Deep Roots of Ancient Greece

How is the ethos of ancient Greece still evident in modern American culture?


Key Staff

Classroom teacher (excellent opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration involving history, English, art and drama departments)

Key Skills

Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture
Developing Arts Literacies: Understanding Genres
Creative Thinking: Creativity and Innovation


This lesson examines specific areas of ancient Greek influence on Western thought and culture. Students consider processes through which ancient Greek influence has been infused and sustained in the Western ethos. Through research on diverse topics, students collect information that documents the nature and depth of that influence. Students then make an assessment of ways Western ideals resonate ancient Greek ideals.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Construct an analysis of basic perceptions of diverse aspects of Western thought and culture
  • Reflect on the processes through which the philosophical outlook and cultural values and patterns of ancient Greece have been infused and sustained as a strong influence on Western thought and culture through the ages
  • Trace a range of sources to assemble knowledge and document specific evidence of the expansive and deep influence of ancient Greece on the shaping of diverse areas of Western thought and culture, particularly in America
  • Identify ways ancient Greek influence resonates in the attitudes, values, and outlooks defined in the perceptions of ideals articulated in Assignment 1 such as a good citizen, a good leader, patriotism and class structure
  • Compose in writing an assessment of the impact of ancient Greek influence on personal attitudes, values, and outlooks

Teaching Approach

  • Thematic
  • Project-Based Learning
  • Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Discovery Learning
  • Discussion
  • Experiential Learning
  • Reflection

Assessment Type

Determined by Teacher


Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Prior Student Knowledge

  • Legacies of ancient Greece
  • Ancient Greek culture

Physical Space



  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction

Accessibility Notes

Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.

Build Knowledge


1. Introduce the word "ethos." Share a dictionary definition of the word, for instance: "the spirit of a people, a civilization or a system as expressed in its culture, institutions, ways of thought, philosophy and religion" and/or “the distinguishing character or tone of a group."

Use the definition of the word "ethos" as a springboard for exploring students’ perceptions of the "ethos" of modern Western culture, particularly as the Western "ethos" is filtered through the lens of America’s vision. Ask students to define American ethos. What factors influenced the development of this concept? How has it changed over time?

2. Divide the class into groups of three. Divide the following topics up among the groups. Distribute the Perceptions Of The "Ethos" Of Modern Western Culture worksheet located within the Resource Carousel to the students. Ask each group to discuss and negotiate a written list of their best ideas about prevailing Western attitudes held or "best practices" followed for each of the assigned topics below:

  • Design of government
  • Law as a societal force
  • A good person
  • A noble person
  • A good leader
  • A good citizen
  • A good athlete
  • Tthe "good" life
  • Class structure
  • Role of women
  • Value of education
  • Outlook on what should be included in educating children
  • The process of rituals (funerals, weddings, coming of age, bestowing honor, etc.)
  • Justifications for going to war
  • A "true" patriot
  • Concept of a hero
  • Concept of "heroic"
  • Concept of the "other"

3. Have students share the lists in large group format. Encourage students to save their notes for use as "measuring sticks" of ancient Greek influence on Western thought and culture as they go forward in their examination of ancient Greek sources.

Build Knowledge

1. Using the Teacher’s Discussion Guide located within the Resource Carousel, initiate a two-part discussion in which students share their conjectures about the following:

  • Specific processes through which ancient Greece influence has been infused and sustained in Western thought and culture
  • Some aspects of ancient Greek influence that have had special impact on the shaping of the Western "ethos", particularly that of America


1. Students will develop a personal essay entitled "The Ancient Greek in Me," in which they share a soul-searching account of how something they value in an area of their life is guided by an ideal aligned with an ideal handed down from ancient Greece. To help students grasp the far-reaching influence of ancient Greece on our modern Western culture, assignments may be given on topics that appeal to students’ special interests while forcibly documenting the range and depth of ancient Greek influence.


1. To help students grasp the far-reaching influence of ancient Greece on our modern Western culture, assign students an independent study in which they will forcibly document the range and depth of ancient Greek influence on Western culture. They should choose a specific aspect of culture which will allow them to explore the Greek influence in depth. Options for an independent study may include:

  • A formal research paper
  • A formal student-prepared "lesson" in which the student "teacher" draws on the members of the class to inductively uncover specific ways an ancient Greek source has been used as the centerpiece of a chosen topic
  • The development of a film or CD
  • A live performance
  • The development of a design for a Web interactive or the actual development of a Web interactive
  • Independent Study Guidelines handout available within the Resource Carousel


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Visual Arts

Grade 9-12 Visual Arts Standard 4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

National Standards in Other Subjects

Geography Standard 10: Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

World History

World History Standard 8: Understands how Aegean civilization emerged and how interrelations developed among peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia from 600 to 200 BCE



Daniella Garran
Original Writer

Jayne Karsten
Original Writer

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