Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes was a major exhibition from the British Museum and inspired this Fun at home activity.
Did you know ...
More than 170 objects were on display in the Ancient Greeks exhibition. This included a decorated bell krater that is more than 2,000 years old! It’s called a bell krater because if you turn it upside down, the shape looks like a bell. It is a wide, deep vessel like a bucket, used for mixing liquids like wine and water to make drinks.
The artwork on the bell krater shows a youth jumping off his horse in front of Nike, the Goddess of Victory. (We bet you’ve heard of her!)
This artwork tells a visual story, like a modern-day comic.
What is a comic? A comic tells stories with images, rather than with words. Sometimes you can convey more with images than you can with words.
Think about a story you would like to tell to create your own Ancient Greece-inspired comic.
How to make your own comic, inspired by the art of Ancient Greece
Skill level: ★★ Moderate – you may need an adult to help
Time: 40–60 minutes
Ages: 5 years and up
What you need:
- A3 or A4 sheets of paper
- blank page journal (if you don’t want to make your own)
- soft lead pencils
- pens or textas
Note: there are a lot of steps. Don’t be overwhelmed as we have helped you break down the process and at the end you will have your very own Ancient Greece-inspired comic.
Research some Ancient Greek stories, and/or think about something in your everyday that you could document. What story would you like to tell? It could be an Ancient Greek story, or you could create your own.
Here we’re making a comic by drawing part of the Ancient Greek poem 'The Odyssey', which is attributed to the great Ancient Greek poet Homer. Homer became so famous that he was worshipped as a god (as shown on the Apotheosis Relief). But in our video, artist Naomi Zouwer has drawn some everyday activities.
'The Odyssey' is an epic poem about the Greek hero Odysseus, who was king of the island of Ithaca. Odysseus spent 10 years trying to get home after fighting in the Trojan Wars.
Have you heard of the Trojan Wars? That’s another great story… but back to Odysseus.
On his journey Odysseus faced many dangers and monsters. The gods sometimes helped him and sometimes made his journey more difficult.
'The Odyssey' in short
Odysseus and his sailors sailed to the island of Ithica. Polyphemus, a kyklops (a one-eyed giant) lived on the island in a cave. When Odysseus landed, they discovered the unattended cave full of food, such as cheese. They ate all the food and waited for the kyklops return hoping he would be friendly.
Polyphemus (the kyklops) returns to the cave with his flock of sheep and moves a huge rock over the entrance blocking any escape. Upon finding the men in the cave Polyphemus becomes angry and begins to eat some of the sailors.
Odysseus comes up with a plan to save his remaining sailors. He gives Polyphemus a drink to make him sleep. Then the sailors poke his eye with a sharp stick and blind him.
Waking in fury Polyphemus opens the cave to let his sheep out. Clever Odysseus tied himself and his men to the underside of the sheep, thereby escaping.
Once safely back on their ship Odysseus calls out to Polyphemus, who throws large rocks at them. He misses but creates big waves that drive the ship out to sea.
Gather your materials. What will you draw on? Find a blank book or make your own. Artist Naomi shows how to lay out your pictures on a piece of paper to make a small six- to eight-page comic book called a zine.
On a spare piece of paper, write down the main characters and the setting.
- Odysseus (main character, who was clever and strong)
- Polyphemus (kyklops – a one-eyed man-eating giant)
- Odysseus’ sailors
'The Odyssey' took place on the Island of Ithica, in a cave, and on a ship at sea. Where does your story take place? Is it in ancient times or did it happen recently?
Create a story map on a large sheet of paper. You can plan or sketch out your ideas before you start drawing. Think about what happens at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
Using the characters and setting, plot out the events (or scenes) in the order that they happen. To make it easier you may like to divide your pages into separate boxes, drawing each scene inside the box.
Start drawing lightly with lead pencil to make a few rough sketches (if you make a mistake, try again – you can draw over or erase pencil). These are just quick, no details, just ideas.
Continue filling in the pages in the order of your story map.
On the front page add the title. What image will you put on the title page?
Once completed in pencil, use a selection of black felt tip pens to add details. Try different sizes for different marks. Naomi used black felt tip pen in different sizes – 0.2, 0.3 and 0.4.
Pick a colour to add, maybe a terracotta or orange colour like we see on the bell krater.
Congratulations you’re done. Eureka! We hope you have discovered lots about the Ancient Greeks.
- Now you have made one comic, try making a series of Ancient Greek comics.
- The Ancient Greeks were renowned for their celebration of the arts and theatre. 'The Odyssey' was originally a spoken story that would have been performed. Why not find some friends to put on a live performance of your story.
- Can you turn your story into a poem?
Fun facts about the Ancient Greeks:
- They loved competition, so it is no surprise that the Olympics were invented by the Ancient Greeks!
- The Olympics was a major public festival that included sporting and performing arts competitions celebrating Zeus, King of the Gods.
- Democracy came from the Ancient Greeks.
- Boys didn’t go to school until they were aged seven. Girls didn’t attend school at all.