Rome, a mighty network reaching across the land, welding far-flung garrisons into a growing empire.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script


  4. Tilburg, C. R. van (Cornelis) (2007). Traffic and congestion in the Roman Empire. New York, Routledge
  5. Lukas Lemcke (2013). Imperial Transportation and Communication from the Third to the Late Fourth Century: The Golden Age of the cursus publicus. UWSpace.