A-level Classical Civilisation
Classical Civilisation is the study of the ancient cultures, history, society, politics and religion of ancient Greece and Rome, covering a time span from 3,000 BC to 500 AD. Ancient Greece is thought of as the birthplace of modern civilisation, and the Romans had a huge influence on Britain’s future when they conquered the island in the first century AD. On this course we explore these cultures through the existing literature and material evidence to gain an insight into how the Greeks and Romans lived, thought, loved and died. There will also be opportunities to visit ancient sites in the UK to help bring the subject to life.
No previous study of the Greeks and Romans is required, but an interest in these cultures is essential. All evidence is studied in translation, so no knowledge of Greek or Latin is required. It is possible that the study of both Latin and Classical Civilisation involves some overlap which may enhance your understanding of the two subjects.
Classical Civilisation at A-level involves the study of four separate modules based on the literature, culture and beliefs of the Greeks and Romans. At AS, you study Homer’s Iliad, the fascinating story of Paris’ abduction of Helen of Troy and the destruction of the Trojan city by the wily Greek warriors. You will also study the Emperor Augustus, analysing his use of propaganda in literary and material sources to first grasp, and then keep, his power as the ruler of Rome; highly relevant and interesting in this age of political spin.
At A2, you will study Virgil’s Aeneid, a Roman epic poem detailing Aeneas’s escape from Troy’s ashes to found the new city of Rome. You will also explore Greek and Roman ideas about love and relationships, recognising and relating to the passions, frustrations and delights of love in the ancient world. The ethical questions raised by these ideas continue to be wrestled over by successive generations and this unit will generate interesting and important discussions about love, desire, sex, sexuality and the institution of marriage.
Students will sit two exams in their AS year covering the Iliad literature component and the cultural Imperial Image component in order to prepare for further study at A2 level. There are 3 exams in the final year of study, covering the literature of Virgil and Homer, Augustus’ Image, and Love and Relationships.
Where does it lead?
If you intend to apply to university, Classical Civilisation can be extremely useful. You not only acquire specific Classical knowledge, but also important transferable skills such as analysing sources and developing independent, critical and evaluative approaches. You learn to formulate and support an argument and develop a valuable understanding of cultures very different from your own.
Classical Civilisation is naturally valued by Classics departments in UK universities, but often leads to the university-level study of Drama, English, History, History of Art, Philosophy, Politics, Law, International Relations and more. Classical Civilisation is listed on UCL’s list of preferred A Level subjects and also as a useful subject in the Russell Group ‘Informed Choices’ document. Information from UCAS shows that students who studied Classical Civilisation went on to study in such diverse disciplines as Medicine, Veterinary Science and Chemistry.
It is not only those looking to attend university who benefit from the study of Classical Civilisation. From the proven ability to write a well-structured extended response to the acknowledgement of the views of others and a culturally sensitive approach to these, Classics puts students in an excellent position to seek employment and further opportunities.
We follow the assigned OCR textbooks to guide our learning throughout the course, published by Bloomsbury. If you would like to do some advance study to pique your interest in the course content, there are many resources available online, such as documentaries, podcasts, and articles. Those of you with an interest in Rome might wish to check out Mary Beard’s ‘Meet The Romans’ series (available on YouTube, watch out for the swearing), and for Ancient Greece, Michael Scott’s ‘Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show on Earth’ (also on YouTube) will give you an excellent introduction to Athenian civilisation.