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How and why to teach your child Greek and Roman Mythology Early
The Birth of Venus by Botticelli
Why Teach Greek and Roman Myths
I remember mythology as a convoluted and seeming irrelevant chapter of school that I was glad to put behind me. But mythology is much more than a single chapter in history class, as I discovered when it began hunting me in literature classes. Much of the classic literature references mythology and many classic artists depicted these myths in their art work. To truly understand these classics you must have an understanding of ancient Greek and Roman myths. Also, to truly understand the cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome an understanding of their religious beliefs is needed. As the United States was founded on many ancient Greek and Roman principals, an understanding of their times can lead to a greater understanding of our own country.
Now consider how convoluted the ancient myths can be. The various and sundry relationships between the many gods and goddess can tax a person's ability to follow without any additional information. A single unit in history class is not enough to provide your child with an understanding or appreciation for the ancient Greek and Roman myths.
How to Teach Greek and Roman Myths
Many myths deal with adult subject matter, so starting with the myths themselves can be problematic. However, there is still a lot of material you can cover before you ever get to the stories.
Depending on your child's age choose several of the major gods or goddesses to introduce. For my daughters I started with six - three gods and three goddesses.
- Start by introducing the names in both Greek and Roman - Zeus in Greek and Jupiter in Roman myths
- Give a brief description of their attributes - Zeus was the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus, his domain was the heavens and his main attribute was the lightening bolt
- Explain the family relationships - Zeus' parents were Cronus and Rhea and his siblings were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon.
Each of these steps can fill an entire lesson.
Solar Bodies Named for Gods or Goddesses
The following solar bodies named for Roman gods or goddesses with the corresponding Greek name in parenthesis except those marked with an asterisk. The asterisk indicates that the Greek name is the name of the solar body.
- no Roman equivalent (Dione*)
- no Roman equivalent (Enceladus*)
- no Roman equivalent (Epimetheus*)
- no Roman equivalent (Ganymede*)
- no Roman equivalent (Hyperion*)
- no Roman equivalent (Iapetus*)
- no Roman equivalent (Io*)
- no Roman equivalent (Mimas*)
- no Roman equivalent (Phoebe*)
- no Roman equivalent (Proteus*)
- no Roman equivalent (Tethys*)
- no Roman equivalent (Titan)
- no Roman equivalent (Triton*)
- Caelus (Uranus*)
- Callisto (Callisto*)
- Ceres (Demeter)
- Europa (Europa*)
- Janus (no Greek equivalent)
- Jupiter (Zeus)
- Mars (Ares)
- Mercury (Hermes)
- Neptune (Poseidon)
- Ops (Rhea*)
- Prometheus (Prometheus*)
- Saturn (Cronus)
- Venus (Aphrodite)
- Vesta (Hestia)
Greek and Roman Gods
A fun way to introduce some of the Greek and Roman gods is using the solar system. Many of the Roman gods gave name to our planets and their moons - using that can be a fun tool for remembering the names of the gods of myth.
Print the images of the planets corresponding to those gods or goddesses you are introducing. (Wikipedia has a number of free images of the planets and moons of our solar system.) Then print the images of the Greek gods or goddess to whom they correspond. (DLTK has a large number of Greek mythology coloring pages.) Make sure each of the images has a name label. Then play a simple matching game with your child.
You can have your child create a simple collage of the two images to display in your classroom. Or you can laminate the images and play the matching game multiple times.
Another fun alternative is to purchase a three dimensional solar system. (Amazon has a set that I purchased for my girls that are like beach balls.) Then play a simple "hot potato" type game. Start with one planet and begin throwing it around the circle. The person throwing the ball says the name of the planet and the person catching the planet says the name of the corresponding Greek god. After a few minutes add another planet. It's a fun way to match the names up in your kids' minds.
The "hot potato" game would actually work with generic balls as well. Just tape a label on your balls. Then you can introduce the gods and goddesses that aren't named in the solar system. Or you could reverse direction and go from Greek to Roman.
Greek Gods and Symbols Worksheet
Teach the Gods' Attributes
The Greek and Roman gods and goddesses often had a symbol, an animal and/or a domain with which they were associated. For example the Greek god Apollo had three sacred animals: the swan, the wolf and the dolphin. His symbols include the bow and arrows, a laurel crown on his head, and the cithara or lyre.
To teach your child the symbols or attributes of the different gods and goddess start small. Apollo was the god of music with the lyre or cithara as a symbol and the swan as his animal. You can always add more information as your child masters the previous information.
A simple way to present the information is to provide your child with a color sheet. (HelloKids.com provides online and off line myth coloring sheets.) As he or she colors the image discuss the attributes of that god. Your child can then add these symbols to his or her picture.
If you are unsure which attributes are associated with which gods the Encyclopedia Mythica has a number of articles on the various Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. The information provided is very thorough and will be useful throughout your child's school career.
Gods and their symbols also lend themselves nicely to a matching game. Or you can create matching worksheets.
Greek Gods Partial Family Tree
Teaching the Relationships between the Gods of Myth
If you thought your family relationships were complicated they are nothing compared to the relationships between the gods of myth. The major deities often married siblings and then proceeded to have relations with whoever struck their fancy. Most of those affairs resulted in children. This can make untangling the relationships between the various gods and goddess very difficult.
Start with just a one of the Greek or Roman gods and determine who his parents and siblings were and just a couple of his children. Help your child create a family tree for that god. Save the chart and it can continue to help you sort out the relationships between the various gods and goddesses.
Clearly even before introducing the stories themselves there is enough information about the Greek and Roman gods to keep you and your child busy for quite some time. Remember to start slow as the information can also seem overwhelming if you let it.