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VCE Humanities

Ancient History Unit 3: Greece

Year-Long Elective Unit


There are no prerequisites for this unit.

Course Description

Ancient Greece has been considered the cradle of Western civilisation and was during this period, the most important civilisation of the ancient Mediterranean. It has bestowed a powerful legacy on the contemporary world. In Unit 3, students explore the structures of Ancient Greek society and a period of crisis in its history. Life in these ancient societies was shaped by the complex interplay of social, political and economic factors. Trade, warfare and the exchange of ideas between societies also influenced the way people lived. Furthermore, all ancient societies experienced dramatic crises which caused massive disruption. During these times of upheaval, individuals acted in ways that held profound consequences for themselves and for their society.

Areas of Study

Living in an Ancient Society

  • What was it like to live in ancient Greece?
  • What were the social, political and economic features of life?
  • Why were these features significant?

In this area of study students explore the historical significance of social, political and economic features of Greece. In terms of social features, the existence of hierarchies meant that individual experiences varied enormously. There were profound differences in the experiences of men and women, locals and foreigners, slaves and free people. Students also explore the significance of political institutions and the distribution of power between groups, and tensions resulting from such differences. They investigate the significance of economic features of life, including agriculture, industry and trade. The social, political and economic features of society are interrelated and change over time. Students consider the causes and consequences of these changes both from within the society and from external catalysts such as trade, warfare and the exchange of ideas. Such inquiry involves the use of written sources and the material record.

The social, political and economic features of ancient societies had profound implications for the lives of large numbers of people and these can be explored through archaeological sites. In this area of study students evaluate the significance of a specific archaeological site in terms of how it enhances understanding of the social, political and economic features of an ancient society.

For Greece, students examine the social, political and economic features of life during the Archaic Period. They also investigate social, political and economic features of Athens and Sparta to 454 BC. Furthermore, they examine the causes and consequences of the conflict between Greece and Persia.

People in power, societies in crisis

  • How did crises change ancient societies?
  • How did key individuals contribute to such events?
  • How might we judge the historical significance of these crises and the individuals who took part in them?

In this area of study students explore a crisis in Ancient Greece with particular relevance to the role of individuals in shaping events. Crises take the form of internal political struggles, civil war and          conflict between states. To understand these turning points students evaluate the causes and    consequences of the crisis. Students also explore how key individuals influenced events. In some cases, individuals made decisions that shaped their societies. On the other hand, the power of individuals was limited in a range of ways. Students explore how the individual’s beliefs, values and attitudes informed their actions. Investigation of these individuals deepens students’ understanding of human agency.

For Greece, study of the Peloponnesian War (431–404BC) reveals a different form of crisis. The conflict was fought between the Athenian Empire and the Peloponnesian League. At the start of the war, Athens  was wealthy and powerful. By the end of the struggle, her power was broken. Analysis of the involvement of the key individuals Pericles, Alcibiades and Lysander reveal the different aims, motives and perspectives at work at various stages of the conflict.



Assessment Tasks

Marks Allocated

(school-assessed coursework)

Explain and analyse the social, political and economic features of an ancient society.

A historical inquiry.

Analysis of primary sources.


Evaluate the historical significance of a crisis in an ancient society and assess the role of key individuals involved in that turning point.

Evaluation of historical interpretations.



Total Marks




Overall Final Assessment

Graded Assessment



Exam Duration

Contribution to Study Score (%)


Unit 3 Coursework





Unit 4 Coursework





Written Examination


2 hours










Reproduced by permission of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: