This file was prepared in December 2006 for a visit to the 5th grade class of my grandson, Pierce, at Abington Friends School in Jenkintown PA. More general introductions to ancient Greece for similar audiences are available on the web, such as here (thanks to information supplied by Aida Ballion at Monument Charter Schools). [Bob Kraft, Emeritus University of Pennsylvania]
Questions for Bob [see Greeklife
page; greek landscape
of ancient Greece]]
What did the Olympic Coliseum
look like in ancient times?
[see images, inside;
What would life on a ship have
[depends on the
ship (fishing, merchant, war, etc.) and one's role, from captain
down to crew or oarsman. The ability
to remove the trireme war ship from the water was thought to be
important since a dried out vessel floated better and could move faster
and turn quicker than one
which had been in the water longer. Thus actively used triremes were
kept out of the water in ship sheds as much as possible. No living
quarters were provided on board the trireme so the crews were expected
to moor or beach the boat at night and camp onshore.]
used on row boats?
[perhaps when manpower was
scarce, but probably not in normal conditions]
What were their lives like?
[ big "biremes" (2 levels of oars) and "triremes"
(3 levels) for sea warfare and the like; special skills were important,
also muscle power. Living conditions must have been rough.]
What would a school look
like? One room?
[probably mostly in the courtyards (aulae) of an
instructor's home or
perhaps also sometimes in public spaces; different levels of schooling
for different ages and needs]
How did wars start in Ancient
[same as anywhere: agression, insult,
Did they have bread at each
FOOD: Along the coastline, the soil was not very fertile, but the ancient Greeks used systems of irrigation and crop rotation to help solve that problem. They grew olives, grapes, and figs. They kept goats, for milk and cheese. In the plains, where the soil was more rich, they also grew wheat to make bread. Fish, seafood, and home-made wine were very popular food items. In some of the larger Greek city-states, meat could be purchased in cook shops. Meat was rarely eaten, and was used mostly for religious sacrifices.
How did they talk? Do
you know any phrases? (What is your name? hello?)
How would my name look and sound in Greek letters?
GREEK HOUSES: Greek houses, in the 6th and 5th century BCE, were made up of two or three rooms, built around an open air courtyard, built of stone, wood, or clay bricks. Larger homes might also have a kitchen, a room for bathing, a men's dining room, and perhaps a woman's sitting area. Although the Greek women were allowed to leave their homes for only short periods of time, they could enjoy the open air, in the privacy of their courtyard. Much of ancient Greek family life centered around the courtyard.
The ancient Greeks loved stories and fables. One favorite family activity was to gather in the courtyard to hear these stories, told by the mother or father. In their courtyard, Greek women might relax, chat, and sew. Most meals were enjoyed in the courtyard. Greek cooking equipment was small and light and could easily be set up there. On bright, sunny days, the women probably sheltered under a covered area of their courtyard, as the ancient Greeks believed a pale complexion was a sign of beauty.