Founding Myths

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12559

Have you ever told a "tall tale" (a.k.a. "lie") to make yourself look good? Maybe a story about where you or your folks came from? Learn how ancient people made a "place" for themselves in the world!


Mythology, World

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Take a look at this neat old picture. Can you guess where this is?

Broadway & Spring 1785

Image drawn by A. Anderson is part of The New York Public Library Digital Collections Image ID 800084.

Do you think you know where it is?

Here’s a clue: It’s the most highly populated city in the United States. It’s one of the most famous cities in the world. Its nickname is, “The Big Apple.” Believe it or not, it’s New York City! Here’s a more recent picture of the exact same location shown above, courtesy of Google Maps:

corner of Broadway and Spring in NYC

In your notebook or journal, write down as many responses to the following question as you can think of:

  • What are the differences between the New York of the first photo and the New York of the second photo?

The differences you noted might include the following:

  • There are a lot more buildings in the newer one.
  • There are a lot more people in the newer one.
  • The new New York City has a lot more technology, cars, and thus traffic.

All of those observations are true. One thing you probably didn’t include in your list of differences: the older picture has fewer stories.

Some modern geographers — the people who study and create maps — say there is a difference between “spaces” and “places.” In order to understand the difference between the two, try this little thought experiment:

Imagine you are walking along a country road and you come across a giant empty field. You walk through the field and find nothing there but some old bricks and a lot of weeds. You carry on with your walk and forget about the field as the days pass.

Two weeks later, a family member says to you, “There is a field nearby that no one seems to know about. All that’s left there is old bricks and a bunch of weeds, but it was actually one of the most important battlefields of the Civil War!” You suddenly realize that the field you walked in briefly and then forgot about was actually an important place! All it needed to go from empty space to important place was a cool story.

Take a moment to write answers to the following questions in your notebook or journal:

  • Can you recall any stories that go along with a certain place?
  • Why do stories have the power to turn ordinary spaces into amazing places?
  • Even if they are not “true,” what do you think these stories can tell us about a people and place?

The people of the ancient world used stories to turn the empty spaces they found into important places. They created amazing fables to explain why a certain space was chosen or why the features of a certain city appear the way they do.

In the Got It? section, learn about the founding myth of one of the greatest cities in history: Rome!

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