The Early Aegean Age • Mycenaeans
Objective: After learning about the Mycenaeans, choose a story from Homer's Iliad or Odyssey to act out for the rest of the class.
- What role did Homer's epics play in ancient Greek culture? Why do you think these works were so influential?
Notes on Implementation:
- Extend learning by having students read about Greek heroes Odysseus and Achilles in the Perspectives section of the site. Then have students write a one-paragraph "Point of View" essay about Greek heroes. Publish these as op-ed pieces in a class newsletter.
- If students need support, work with small groups to read aloud the translation of Homer on the website and work with students to define unfamiliar terms. Stop after key moments to have students summarize what is happening.
Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in the Early Aegean Age Topic Center within the World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras database.
The Mycenaeans were a Bronze Age culture that ruled Greece from about 1650 to 1200 BCE. Many elements of Mycenaean culture are preserved in the Iliad and the Odyssey, epic works composed by the Greek poet Homer during ca. the eighth century BCE. Those works tell the stories of the Trojan War and the wanderings of the hero Odysseus, emphasizing the warlike values of Mycenaean culture. Homeric heroes celebrate warfare as an opportunity to win power, plunder, and glory for great warriors. Archaeological evidence supports Homer's picture of Mycenaean society as led by powerful warrior-kings and focused on warfare.
In this activity, you will consider what it means to be a hero, both by today's definition and in ancient Greece. Then you will act out an ancient Greek "hero story" from Homer's Iliad for the class.
- Begin by reflecting on what it means to be a hero. Use a word web and write "hero" in the center. Then, spend 3 minutes or so to brainstorm all the words and phrases that come to mind. Write your words and phrases in circles surrounding the center circle.
- Next, review the Resources to learn about the Mycenaeans and some of their heroes. Then choose one of the stories from Homer's Iliad in the Cultural Documents part of the website (see Homer: Iliad Book I, Achilles and Agamemnon quarrel; Homer: Iliad Book III, Helen on the walls of Troy; Homer: Iliad Book XXXII, the death of Hector; Homer: Odyssey Book IX, escape from the Cyclops; Homer: Odyssey Book V, leaving Calypso's island; Homer: Odyssey Book XII, the Sirens, Scylla, and Charybdis.)
- In ancient Greece, most stories were told orally. Work alone or with a group of classmates to come up with an oral presentation of the story you have selected. You may introduce the story as a one-act play or as a dramatic reading. Consider using costumes, props, or visuals to make the story come alive.
- After you and your peers have shared these stories, revisit your word web. How does Homer's view of heroes compare to yours? Why do you think Homer's works were so influential? Why have they withstood the test of time?
- Oral history and tradition perpetuate cultural norms and religion
- Art and architecture depict society's values and ideals
Possible Answers for Activity:
Dramatic readings should demonstrate an understanding of the story selected or chosen.
Small group discussion should demonstrate an understanding of the role that heroes played in Greek culture. Students may mention the following key points:
- Oral tradition and stories played an important role in passing on cultural norms and values.
- Like the heroes of today, Greek heroes demonstrated positive traits of bravery, self-sacrifice.
- Gods and goddesses played a key role in Homer's stories.
- Heroes in Greek tales were confronted with a wide variety of challenges, including the forces of nature and confrontations with Greek gods.
- One message may have been to appease the gods and not to anger them by challenging or defying them.
- Gods fought against one another, and humans were sometimes caught in the middle.
"Mycenaeans." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Content/2043345?cid=257. Accessed 20 Oct. 2019.