classical civilisation

Classical Civilisation

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Learn more about Classical Civilisation

Why study this subject?

Classical Civilisation is the cornerstone of the humanities subjects. This course offers a unique opportunity   to explore the significance of Greek and Roman culture in our contemporary lives. The specification enables students both to gain a broad understanding of the major periods of classical civilisation, and to study selected topics at greater depth through the reading of Greek and Roman authors in translation.

Which Examination Board?


Does the AS count towards the A Level or is it a standalone qualification?

The AS is a standalone qualification. It does not count towards the A Level. You can opt into the AS qualification if you choose to drop this subject at the end of Year 12.

How will you be assessed?

2 examinations at AS.

3 examinations at A2.

What is the outline content over 2 years?

The Advanced Subsidiary course (AS)

Both topics have an examination of one and a half hours to be taken in May/June at the end of Year 12. There is no compulsory coursework within the AS course. In each examination you will answer one extract based question and one essay. During the year written work is assessed in accordance with OCR guidelines and students benefit from discussing their progress with the staff in tutorial sessions where appropriate.

Seminar sessions include group reading, textual analysis, discussion and presentations by students.

Audio-visual materials are used where appropriate. Visits to plays, exhibitions and relevant cultural events are encouraged and arranged for the group when possible. You will attend external lectures and relevant college based cross-curricular lectures. You will also have access to a comprehensive range of resource materials, available in the library, on computer and within the Classics Department.

The subject matter of the course will include the following selected topics:

The World of the hero – Homer’s epic poems (the Iliad and the Odyssey) are the first and originally the greatest European works of literature. You will read one of these in any given year. Epic explores, among other things, the Greek myths and concepts of heroes and gods, the interaction between mortals and immortals, and the storytelling techniques of the ancient world. In addition, you will study the religious, cultural and social values and beliefs of the period represented in the poems (circa 1200 BC).

Culture and the Arts – Greek Theatre – is the topic available for study. The drama produced in the ancient Greek theatre forms some of the most powerful literature of the ancient world and has had a huge influence on our concept of the theatre. You will study the physical space used by the ancient Greeks to stage their dramas as well as staging, costumes and masks. You will also have the opportunity to study the origins and development of performance and its religious significance. Three plays (currently Sophocles’ Oedipus the king, Euripides’ Bacchae and Aristophanes’ Frogs) are studied, with emphasis on both literary and dramatic qualities. This module also involves the study of depictions of scenes from the plays via a range of vase paintings and similar artefacts.

The A2 course

Each topic is examined via a written paper to be taken in May/June at the end of Year 13. The world of the hero is synoptic. By this stage you will have developed confidence in your knowledge of the ancient world and an increased maturity in discussion and essay work. Similar arrangements for assessment and guidance are provided for students in accordance with procedures at AS level.

Year 13

The subject matter of the course will include the following selected topics and builds on the knowledge and understanding acquired at AS:

The World of the Hero – Students will develop their understanding of epic poetry by studying Virgil’s Aeneid which offers a new, Roman perspective to the epic form and gives a deeper insight into the heroes of the Trojan War, enabling students to examine the nature of heroism.

Beliefs and Ideas:

Either: Love and Relationships – Students will continue to develop their knowledge of the Greek and    Roman world in this module. Areas of study will include: the role of men and women, philosophical ideas of Plato and Seneca, love and desire, marriage and adultery, society and values, as well as two poets defining aspects of love and human interaction – both serious and humorous. The Greek poetess Sappho bridges a  link between the epic poetry of Homer and the plays of the 4th and 5th centuries BC in Athens. Ovid offers a lighter presentation, focusing on the fun and flirtatious nature of romance in Rome 1AD.

Or: Greek Religion – Religion was an essential part of ancient Greek identity, permeating all strata of society and all aspects of an individual’s daily life. Religion could be connected to the household, to life in the city or  life in the countryside; moreover politics and religion were intertwined to the extent that political decisions were sometimes made on the basis of divine oracular intervention. Religion was also an important tool for the creation of local and Panhellenic identities, as well as of competition between the Greek city-states. Students will have the opportunity of studying the practicalities of religious ritual, and the role it played in society, alongside the functions and layout of famous temple complexes. The scope of this module will develop their sense of the central role religion played in the life of everyday people. We will also explore the nature of the gods and their relationship with mortals. Also included are the very different role of Mystery Cults, and the tensions caused by the rise of philosophical thought.