Understanding the Background to Themes in the Ancient World Lesson Plan

The focus of a theme-based course such as Medicine Through Time is (by definition) on the theme itself, so it needs to look at the world history backgrounds as efficiently as possible. This exercise is designed to do that.

This simple matching exercise aims to give students an overall sense of which ancient civilization came where, in both time and place; and to do so in a brief space of time, so that the focus remains on the topic being studied.

It concentrates on the civilizations of the ancient Middle East and Mediterranean World; it leaves out India, China and so on. This is only because many themed courses concentrate on the “Western Tradition” (i.e. Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Europe, the West). However, it can be expanded to include any or all civilizations.

The exercise is designed to be used in association with such themes as Medicine through Time, Conflict, Crime and Punishment, Trade, Migration, Empires, Revolutions and so on, but there’s no reason why it can’t be used in other contexts.


The students are divided into small groups.

From the maps and information given in the TimeMap of World History, they place the following civilizations in chronological order (add in the approximate dates they began and ended):

Ancient Romans

Ancient Mesopotamians

Ancient Egyptians

Ancient Israel

Ancient Greeks

Ancient Minoans

Ancient Phoenicians

Next, match these civilization to the geographic region (or for some, regions) where these civilizations flourished:


Middle East

North Africa

Now match the following historical personalities to the civilizations:

Alexander the Great

Julius Caesar


Ramesses II



Match the cities to the civilizations (be careful – some endured during more than one civilization!):













With a bit of research, match the following famous buildings to the civilization:

The Great Pyramids

The temples of the Valley of the Kings

The Ziggurat of Ur

The Parthenon

The Colosseum

The Palace of Knossos

The Temple to Yahweh

Wrap up:

With the whole class, go through the above lists. Make sure that they are aware of the broad chronological sequence of the civilizations, and where they were located.

At the end, discuss which civilizations would have influenced which, and how this might have happened (trade, conquest, migration?).

Now move on to the theme under study. This short exercise should have given students a clear idea of the sequence and spread of civilizations in the Ancient West.