Teacher Guidance – Classical Civilizations


The great classical civilizations of the Eastern Hemisphere, 500 BC to AD 500

Teacher notes are in blue.

This unit introduces the great classical civilizations of the Eastern Hemisphere to students.

Please note that  it will take at least two lessons to complete. If you would like a quicker way to introduce this period to your students, consider using our premium units:

China: the Classical Age

India: the Classical Age

Greece and Persia

The Roman Empire

These give students a quick panoramic overview of these topics. They can also be used as a way of helping to wrap up this unit and reinforcing the points covered below.

This unit addresses

  • chronology,
  • change and continuity,
  • cause and consequence,
  • similarity and difference,
  • connections and linkages.

It looks at the role of geography and the environment in shaping human society, and asks students to look at technological developments, as well as developments in governmental, economic and belief systems. The unit seeks to give practice in critical thinking skills such as interpretation, analysis and significance.


To provide students with a historical and geographical context for the study of the different classical civilizations;
To explore the distinctive features of these civilizations;
To ask how and why they arose;
To assess how they changed over time;
To discover what belief systems arose in them;
To determine the linkages between them.


1. Go to the map of the world in 500 BC.

Follow the links through to the following regions: Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia and Africa.

If used in class, it may be best to divide students up into groups, with each group taking a specific region.

If it would be better if there were more groups, they could choose actual civilizations or societies, rather than regions, such as The Greeks, the Romans, the Celts, Nubia, the Bantu, Persia, Parthia, India, China.

If this activity is being done as project work, allocate students only one region each (unless they have plenty of time!).

Cover the following issues:

Geographical location and environment – and how these might have effected the development of civilization in the region (you may have to delve back to the origins of the civilization to answer this)

Influences from other regions: did the development of civilization(s) in your region owe anything to developments in other regions?

Developments in government and politics, society or economics

Developments in the realm of religion and ideas

Developments in technology

Key features of the civilization(s) – are there any features that make a civilization stand out?

Key individuals – how did they contribute to the histories of their civilizations? Did they help shape world history?

By AD 500, had civilizations in this region influenced civilizations in other regions? If so, how? (If necessary, encourage speculation!)

2. Whole-class wrap up:

Have a class discussion about how the civilizations were similar or different:

Which ones based in rivers, which not?

Which declined and vanished, which changed into another civilization?

Similarities and differences between

Writing systems?

Political systems?

Social systems?

Belief systems?

Identify developments which encompassed more than one civilization: where did they originate? How did they spread? What impact did they have?

Develop a timeline (or perhaps a group of parallel timelines) showing the rise and fall of the different civilizations.

Supplementary activity:

Chart the development of belief systems in the major civilizations. Develop a diagram showing the chronology, geographic spread and linkages between the major belief systems.