A Level Classical Civilisation
What is it about at sixth-form level?
The classical world of the Greeks and the Romans is the bedrock of our civilisation today. They have provided us with everything from plays and philosophy to art and aqueducts. Like our immediate predecessors, we find it hard not to look back upon their times without a sense of awe at what they achieved. We bear the fruits of the Greeks’ enquiries into the world around us in the names of the subjects we study today, such as maths, history, and physics. We have the Romans to thank for the urban and social infrastructure we take for granted, such as our streets, sanitation and law courts.
By studying Classical Civilisation at A level, you will become familiar with many aspects of the ancient world. You will look at them as they saw themselves, through epic poems, tragedies, and art and architecture. In studying them, you will come to understand the historical, political and social context in which they are set. Even though you will not be working in Latin or Greek, you will also come to appreciate the beauty of the language in which they wrote.
In the first year, you will study two components. In Component 1 (The World of the Hero), you will study Homer’s Odyssey, one of the founding texts of Greek culture. You will examine the concept of a hero through the values and behaviour that are displayed. You will look at the wider social, cultural and religious context and the relationships between gods, men, women and slaves. In component 2 (Culture and the Arts), you will look at Greek theatre. You will examine three plays, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Euripides’ Bacchae and Aristophanes’ Frogs. You will consider what meanings the ancient Greeks drew from their drama, their styles of performance and the literary techniques they used to create their narratives.
In the second year, you will study two more components. You will study a second text in Component 1 (The World of the Hero): Virgil’s Aeneid. Drawing upon your knowledge of Homer, you will consider the influence of the Greek epic on the Roman epic. In component 3 (Beliefs and Ideas) you will study the ancient attitude to love and relationships through the works of two fascinating writers, Sappho and Ovid, and two philosophers, Plato and Seneca. You will look at their literary style, their representation of gender and social norms and their beliefs about love and desire, elements of which will seem surprisingly modern.
Why study it and what skills does it develop?
An A level in Classical Civilisation represents a broad portfolio of skills and knowledge. The course is focused on classical works but in coming to understand them, you will have learned about the history of theancient world along with political, social and philosophical ideas. You will develop a sensitivity to language and the art of literary criticism. The essay-based nature of the course means that you will develop your writing skills.
What prior knowledge and skills are required?
There are no formal entry requirements. You will need a love of literature, art and history. It is an essay-based course, so you will need to have good writing skills.
How is the course assessed?
For the A level, there are three examinations. The first is on Component 1 (The World of the Hero), in which you will answer questions on Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid. The second is on component 2 (Culture and the Arts) in which you will answer questions on Greek theatre. The third is on component 3 (Beliefs and Ideas), you will answer questions on Sappho, Ovid, Plato and Seneca. All papers contain a range of questions, from those requiring short answers to longer essay questions. Paper 1 is worth 40% of the marks and lasts 2 hours 20 minutes. Papers 2 and 3 are each worth 30% of the marks and last 1 hour 45 minutes.
Core Texts and Suggested Reading
To be confirmed at the start of the course
Homer – The Odyssey
Translated by Emily Watson, W. W. Norton and Company
Virgil – The Aeneid
Translated by Sarah Ruden
Published by Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-15141-1
Bacchae by Euripides
Translated by D. Franklin
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521653725
Oedipus the King by Sophocles
Translated by Judith Affleck
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521010726
Frogs by Aristophanes
Translated by J. Affleck & C. Letchford
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521172578
Sappho and Ovid
Published by OCR
Exam Board and Specification Codes
A level: OCR H408
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