Simulation: Ancient Greece (Sparta)

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Language Arts, Reading, Fluency, Reading Comprehension, Oral Language, Listening, Speaking, Social Studies, Ancient History

Grade 5- 8


Students will identify that Spartan civilization was founded upon a militaristic point of view that allowed no tolerance for contrary views or physical limitations.


Make a copy of the dilemma for each student.

  1. Have students grouped in teams of four. Have one student chosen as a team recorder.
  2. Pass out the copies of the dilemma. Orally read "Commander Lear" to the class.
  3. Have students within each group take turns listing positive qualities of the main character, Commander Lear. The recorder should list these qualities. In a similar manner, have team members take turns listing negative characteristics of Commander Lear.
  4. For the remaining questions, have students pair off within each team and discuss them. After pairs have discussed the questions, they should share their responses with the other pair within the team.
  5. The whole class should reconvene, and the teacher should review the items of the dilemma by allowing each team to share either their positive/negative qualities lists or their views on one of the other questions.
  6. Explain to the class that they will begin learning about a "civilized" Ancient Greek city-state that promoted most of the actions presented in "Commander Lear."
Sparta, Athen's perennial nemesis among the Greek city-states, was founded on the idea of military might producing economic right. Like most city-states on the Greek peninsula, Sparta was unable to support itself solely from the products of the rocky, infertile soil. However, while most Greeks turned to the sea for trade and commerce, Sparta made the conscious decision to aggressively impose its will on neighboring city-states, subjugating their people into forced labor for the benefit of Sparta.
As a result, Spartan society developed into three classes. Spartans were the military faction of society constituting a mere five percent of the people. The vast majority of the people were traders, artisans, and slaves. The former enjoyed some freedoms while the latter had virtually none.
A Spartan male left home at age seven to enter into severe military training lasting until he became 20, whereupon he was considered in active service until the age of 60. While marriage was permitted, no Spartan could live with his wife until the age of 30.
Women were trained to be good wives of soldiers, and the "soft" education of the arts, literature, and philosophy were frowned upon as being unworthy for a warrior. Newborns were examined shortly after birth. Any birth defect or hint of infirmity immediately sentenced the infant to death by exposure, and it was left on a mountainside to die. Imperfect specimens would not be accepted in Spartan society.
"A Spartan Dilemma" is designed to be an anticipatory set prior to the class study of this Greek civilization. If time permits after the study has been completed, the instructor may wish to allow students to make a comparison between the Spartan attitude towards society and Hitler's view of an Aryan "master race" in Nazi Germany. For a more contemporary comparison, these Spartan ideas may be compared to the various supremacist groups that often make the news with their elitist racial diatribes.


the accompanying dilemma story, "Commander Lear"

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