In History class, our 7th and 8th graders are diving into the Golden Age of Athens.
This year we began our history journey by learning when the marshmallow was invented (c. 1000bce), when the Iliad was written (c. 760bce), when the printing press was invented (1440ce), and when Lord of the Rings was published (1954). This gave us the opportunity to look at timelines, and especially the use of the terms bce, ce, and c. We discussed the forms of historical evidence we can use: ruins, artifacts, art, and writing. We studied the world map and located places we have visited and what we learned in our travels. After this introduction to our study of history, we launched into the theme for the year: The Golden Age of Athens.
During Block I we are studying the Ancient Olympic Games. We began by studying the Labors of Heracles, the model athlete of the ancient world, which were codified and depicted on the Temple of Zeus in Olympia (460bce). A major focus of the year will be gaining facility reading original sources and so we read the Heracles story in the Bibliotecha of Apollodorus (100-200ce). Making use of secondary sources, the students worked in pairs studying the many references in the story and preparing oral presentations for the class, which we will do throughout the year. We completed our study of the Labors with the students working in teams identifying 34 artistic depictions of the Heracles myth. We will continue to study mosaic, vase painting, sculpture, and painting to understand the culture of the time.
We went on to read an excerpt from Hesiod’s Works and Days (700bce), which contemplates Good Strife (healthy competition) and Bad Strife (blood lust), to understand the place of athletic competition in ancient Greece. We then read about the games in Homer's Illiad that the Greeks indulged in after the burial of Patroklos, in the midst of the Trojan war. Throughout the year, we will consider the philosophical and political ideas underlying the events and practices of the time.
During the remainder of the block we will study the importance of the gymnasium, the athletic events of the Ancient Olympics, the Four Crown Games, and finally Olympia itself.
-- Ilyse Gordis