Year 3 History and Geography

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Athens in Ancient Greece - Birthplace of Democracy

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The ancient Greeks gave us many new thinks, like the Olympics, and many new ideas, including a very important idea from the city of Athens: democracy. What is democracy? Let's learn more!

For hundreds of years, the Athenians had tried different ways of governing their city. They argued a lot about the best way. Some Athenians were tired of being ruled by a small group of powerful and strict leaders. Leaders who make bad laws and are cruel to the people are called 'tyrants'. Many Athenians were tired of being ruled by a few tyrants, so they spoke up and said: 'Why should just a few people make laws for everyone else, especially when they make bad laws? Let's get rid of the tyrants and rule ourselves!'

And that is what the Athenians did. They invented a new kind of government in which the people chose their leaders. If those leaders began to act like tyrants, then the people had the power to choose new leaders. This new kind of government is called 'democracy', which means 'rule by the people' or 'power from the people'.

During the leadership of a wise man named Pericles [PER-ih-cleez], the Ancient Greeks built a big new temple and dedicated it to Athena, the goddess they believed watched over their city. They built this temple out of marble and filled it with beautiful statues. It was called the Parthenon. Can you spot it in the painting? It shows Pericles as he is giving an important speech to honour soldiers who had died, and he also speaks about the importance of democracy while pointing towards the Parthenon.

Democracy is now used by many countries around the world, including here in the UK. Our government rules in the name of the Queen (or King), but to make decisions it needs the approval of Members of Parliament (MPs). There is one MP for each area of the UK, chosen every few years in an election according to who receives the most votes. Adults from the UK are allowed to vote, as are people from the European Union and the Commonwealth while they live here.

This activity is adapted from pages 149 - 150 of What Your Year 3 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.

This activity has cross-curricular connections: click below to see the related activities.

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