Would you rather live in Athens or Sparta? Prep Five spent last Wednesday exploring the different cultures of the two ancient Greek city states with our two Ancient Greek visitors.
Firstly, we explored boxes of artefacts relating to different aspects of Athenian life, including education, theatre, religion, the market, buildings and medicine. The medicinal leeches and the theatrical masks and wigs proved extremely popular! We also played an Athenian game which involved consulting the oracle to determine our futures; those of us who were destined to become rich ladies and gentlemen were pleased, while those who were destined to become slaves were less happy with our fate. Greek theatre was brought to life by the acting talents of Thea, dressed as the Minotaur and an equally ferocious David as Medusa. We learnt about Athenian democracy by voting how we should use profits from our silver mines; our decision to build warships proved fortuitous as the Persians were shortly to attack our coast.
Spartan life was very different. Mia, in her role as a Spartan mother, brought her baby to be inspected by Nyla, the wise Spartan elder. Fortunately, Nyla considered the baby robust enough to be allowed to live, as babies showing any signs of weakness were abandoned on the mountainside. At seven years old the baby, acted by a suitably strong and robust looking Hugh, was sent off to warrior school, to be trained to fight for Sparta; stealing and bullying were encouraged and the boys were toughened up by whipping. Spartan soldiers did like to look their best when they fought in case they died in battle, however, and Harper and Hugh demonstrated how they combed each other’s hair before fighting. Jaydon, playing the part of an enemy Persian spy, was fooled by the soldiers’ grooming, assuming they were too vain to be dangerous enemies. His mistake led the Persians to underestimate the Spartans – a mistake which cost the Persians dearly.
In the afternoon we enjoyed using clay to make Greek coins, using different Greek symbols including owls, temples and snakes. Next, we moved to the hall to perform a play about Demeter and Persephone. Everyone donned costumes and masks; in addition to the main characters, musicians and chorus played an important part in telling the story. The gates of Hades were guarded by a suitably fearsome three headed dog, played by Hari, Yasmeen and Moaed, while David was the sinister ferryman who took Persephone across the River Styx. Our day ended with Greek dancing, and then the decision had to be made – which of the two city states would be our preferred home? The class was divided into two halves, some preferring the war-like life of the Spartans, others favouring the more varied, democratic life of the Athenians.
After an excellent day of learning and fun, we returned somewhat reluctantly to our classroom and the twenty-first century. Our thanks go to the Makers of History for their energy, enthusiasm and expertise, which made the day so memorable, and to all our parents for providing costumes and their invaluable support.