Ancient Athens

Contributor: Ryann Maginn. Lesson ID: 12587

Why do we care about a bunch of ancient, crumbled buildings? We can learn a lot from the people who inhabited them -- people who gave us concepts we use today in medicine, government, and education!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Did you know the mythical Greek goddess, Athena, served as a guardian for Athens?

She was praised for her wisdom, courage, strategy and skill. Ironically, women were not allowed much power in ancient Athens. Learn more interesting facts!

Stories are told that Athena served as a guardian of Athens, where she protected civilized life.

Athenians built a temple for their goddess, called the Parthenon. A statue of Athena was placed inside the temple at one time, but is believed to have been removed during the 5th century. However, other statues depicting this powerful goddess can be seen in Athens and across the world.

Below is a picture of the Parthenon, followed by a picture of Athena:

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In addition to their strong religious beliefs, Athens was known for many other wonderful things as well. Out of all the city-states, Athens was the largest.

In Ancient Greece, there was not just one country per se, but instead it was composed of 1500 city-states, with a powerful city in the center of each that controlled each of their own governments. Furthermore, Athens was the first of its kind to develop a democracy.

A democracy is a form of government run by elected individuals chosen by the people of a city. Most other city-states were run by a king and queen or an oligarchy, a small group of powerful people. Athenians believed that the people of Athens should be able to establish and vote for their laws as well as chose their ruler. However, women, slaves, and foreigners were not permitted to vote!

Pictured below: The Agora was a place for Athenians to meet and discuss ideas and government:

the Agora

Athens was also home to many amazing philosophers, writers, and artists. Below is a list of historical figures that impacted Athens. Some concepts established by these individuals are still implemented today:

  • Herodotus named "Father of History" for being the first historian to collect and document events in time
  • Socrates named "Father of Philosophy" for uncovering basic ideas and discussions about knowledge and thought
  • Hippocrates named "Father of Medicine" for identifying more than 70 diseases and treatments, which was uncommon for this time period
  • Aeschylus, Aristophanes and Sophocles wrote famous plays, such as The Frogs, Ajax and Oedipus Rex.
  • Plato established a school for the study of philosophy, called "The Academy."

Note: When we use the expression, "Father of," it means that person was the first to develop an idea or movement.

Researchers have concluded that the city of Athens dates back to 2000 BC. This means, to reach the time of the Athenians, we would have to travel back in time to the year 0, then keep traveling back another 2,000 years!

It's amazing when you realize the historical impact one city can have on the world. Their governmental and philosophical ideas from thousands of years ago still influence many countries today.

  • How have the ancient Greeks influenced aspects of your life?
  • In what why is your government in the state or country where you live influenced by ancient Greeks?
  • How about modern medicines or military?
  • Consider how life would be different without these ideas and discoveries made by ancient Greeks.

Below is a current map of Greece, showing where Athens is located:

map of Greeece

Continue on to the Got It? section, where you will explore the great wonders of Athens as you watch a short video.

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