Home sweet home

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By Jane Bowerconsultant in art, drama, dance and literacy

Create an image of home life in Ancient Greece with artefacts and images to stimulate role play and discussion

Using role play and studying artefacts are two approaches to learning that help children gain a greater understanding of why people did what they did, and how they might have felt about it. Paraphrasing Stephen Fry, history is not about aliens (or ‘people in books’); it is what we would have done if we had been born earlier.

Every object, no matter how mundane, has a story. Take the small vase and doll on the A3 poster; someone conceived the idea for them, designed them, made them, treasured them, used them, broke them, threw them away and perhaps, rediscovered them. When children are helped to build up the story of an artefact, its significance can become fascinating and very real. You may like to share the last of the ‘Essential facts’, below, with the children. There are also two activity sheet activity sheets on the back of the A3 posters that ask children to consider an ancient artefact from a modern viewpoint. The activities opposite focus on the role of women and children in Ancient Greece and how they lived their daily lives. The A1 poster will help to show children how households were run and how women and children contributed to its upkeep.

Essential facts

  • In general, a woman was trained in indoor work and to see, hear and speak as little as possible. A man’s work was seen as being outdoors.
  • Although the social ideal for a Greek woman was to spin wool, bake bread and keep house, many women, like men, needed to work for a living. Those in the country might work in agriculture, while townswomen would trade or keep a shop with their husbands.
  • A large part of family life was spent in religious activity, privately, or publicly at the many festivals.
  • Marriages were usually arranged, with wives often being much younger than their husbands, chosen for the purposes of good household management and bearing healthy children.
  • Infant mortality was very high; only one in three children survived their first year. When a child was three it was presented, at a special ritual ceremony, with a miniature wine jug. Many such jugs have been found in graves of children who died before they could receive them.
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