Ancient Greeks: The Olympics' War Games - Teaching through Drama


By Peter Vass, published 16th June 2011


When I was a boy the Greek Olympics was one of the perennials of the primary history curriculum, alongside the Battle of Hastings and the execution of Charles I.

I have memories of an old text book showing pictures of scantily-clad men competing doggedly under a burning sun, urged on by elderly patricians in the stands. I remember being told the story of the girl who tried to sneak into the games disguised as a man and the ‘accident' that undid her subterfuge! Heady stuff for an 11- year-old boy in those days!

I have discovered since that so much of what I learned was not only erroneous but a crude attempt to portray the games as a straightforward athletics event with a bit of religion and theatre thrown in. The reality is very different and, whilst making the ‘teachability' of the subject more challenging, can reveal much of the motives and purposes behind the original Olympics...

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