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Tools of the Ancient Greeks: A Kid's Guide to the History & Science of Life in Ancient Greece

Tools of the Ancient Greeks: A Kid's Guide to the History & Science of Life in Ancient Greece

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Tools of the Ancient Greeks: A Kid's Guide to the History & Science of Life in Ancient Greece

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323 pagine
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Jul 15, 2006


Tools of the Ancient Greeks: A Kid's Guide to the History and Science of Life in Ancient Greece explores the scientific discoveries, athletic innovations, engineering marvels, and innovative ideas created more than two thousand years ago. Through biographical sidebars, interesting facts, fascinating anecdotes, and fifteen hands-on activities, readers will learn how Greek innovations and ideas have shaped world history and our own world view.

Jul 15, 2006

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Tools of the Ancient Greeks - Kris Bordessa

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by Rachel Dickinson

Tools of Timekeeping: A Kid’s Guide to the History and Science of Telling Time

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Tools of the Ancient Romans: A Kid’s Guide to the History and Science of Life in Ancient Rome

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Tools of Native Americans: A Kid’s Guide to the History and Culture of the First Americans

by Kim Kavin

Nomad Press

A division of Nomad Communications

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Copyright © 2006 by Nomad Press

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. The trademark Nomad Press and the Nomad Press logo are trademarks of Nomad Communications, Inc. Printed in the United States.

ISBN: 0-9785037-1-6

Questions regarding the ordering of this book should be addressed to Independent Publishers Group

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When we look at the modern world and try to figure out why we live the way we do, we find ourselves turning again and again to a small nation in the Mediterranean Sea, and to events that took place there more than 2,000 years ago.

Much of the world around us has been heavily influenced by people we now call ancient Greeks. If you find that hard to believe, just look to the sky. Our constellations go by names like Orion, Cassiopeia, Andromeda, and Perseus. Those names come directly from ancient Greek mythology. Even one of America’s space programs was named for the Greek god, Apollo.

Some American cities sport Greek names—Athens, Georgia, is one and Homer, Alaska, is another. Some of our most famous buildings feature sweeping colonnades and imposing columns—elements that were prominent in ancient Greek architecture. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., is just one example: it was modeled after the Greek Parthenon.

From our democratic society to our theater, and from our architecture to our names for constellations, ancient Greek culture has influenced our lives today. When we measure, map, and mold the world, we use tools that were invented by the ancient Greeks. Even when we do something simple like argue or run a race, we have the ancient Greeks to thank for showing us how to do it best.

Tools of the Ancient Greeks will take you through the intellectual triumphs and mechanical creations of this long-gone, but not-forgotten civilization and show how their world has influenced ours. Biology, astronomy, athletics, democracy, logic, and reason—the Greeks laid the groundwork in nearly every field of learning you can imagine. With this book you can follow in their footsteps.



Chapter 1: Ancient Greece and the Beginnings of Democracy

Chapter 2: Farming, Trade, and the Greek Way of Life

Chapter 3: The Arts of the Ancient Greeks

Chapter 4: Greek Gods

Chapter 5: Sports and the Olympics

Chapter 6: Philosophy

Chapter 7: Architecture

Chapter 8: Science, Math, and Medicine

Chapter 9: Mapping the World and the Stars

Chapter 10: Warfare in Ancient Greece


Learn the names and stories of the ancient Greek populations

Explore ancient Greek philosophy and inventions

Compare the ancient Greek government and way of life to your own

Ancient Greece

and the Beginnings of Democracy

When we talk about ancient Greece, we are referring to the time period from about 800 BCE to 31 BCE. Those 800 years in ancient Greece produced some amazing ideas, inventions, discoveries, and beliefs, many of which we use in our daily lives today. But before we focus solely on those clever Greeks, let’s take a quick look at how ancient Greece evolved.


As you read, you will notice dates with the letters BCE. This stands for Before Common Era. The beginning of the Common Era is marked by the birth of Jesus and begins with the year 1 followed by the letters CE. Events that occurred prior to the first year of the Common Era are classified as Before Common Era. The years BCE may seem backward, because as time passes, the years actually become smaller in number. A child born in 300 BCE, for instance, would celebrate his or her 10th birthday in the year 290 BCE. Think of it as a countdown to Common Era.

The First Greeks

Situated on the Aegean Sea, ancient Greece is considered part of the Aegean world. The Aegean world includes all of the civilizations in this area. The Minoans were the first great civilization in the Aegean world. They lived a peaceful existence on the island of Crete, near mainland Greece. Although much information about the Minoan civilization is lost to history, we do know that the Minoans lived on Crete for at least 750 years, and most historians think the first Minoans came from Asia.

Archeologists have unearthed Minoan palaces with elegant rooms and elaborate wall paintings, indicating that the Minoan culture was a wealthy one. One interesting discovery about Minoan culture is that they didn’t seem to have any military whatsoever. The Minoans traded with other populations throughout the Aegean world, including the Egyptians (they even appear in Egyptian art), but archeologists and historians can’t find any evidence that the Minoans had an army, or even soldiers. And although the Minoans were the forerunners of ancient Greece, they didn’t speak Greek. In fact, no one is sure what language the Minoans used to communicate.



