The Athenian family

According to the national curriculum, the first two years of History in the Italian Classical Lyceum are dedicated to the Roman and Greek civilizations. In order to let my student have a consistent and concrete insight on the classical Athens (which we were regularly studying with the textbook), I started a group work called "The Athenian Family".

From Davies' Athenian propertied families, a thorough catalogue of the families attested in Athens in antiquity, I picked five historical figures whose life crossed the main events of the Classical Athens in the fifth and fourth century BCE.

I therefore collected a series of texts (both ancient and modern --see select bibliography infra) which described the main activities in which such historical figures were involved: agriculture, trade, war, banking, politics and so on. As some of these texts were in English and German, I had to translate them, but the English ones proved to be  very useful to help Suzanne, an American exchange-student just arrived from California, take part to the activities of the class.

Together with these primary and secondary texts, I provided my students with a brief note reporting the main biographical events of the selected figures, and I asked them to write down a fictitious biography, with the only caveat that the historical events and settings had to be carefully respected. As a parallel and a model, I also presenet the virtually complete series of the Aristotle Detective novels by M. Doody, whose historical precision has been widely recognised.

In such a group work, my students were given the chance to learn the foundations of the Athenian classic society in a more interesting and varied way. In particular, my aim was to make sure that, by involving the students in a creative and partecipated work, the information they have dealt with is effectively understood and retained.

Selected Bibliography:

Senofonte L'amministrazione della casa Venezia 1989 (ed. C. Natali)

Senofonte Ipparchico: manuale per il comandante di cavalleria Bari 2001 (ed. C. Petrocelli)

J.K. Davies  Athenian Propertied Families, 600-300 BC Oxford 1971

M. Vidale  L'Idea di un Lavoro Lieve Padova 2002

L.J. Samons  The empire of the Owl Stuttgart 2000

F. Mijer- O. Nijf  Trade, Transport, and society in the ancient world: a sourcebook New York 1992

B. Hopper  Handel und Industrie im klassischen Griechenland Muenchen 1982

S. Settis, edt., I Greci Torino 2001


As for the Aristotle Detective novels by M. Doody, fully translated in Italian by Sellerio: