A Level Ancient History


What is it about at sixth form level?

If you think your school life is demanding, spare a thought for the Spartans. At seven, boys left home and entered a public ‘boarding-school’ educational system to produce warriors. Girls, unusually for the ancient world, also received formal education and would learn how to wrestle, throw the javelin and fight with their fists. To toughen them up, boys were expected to steal their food and to sleep on beds made from reeds they had plucked themselves from the riverbanks. They too then had to pass all-important examinations testing their physical resilience, fighting skills and discipline at the age of eighteen.

By studying Ancient History, you will gain a rich understanding not only of Greece and Rome themselves but the peoples of ‘unknown and mysterious worlds’ that they encountered. For example, you will look at Celtic Britain with its woad-painted warriors and fire-enchanted Druids and how the Romans subdued it. The course will introduce you to the conflicts between the Greek city-states and between Greece and Persia. You will study the shift from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire and the complex social changes it brought about.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will study two units. In Unit AH1/3* (Greek History from Original Sources: Politics and Society of Ancient Sparta), you will look at Spartan society: its kings, gerousia, education and values, and the roles of men and women. You will also consider it in relation to other Greek city-states. You will look at the Spartan mirage and the myth of the legendary law-giver Lycurgus. In Unit AH2/3* (Roman History from Original Sources: Britain in the Roman Empire) you will examine Roman views of Britain. You will start with Caesar’s invasions, Celtic societies and links with Rome up to AD 43. You will then consider Claudius’ invasion and the early conquest period. You will then turn to Boudicca’s Rebellion, the expansion north, frontier policy from Agricola to Antoninus Pius and the withdrawal back to Hadrian’s Wall

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will study two more units. In Unit AH3/1 (Greek History: Conflict and Culture – Greece and Persia 499–449 BC), you will look at the Persian Empire, relations between Persia and the Greek city states, and the events of the war between Persia and Greece. In Unit AH4/2 (Imperial Rome: The Use and Abuse of Power - The invention of Imperial Rome 31BC–96 AD) you will examine how the Roman world changed after the Republic. You will look at issues of succession, the establishment of dynasties, the development of the imperial cult and the use of art and architecture in imperial self-representation. You will examine the rebuilding of Rome, how it was run and how its social structure changed.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Ancient History is a rigorous academic subject that is respected by every university. It will develop your analytic and evaluative skills through the study of both source material and the competing historical explanations it has led to. It will teach you how to articulate cogent arguments in a clear written form. These are skills that will benefit you across a range of subjects and beyond.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

A GCSE in History is not a prerequisite. You will need the ability to read substantial quantities of text with a critical eye and to write clearly and concisely. It is important to bear in mind that at this level it is not a matter of retaining and deploying a lot of information but rather a matter of drawing upon it selectively to construct a persuasive argument.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS, there are two exams on Units AH1/3* and AH2/3* respectively. The format of both papers is the same. Each paper has two sections. In Section A, you will answer one commentary question selected from a choice of two. The commentary question is composed of three sub-questions. In Section B, you will answer one essay question from a choice of two. Bullet point guidance is provided for each question. Each paper is worth 50% of the AS (25% of the A2) and lasts 1 hour 30 minutes.

A2 level

For the A2, there are two exams on Units AH3/1 and AH4/2 respectively. The format of both papers is the same. In each paper, you answer two essay questions from a choice of four. Each paper is worth 50% of the A2 (25% of the A level) and lasts 2 hours.


The Athenian Empire 4th Edition
By R. G. Osborne
Published by Lactor 1, ISBN 978-0903625173

Gallic War by Caesar
Translated by S. A. Handford, revised by J. F. Gardner
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0140444339 

The Histories by Herodotus
Translated by J. Marincola
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0140449082

The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus
Translated by M. Grant
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0140440607

Exam Board and Specification Codes

 AS: OCR H042, A2: OCR H442 (legacy)

Robert Heggie
Head of Department