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.
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?
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 VI of Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War in Greek and portions in English. The Unit 4 exam (Verse Literature) will test their knowledge and understanding of Sophocles’ Ajax, partly read in the original Greek and partly in English. Paper 1 is worth 33% and lasts 1 hour 45 minutes. Paper 2 is worth 17% and lasts 1 hour 15 minutes. Papers 3 and 4 are worth 25% each and last 2 hours each.
OCR Anthology for AS and A-level Classical Greek
Edited by M. Campbell
Published by Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN 978-1474266024
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Classical World
By J. Boardman
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0198721123
Exam Board and Specification Codes
A level: OCR H444
Head of Department
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