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 mathematics, 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 comedies. 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.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will study two components. In Component 1 (The World of the Hero), you will study Homer’s Iliad, one of the founding texts of Greek culture. You will examine the concept of a hero through the values and behaviour that they 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 the imperial image. You will examine the life and politics of Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome. You will consider his use of military propaganda, the moral code he promulgated and how he was viewed in his time and afterwards.

Upper sixth

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 political thought from the period of Sulla’s retirement in 79BC to the death of Cicero in 43BC. This fascinating period in history will involve you studying the thought and character of Cato, Julius Caesar and Cicero. You will look at how they reconciled high principle with practical politics in a world of parties, policies and shifting alliances that 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 the ancient 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?

A level

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 Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid. The second is on Component 3 (Culture and the Arts) in which you will answer questions on the imperial image. The third is on Component 3 (Beliefs and Ideas), you will answer questions on the politics of the Late Republic. 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.


Iliad by Homer
Translated by M. Hammond
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0140444445

The Aeneid by Virgil
Translated by D. West
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0140449327

Exam Board and Specification Codes

A level: OCR H408

Robert Heggie
Head of Department


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University of Bristol (Law)

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