Around 1450 BCE the island of Crete and the Minoans fell under the power of the Mycenaeans, who did speak Greek. The Mycenaeans lived on the mainland of Greece, and their nation was called Mycenae. They were excellent craftspeople: they built elaborate underground tombs, giant defensive walls, and the Lion Gate that still stands today. Like the Minoans, the Mycenaeans were traders. Wealth came to them through trade with other lands, such as Egypt and northern Europe. They traded items such as animal skins and oil for papyrus, a paper-like material made from plant fibers, and amber, a fossilized resin used in making jewelry. But unlike the peaceful Minoans, the Mycenaeans were a warlike people, always battle-ready. Not only did they defend their own people, they actually went looking for trouble. The most famous Mycenaean battle of all is one you’ll hear more about later: the battle of Troy in the Trojan War.

!There weren’t any Greeks in ancient Greece. That term was given to the people of Greece generations later by the Romans. The people we now know as ancient Greeks called themselves Hellenes, after Helen of Troy. Hellenic means Greek.

Q: What language did the Minoans speak?

What language did the Mycenaeans speak?

The Trojan Horse.

Words to know

archeologist: someone who studies the buildings, graves, tools, and other objects of people who lived in the past to learn about their culture

Know Your Ancient Greeks


According to legend, Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was the daughter of the Greek god, Zeus, and Leda, a mortal queen. Men came from all over ancient Greece hoping to marry the Spartan princess. Helen had to obey the wishes of her mortal father, Tyndarecus, and she married a man named Menelaus, king of Sparta.

The goddess Aphrodite had other plans for Helen. Aphrodite was in debt to a man named Paris because he had chosen her as the most beautiful of three women in a contest. In payment, Aphrodite offered up the beautiful Helen to Paris, and made Paris so attractive that Helen wouldn’t be able to refuse him. While Menelaus was away, Paris charmed Helen. People debate whether Paris kidnapped Helen or she ran away with him, but in any case, Menelaus was not happy.

When Paris and Helen reached Troy, they were married. Menelaus and his brother, Agamemnon, followed with an army of men to retrieve Helen. And that’s how the Trojan War began in about 1200 BCE.

The mighty Mycenaeans fell under attack between 1200 and 1150 BCE. It isn’t known exactly what happened, but some historians believe the Mycenaeans were attacked by the Dorian people from the north. In any case, in less than one hundred years, the Mycenaeans abandoned their civilization, and left few clues as to how they lived. This time period (from about 1100 to 800 BCE) is known as the Greek dark age because all written language and signs of culture completely disappeared. Even the decoration of pottery used during this time was only simple geometric forms, not the complicated decorations the Mycenaeans painted. Most historians think that those who survived the upheaval settled into an agricultural, almost tribal, way of life.

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey

The Iliad tells the story of a single event that occurred during the ninth year of the Trojan War. Achilles, a Greek warrior, became angry at the Greek leader Agamemnon when Agamemnon took a slave who belonged to Achilles. In retaliation, Achilles withdrew from battle and prayed that the war would turn against the Greeks—and it did. Achilles finally returned to battle when his best friend was killed by the great Trojan hero, Hector.

In the Odyssey, Homer tells of Odysseus’s long journey home after the Trojan War. Delayed for 10 years by the gods, Odysseus encounters much trouble on the way and falls in love with the goddess Kalypso. But when given the choice between staying with Kalypso and becoming immortal, or returning to his wife who is waiting at home, Odysseus chooses to continue home.


The age of the Mycenaeans is described in two of the most famous stories in all of literature: Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Written many years after the events they describe, these famous poems tell stories about the Mycenaean civilization. The epics give us some idea of what life must have been like before the Greek dark age.

Gradually, the civilization that we know as ancient Greece emerged from the dark age around 800 BCE. Small agricultural communities slowly expanded into larger settlements. These settlements extended from mainland Greece, across islands scattered throughout the Aegean Sea, and to Asia Minor, a peninsula of land across the Aegean Sea from mainland Greece that we now know as Turkey. Greek colonies even developed in areas that are now Italy, Spain, and Egypt. Ancient Greece covered a lot of ground, but it wasn’t a single country with one ruler or government like it is today. Instead, those small settlements became a collection of more than 1,000 isolated city-states, called poleis.

Coins in Ancient Greece

Each city-state had its own coins, recognizable by a distinctive design. Coins were stamped to indicate how much metal they contained, and the markings on both sides of the coin helped to ensure that people wouldn’t shave it to collect bits of the valuable metal.

A silver coin of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV.

Greek Poleis

A typical city-state, or polis, was made up of a central town surrounded by smaller villages and agricultural lands. People who lived in the villages could easily walk to town to conduct business or visit friends. The central towns were built around a hill called an acropolis. The acropolis was fortified against wartime attacks and offered a clear view of attackers as well as protection to the citizens.

In spite of their physical similarities, each city-state had its own traditions and government. Ancient Greece, therefore, was not one country, but a bunch of tiny nations.

Greek king or basileus.

The period in ancient Greece from 800 to 500 BCE is called the archaic period. During this time many city-states were ruled by king-like figures known as the basileus. People soon tired of this type of leadership and eventually overthrew these rulers. City-states began experimenting with different styles of rule, and it was within these city-states that the first democratic government was tested.

words to know

polis: city-state (plural poleis)

acropolis: high place of the city

archaic: from a much earlier period of time, the earliest phases of a culture

basileus: a Greek king


The word democracy comes from the Greek term for people’s rule. Democracy allows all the people of a governed body to

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  • (4/5)
    This book is a kid?s guide to the history and science of life in ancient Greece. There are 15 different hands-on activities for kids to build, explore, and learn. Kids can benefit from learning different cultural contributions to science in this book. The book is for age 9 and up, and would not be suited for anyone younger than that. This book would be a good reference guide to assist in finding the origins of many modern scientific debates.