I will be in costume and in character as Neira, an Ancient Greek woman.
In order to point out that the Ancient Greeks spoke another language, I begin by introducing myself in Ancient Greek – its not a lot, just, “Hello, my name is…” This allows me to inform the children that they’re all barbarians, since our word “barbarian” comes from the Greek “barbaroi” which basically means anyone who doesn’t speak Greek.
The first half of the performance is all about everyday life, so I briefly explain what I’m wearing before getting a couple of the children up to get dressed as civilised people ought to.
Because the production of clothing was such an important part of the lives of women in the ancient world, we then go on to look at how clothing was made. The preparation of wool for spinning allows for a brief discussion of the importance of slave labour in the classical world, then I do a little spinning (audience participation required), before asking for a couple of volunteers to demonstrate how my warp-weighted loom works. Food and cooking may also be discussed during this session.
As I am speaking I ask the children questions, firstly because this allows me to guage their level of knowledge and adjust my performance accordingly, and secondly because it gets them to make direct comparisons between their everyday lives and the equivalent aspect of Ancient Greek life. My performance is also interspersed with little anecdotes from history and mythology, so for instance when we look at weaving I would then tell the story of Athene and Arachne.
The second half is about wider aspects of Greek life.
We can do some fun role play about how the Ancient Greeks interacted with their Gods, focusing on Asclepius, God of medicine.
I divide the class up into who would be citizens and who would be slaves, allowing us to explore the lives of different classes within society. We can also explore education, and how this differed according to wealth and gender.
Finally there is a discussion of weapons and warfare. For this year I have newly acquired a set of body armour, which I’m hoping it will be possible to get someone to wear at this point.
I usually pause for a while to allow an artefact handling session using the pieces we have been looking at so far – helmet, sword, dyestuffs etc. I prefer not to talk at this point because it’s nice to let the class discuss the objects for themselves.
Questions and answers to finish as time allows – I normally ask the teacher to choose who asks because that way you are in charge of when the session ends.
Time for each session is approximately two hours – however this is flexible to fit around your timetable for breaks, assemblies etc. Obviously for a half day some of the above might have to be omitted, so if there is a particular subject you want to focus on please let me know.