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Greek Vases

Greek Vases

Greek mythology is the collection of the myths and legends of Ancient Greece, referencing their 12 major gods and their lesser gods, who lived on Mt. Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. It was believed that the gods ruled the earth but were not all-powerful.

Greek vases came in different shapes and sizes, made for different purposes. They were often decorated beautifully, as in this example by the potter Exekias. This vase illustrates the story of Dionysus, the god of wine.

The myth: Dionysus, god of wine, was the son of Zeus, the king of gods, and a mortal mother, Semele. One day when he was sleeping on the shores of a Greek island, a band of pirates, thinking he was a prince, kidnapped him for ransom. Dionysus was far out to sea when he woke up. He tried to convince the pirates that he was a god, son of Zeus, but they did not believe him. Then grape vines grew out of the sea, twisting around the boat, twining around the oars and into the mast. The pirates became afraid and jumped overboard. Because Dionysus was a kind god, he did not let them drown, but changed them into dolphins. Greek legends say that is why the dolphin is the most human of all creatures that live in the ocean.

Questions to Ask

Read the myth while the students look at the print of the vase. Does the picture illustrate the story?

Identify items in the picture as they relate to the story.

Did the potter draw a sea on the vase? How do you know the boat is in a sea?

Were the gods and goddesses real? Hint — to the Greek people and their experience of living they were real.

What shape do you think this vase is? Use the pdf file to see different vases. Look at how wide the vase is, looking at it from the top. It also looks shallow.

What do you think this vase was used for?

What stories do you know with vines? Hint — 'Jack and the beanstalk', 'Sleeping beauty'. How are they the same, how different? Hint — good and bad characters, sleeping characters, etc.

What is this vase made of? Clay. What colors do you see?

Exekias the potter was known to make his pottery look very grand. What does that mean? Does this vase look grand?

Activities for the Classroom

Bring in empty jugs of milk covered in plain white paper. Let groups of students illustrate a story on the paper, using crayons or markers. Think of a story comparable to the Greek myths. How about the story of the Tooth Fairy? Or find a book on modern American legends, tell that to the students and have them illustrate based on the story. A popular book can also be the inspiration for the illustration. How about a modern day superhero like Spiderman?

Provide a paper bowl to each of the students and let each student illustrate the inside of the bowl. Use a modern day legend or story, or tell them another Greek legend to illustrate. There is a template provided in the pdf file that you can copy and distribute if you would rather just use paper.

Read the students age appropriate Greek Myths, and let them discuss it. The local library has a vast collection of books on the subject.

Use a large piece of paper, and let the students advise on the creation of a superhero, similar to the Greek gods, and the powers of that superhero. Draw the superhero for them, adding anything needed for the powers to work, like wings. Name the creation.

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