Detailed description of the Ancient GREEK HISTORY Curriculum

 

After devoting the first month of the school year to an overview of Ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Jewish history, we delve into a more detailed study of Ancient Greek history.  The course is designed to include both the culture and the history of Ancient Greek (primarily Spartan and Athenian) civilizations beginning with the semi-mythical times of the Trojan War and ending with the death of Alexander the Great.  The final weeks of the course are devoted to a short survey of Ancient Rome, intended to give the children an idea of the topics to be covered in detail in sixth grade. 

Weekly lectures are supplemented by weekly assigned readings from H.A. Guerber’s children’s history book The Story of the Greeks.  Each assigned reading is accompanied by a homework sheet with questions on the material read.  However, the course is intended to likewise give the students a close look at aspects of Greek culture not discussed in the textbook.  For example, th course includes a unit on Homer, a unit on the Greek theatre, a unit on Xenophon’s Anabasis, and a unit on hoplite armor and phalanx arrangement.  We also study the Greek pantheon and the students write reports on the Greek deities.  When appropriate, we read excerpts from original Greek authors.  Thus, we’ve had readings from the Iliad, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon.

While studying Greek history, we make sure that we see it not in isolation but against the background of the contemporary Jewish history.  Thus, we compared Solon to King Solomon and noticed that Artaxerxes, the Persian king at whose courts Themistocles ended his days, is the Ahashverosh from Megillat Esther.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of European history is its close affinity to Western literature.  One can hardly read a classic book without encountering allusions to the Greek and Roman culture.  Our two-year course on the ancient world is, accordingly, designed in such a way that it closely interacts with the literature course.  Greek myths and selections from Homer are included into the literature course reading list, and we learn to recognize references to the poetry and history of Classical Antiquity in the works of such poets as Friedrich Schiller, Edgar Allan Poe, or Lord Byron.  For example, after learning in history about the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse and about the famous story of Damon and Pythias, we read Friedrich Schiller’s poetic version of the same story in literature class.