This free teaching supplement
is designed to aid teachers as they lead students through Helena
Teachers will find
questions to get students actively thinking and talking about the
issues covered in the novel. Questions help students retain
knowledge from each chapter and allow teachers to follow students'
is a recommended and accurate historical novel for any course that
involves the Olympics, Ancient Greece, Sparta, History, English
Literature or Women's Studies. Google Book Search offers an extensive preview
Questions Regarding the Novel
1. How did
Lysandridas regain the respect of his countrymen?
2. In the second half of the book, Lysandridas is a man with
divided loyalties. What aspects of each city-state claimed is
allegiance? What alienated him in both cities? Do you
think he made the right decision?
3. Could Lysandridas have been happy if he'd stayed in Tegea,
never returning with Teleklos?
4. Could Leonis have been happy in Tegea?
5. What factor was most decisive in Lysandridas' second
Olympic victory? Threats/motivation? Luck/the mistakes
of others? Experience?
6. Chilon the Wise is one of the "Wise Men" Ancient Greece
and at least three of his sayings were carved in stone at
Delphi. How does Chilon's analysis of Sparta in this book
correspond to what you have read elsewhere? What have you
learned about Sparta from this book?
7. Tegea was the first city-state in Greece to sign a
non-aggression pact with Sparta. Over the next 100 years,
Sparta signed a series of similar treaties creating a network of
alliances which were known collectively as the Peloponnesian
League. What does this (and the description of events
portrayed in the novel) tell us about Sparta that differs from the
simplistic view of Sparta conveyed by films like "300" or even
Steven Pressfield's "Gates of Fire"?
8. What "crime" did Lysandridas commit in the eyes of his
countrymen? How does he regain their respect? How do
9. Would Teleklos have been happier, if he had accepted his
10. At several points in the novel, Philip/ Lysandridas is
tempted by - or even determined to - commit suicide. Do you
think you would have reacted in the same way? What are the
arguments for and against suicide in a pre-Christian world?
11. What does this book reveal about the relative position of
women in Sparta and other Greek cities?
12. Before Antyllus realizes where Philip really came from,
what are the clues as to his origin? (Cite as many as you
can.) Why do you think it takes Antyllus so long to arrive at
the truth? In what way is Philip's situation unusual?
13. Describe how, in this story, misunderstanding of
another's culture causes problems.
14. Compare and contrast the following aspects of life in the
two city-states in which this novel is set:
Values: What was considered important in each
Societal class structure: Distribution of wealth, how
people earn a living, and how they spend their
The roles of men and women and how they relate to each
other: How children are brought up and how young people are
Human rights: What did each society consider human
rights to be?
Now compare and contrast these aspects of life in each
city-state to life in your own culture today.
15. What would you like
most about living in each of the two city-states at that
time? What would you find most difficult?
16. Discuss the use of war as a political tool, as reflected
in this novel. How does war affect population in the two
17. What part do religion and the Gods play in the lives of
the people in this story? How do some people in the story use
religious beliefs for power over others?
18. In what ways are the Olympic Games described in this
story like the Olympics of today? In what ways are they
Topics for further
1. Research the
Ancient Olympic Games: the origins, events, ceremonies,
2. Who was Chilon? What do we know about him?
Which of his sayings were carved in stone at Delphi? Who were
the other "wise men" of Ancient Greece?
3. Were women participants at the Ancient Olympics? Who
was the first woman to win an Olympic victory? In what event
4. What is the myth of Orestes? Why was possession of
his bones so important to both Sparta and Tegea?
5. Tegean was the first city-state in Greece to enter a
non-aggression pact with Sparta. Over the next century,
Sparta concluded a series of such pacts creating a network of
alliances that became known collectively as the Peloponnesian
League. Find out more about this League: the membership, its
role in history, etc.
you will find the research materials I used in this supplement, book and website. These materials are also additional
recommendations of both fiction and non-fiction books, including
selected ancient and modern sources for your own research and/or reading pleasure.
This site is best viewed with IE6 (or higher), a browser window
sized at 1024 pixels wide or wider, and with a monitor display
resolution set at 1280x1024.
Text varies on this site between British and American English
Most research was done in Europe and compiled for British English
Interviews and reviews reflect both American and British
English, as Helena Schrader is a leading authority on this subject
in the US and Europe.