A Level Greek

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

Europe has long looked to Greece for its roots. Seemingly out of nowhere, nearly three thousand years ago, an epic poem from Homer appears and within just a few centuries, we are in the world of Socrates, Sophocles and Pericles, a world in which there is an outpouring of novel ways of thought. It was witness to the birth of the theatre and comedies and tragedies that are still read and performed today for the insights they give us into the human condition. It is there that we look for the wellspring of the philosophy and science that remains with us in the names of the very disciplines they have yielded: history, biology, ethics, physics, mathematics, psychology and so on. The Greeks bequeathed us art, architecture, poems, myths and gods whose presence can still be felt today everywhere from the palatial houses of England to blockbuster films from Hollywood. It was also of course the source of the democratic idea of government that most people aspire to today (though you may be surprised by just how undemocratic Athenian democracy really was).

The study of Greek will also involve you in the study of a beautiful and complex language, mastery of which will sharpen your mind and give you a greater appreciation of your mother tongue.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will build on the grammar and vocabulary you acquired at GCSE so that you can address increasingly difficult unseen translations and become confident at translating from Latin into English and vice versa. You will look at Sophocles’ Antigone (lines 1-99; 497-525; 531-581; 891-928) in which the heroine, Oedipus’s daughter, sacrifices her life in order to bury her dead brother Polynikes, whose body is being denied burial because he has betrayed his polis. You will learn about how Sophocles examines the conflict between the religious duties of family members and the human laws governing the polis. You will also look at Thucydides’ Histories IV (chapters 11-14; 21-23; 26-28).

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will deepen your knowledge of grammar and range of vocabulary through studying a greater quantity of text. You continue your study of the two main texts above, reading Antigone (lines 162-222; 248- 331; 441-496, 998-1032; and the entire play in English) and Histories IV (chapters 29-40 in Greek and 1-28 in English). Through your further study of the latter, you will learn the details of the events of the seventh and eighth year of the Archidamian War (425/424 B.C.), when Sparta, as a result of 120 of her finest hoplites being captured by the Athenians, sued, unsuccessfully, for peace.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

The study of Greek has long been a respected part of an education and it develops a wide range of skills. In order to master the complex grammar, you will have to develop a logical mind. Alongside learning linguistics, you will be exploring historical, philosophical and literary ideas and making connections between them and the modern world. Close analysis of texts will develop a careful eye for detail and an appreciation of literary form. Classicists have long been admired for the measured and beautiful powers of oral and written expression such study yields. These universally-respected attributes means that Greek works well with any combination of academic subjects.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

An A or A* at Greek is desirable with a B as a minimum as the jump from GCSE to A level is considerable. You will also need an interest in literature, history and politics.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS, there are two exams on Units 1 and 2 respectively. The Unit 1 exam (Language) consists of two sections. Section A requires a passage of Greek prose to be translated into English. Section B requires either a second prose passage to be translated into English or English sentences to be translated into Greek. The Unit 2 exam (Literature) tests students’ understanding of the set texts by Sophocles and Thucydides. The Unit 1 exam is worth 50% of the marks and lasts 1 hour 30 minutes. The Unit 2 exam is worth 50% of the marks and lasts 2 hours.

A level

For the A level, there are four exams. The Unit 1 exam (Unseen Translation) will test students’ ability to translate unseen prose and verse. The Unit 2 exam (Prose Composition or Comprehension) will test their ability to understand more advanced unseen passages or to translate into Greek. The Unit 3 exam (Prose Literature) will test students’ knowledge and understanding of Book IV of Thucydides’ Histories in Greek and portions in English. The Unit 4 exam (Verse Literature) will test their knowledge and understanding of Sophocles’ Antigone, partly read in the original Greek and partly in English. Paper 2 is worth 17% and lasts 1 hour 15 minutes. Papers 3 and 4 are worth 25% each and last 2 hours each.

Reading

OCR Anthology for AS and A-level Classical Greek
Edited by M. Campbell
Published by Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN 978-1474266024 

Antigone by Sophocles
Edited by M. Griffith
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521337014

A Commentary on Thucydides: Book IV-V.24
By S. Hornblower
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0199276257

The Oxford Illustrated History of the Classical World
By J. Boardman
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0198721123

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: OCR H044, A level: OCR H444 (reformed)

Robert Heggie
Head of Department