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English Detective #103 Ancient Greek roots of democracy-- & English
April 03, 2018

Ancient Greece has contributed so much to western civilization, as well as to Anglo-American culture, politics, and language (English)! Here are a few articles introducing Athens, Sparta, and Greek democracy, as well as stories of the Greek origins of some English words, and a chance to practice the more common ones.

I enjoyed Newsela’s introduction to the development of Athens and Sparta. It’s suitable for 6th grade through adult readers, and good English reading practice even if you already know the major differences between the two cities and why they clashed.

Newsela includes 10 practice questions with bolded “power words,” a writing activity, and a 4-question quiz that can be used with classes. (Teachers can sign up and assign these activities to their students at no cost, although Newsela advertises even more resources for schools that pay to go ‘pro.’)

A BBC article discusses the development of Athenian democracy and points out how many English political words and concepts come from Greece.

(Newsela has a shorter article by the same British author and explaining many of the same words and ideas. It’s a little more pointed, though, with the title “Ancient Greeks Wouldn't Call U.S. a Democracy – They’d see an Oligarchy.” The BBC article offers more in-depth coverage of Athenian history and practices; this one is contemporary political commentary. Choose whichever suits your purposes.)

English Vocabulary from Greek Roots

Babbel tells the entertaining stories of a number of English words with Greek roots—especially those that come from Greek myths.

You can review and practice some of the more common Greek roots here.

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