Classical Civilisation

Classical Civilisation is the original Humanities subject and will appeal to those with an interest in a past that shapes our present in so many ways. Centred on the study of Ancient Greece and Rome, this highly regarded subject is perfect for students interested in a course that links political, social and military history, literature, philosophy, theatre and poetry. Please note, we work with translated texts these days, so no Greek or Latin is required.

Awarding Body

Available As

A Level

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What will I study?

The course is for students interested in studying a subject that by its very nature reaches across academic divides to link political, social and military history, philosophy, literature and the arts. Students may come from a humanities background and want to study a subject that reaches across the disciplines or hail from a sciences background and want to widen their studies by taking on a broad-ranging subject like Classics.

This course introduces a fascinating combination of topics centred on ancient Greece and Rome. Some find the idea of Classics at A Level intimidating, but it need not be; whilst it is a rigorous academic subject, highly regarded by universities and employers, it is not a requirement to have studied the subject before or to have any knowledge of Latin or Greek (all texts studied are in English translation). The important thing is that students are ready to learn and are prepared to embrace the original humanities subject.

In the Classical Beliefs and Ideas module we offer a rotation of two units: Politics of the Late Roman Republic, where you will learn about the life and times of the great Roman philosopher-statesman Cicero, his equally impressive rival Julius Caesar and their relationships with the likes of Cato, Pompey the Great, Crassus and the future Emperor Augustus as Cicero desperately attempts to save his country from a descent into chaos, conspiracy and civil war; and Relationships, where you will focus on the classical thought of the key thinkers Plato and Seneca, as well as the poetry of Sappho and Ovid, on the theme of ‘Love and Relationships’. This vibrant new unit will examine the themes of love, desire, sex, sexuality and the institution of marriage in ancient Greece (with a focus on Athens and the militaristic Sparta) and Rome through looking at the legal, civic and domestic status of men and women; Plato’s views on love and desire; Seneca and the influence of Stoicism, and the poetry of Sappho and Ovid. The unit explores the development of thought and ideas; how and why they emerged and how this was influenced by their broader cultural context.

In the World of the Hero module you will study Homer’s Iliad, both as the epic poem set during the legendary Trojan War, and for what it tells us about ancient ideas of honour, revenge, glory and the power of the gods. This leads on to the Aeneid, Virgil’s Roman epic poem, in which Aeneas, a survivor of the fall of Troy, attempts to set up a new home: Rome. The study of the latter poem will be set against the backdrop of the rise of the Roman Empire with an in-depth study of the Emperor Augustus and his social, religious and moral reforms.

In the Invention of the Barbarian unit, you will explore the story of the struggle between the small Greek city-states and the massive Persian Empire through Herodotus’ Histories and Greek perception of the ‘barbarian’ through the study of two great plays (Aeschylus’ Persians and Euripides’ Medea), and a study of the Amazons (the mythical female warriors). Some consideration will also be given to the presentation of the 'barbarian' in Greek and Persian art (complemented by a trip to the British Museum).  As well as the history, epic poetry and plays already mentioned, over the two years you can expect to study topics such as philosophy, religion and Roman law as well.

How will I learn?

Whilst Classics is primarily a text-based subject, and reading is an important element of the course, you will learn through varied activities designed to develop knowledge, understanding and skills. You can expect a variety of groupwork and self-led activities, as well as traditonal short lectures, analysis of visual evidence (art and material culture), and close analysis of modern scholarship. All reading of core texts associated with the course must be completed in your own time and in preparation for lessons.

There will be 3 exams at the end of year 2.

Two of the exams (the Beliefs and Ideas module; and the Invention of the Barbarian unit) are worth 75 marks and last 1 hour and 45 miutes. These exams are each worth 30% of the total A-level.

There are five question types in these exams, they are:

• short answer question

• 10 mark stimulus question

• 10 mark idea question

• 20 mark essay

• 30 mark essay.

The World of the Hero exam is worth 100 marks and lasts 2 hours and 20 minutes. This represents 40% of the total A-level.

There are three question types in this exam, they are:

• 10 mark stimulus question

• 20 mark essay

• 30 mark essay.


How will I be assessed?

Assessment is through three exams at the end of the course.

Are there any trips on this course?

In previous presentations of this course we have run a (non-compulsory) trip to Rome, visiting a range of fascinating sites including the Forum, Palatine Hill, Colosseum, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. We also take a day trip to Ostia Antica, a breathtaking archaeological site that was once Rome's port.

This trip has been enormously popular and helps to bring learning vividly to life.

We also run a compulsory trip to the British Museum at the end of year 1 to look at Greek and Persian artefacts that we study in depth in year 2.

Are there any extra costs?

There will be a small cost associated with the British Museum trip which is compulsory.

There will also be a small charge for course workbooks (several booklets in the region of £1.80 each).

Are there any specific entry requirements?


What enrichment activities are offered?

Opportunity for a trip to Rome or Greece.

Trip to British Museum.

What work experience opportunities are there?

In previous years several students have had the opportunity to complete some voluntary work/work experience in the heritage sector.

Careers Information


Is Classical Civilisations harder than other subjects?

No, although you should be aware that it can be more difficult to catch up if lessons/work are missed. You will also need to have a reasonably developed command of the English Language; essays are an important part of study and assessment.

Must I have studied Classical Civilisations already?


Is it all Greek and Roman history and literature?

No, over the course of the A-level, you will also have an opportunity to explore Roman law, military history, oratory, philosophy, mythology, material culture, politics, poetry, theatre, Greek and Roman societies and religions to develop a richer understanding of the ancient world.