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The Classical Origin of Iconic American Symbols

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Social Studies +2 Age Levels Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old)

In this student activity, analyze how and why iconic symbols of America, such as the Capitol Building and the United States Seal, were inspired by Greek and Roman art and architecture.  

Explores the big ideas:

  • How were symbols of America influenced by those of Ancient Greece and Rome? 
  • What might this desire to associate America with historic, successful democracies say about early American hopes for their new nation?

Includes: architecture, a seal, portraiture, a video, a primary source letter, discussion questions, and an opportunity to learn more through the full digitized text of "The Ruins of Palmyra," a publication that heavily inspired early American neoclassical architecture.

Keywords: greece, symbolism, classic, classical