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How to Build a Model of an Ancient Greek City-State

Do your research before building any diorama.
Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

A diorama does more than just give your viewers an illustration of your idea. The diorama adds drama and dynamics to your concept. A well-done diorama invites the viewer to enter the world you have created and explore with you. Before designing your diorama, do your research. Choose the Greek city-state you wish to illustrate. Each city dedicated itself to a different god or goddess and had different geological features, including mountains, plains or seashore.

Things You'll Need:

  • Card Stock
  • Scissors
  • Small Plastic Toys
  • Foam Blocks
  • Blue Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • White Styrofoam
  • White School Glue
  • Plastic Trees
  • Sand
  • Twigs
  • Green Paint
  • Clay
  • Hobby Grass
  • Large Box

Draw your plan on the inside of the box. Decide where you will place geographical features and buildings.

Press the clay into the bottom and sides of the box to build mountains and hills. Press sand into the wet clay to give the illusion of dirt.

Cut foam blocks to represent the different buildings in your city. Add rooftops and columns to give your buildings character and dimension. Refer to archeological models for accuracy. Build columns by drawing lines long lings on a strip of card stock. Roll the card stock into a tube so that the lines run the length of the tube. Cut the roll into appropriate lengths for your buildings and glue them in place.

Paint plastic toys gray or white to represent the larger than life statues that dotted every city state. Place them in your diorama.

Add trees and grass to your diorama. Plastic trees and grass are available at craft or hobby stores. For a simpler option, paint the “grass” green on the base of your diorama. Go on a nature walk in your own neighborhood and pick up twigs. Trim the twigs to give them the shape of adult trees and glue them into your diorama.

Create the beach or seaside. Many Greek City-states were located along the coast of Greek islands. To give your diorama the illusion of water, you need a solid shiny surface that appears wet. Start by painting the base of your “ocean” blue or blue-green. Pour a large quantity of white school glue on your ocean starting from the furthest point from your beach. Keep pouring until the glue spreads to the edge of your beach. Crumble Styrofoam into tiny pieces. Sprinkle a thin line of foam bits next to your beach to simulate breakers. Leave the diorama and allow the glue to dry for 24 to 48 hours. The glue dries clear, allowing the blue tint from below to show through.


Start with the central figure of your diorama, whether it's a temple, statue or mountain. Build the rest of the diorama to scale around this central figure.


  • Be sure to use clear-drying white school glue to make your ocean.
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