The study of ancient Greek and Roman culture
A study of Classical Civilisation complements many other popular A levels, including Art, Drama, English Literature, Government and Politics, History, Religious Studies as well as a study of the classical languages. However, because of the creative diversity of classical culture, there are many other subjects which relate well with Classics. Its more natural home is alongside other arts and humanities subjects, but many science students choose to study it to provide a rewarding contrast and breadth in their studies.
Classical Civilisation changed to the new A level in 2017 to include an even wider breadth of topics, including literary, visual and philosophical. The two-year course involves the study of three distinct components, each with clear and well-defined content and strong supporting materials. It also involves the chance to study both Greece and Rome, and their surrounding worlds.
The World of the Hero
In this component learners will study Homer’s Odyssey, as well as Virgil’s Aeneid. Learners will develop an increasingly sophisticated level of knowledge and understanding of the epics themselves, the way in which they were composed, and the religious, cultural and social values and beliefs of its society. Homer is a superb storyteller and his peculiar gift was to be able to combine so many short stories into one great epic poem. The poems of Homer were considered by the Greeks themselves to be a foundation of Greek culture, standing as they do at the beginning of Western literary. This component provides learners with the opportunity to appreciate the lasting legacy of the Homeric world and to explore its attitudes and values. The epics of Homer, with their heroes, gods and exciting narratives, have been in continuous study since their conception, and remain popular with students. Virgil’s Aeneid involves the study of the text which is central to Roman culture, commissioned by the Emperor Augustus in order to promote the values of his new regime and telling the mythological origins of Roman settlement in Italy.
Culture and the Arts – Greek Theatre
The drama produced in the ancient Greek theatre forms some of the most powerful literature of the ancient world, and has had a profound and wide-reaching influence on modern culture. To fully understand this cultural phenomenon requires not only the study of the physical theatre space used by the Greeks to stage their dramas, but also depictions of this staging in the visual and material records. This study of the production of Greek drama is coupled with an in–depth study of three plays (Tragedy and Comedy), all of which have proven to be enduring favourites.
Beliefs and Ideas – Greek Religion
Religion was an essential part of ancient Greek identity, resonating in all aspects of society and an individual’s daily life. Religion could be connected to the household, to life in the city or life in the countryside; moreover politics and religion were intertwined to the extent that political decisions were sometimes made on the basis of divine intervention of oracles. Studying the practicalities of religious ritual, and the role it played in society, alongside the functions and layout of famous temple complexes, makes this component particularly interesting for students and helps develop their sense of the central role religion played in the life of everyday people. Learners will also explore the nature of the gods and their relationship with mortals.
Is this course right for me?
Choose Classical Civilisation if you are interested in learning about the classical world – its personalities, events, literature, drama, history, philosophy and mythology. In other words, opt for Classical Civilisation because you think you will enjoy the course. Studying a subject you enjoy will make it easier for you to fulfil your potential and achieve your best grade.
The Classical Civilisation course seeks to relate what happened in the ancient world to the experience of students today. It shows how modern culture has developed from the classical past, how the civilisation of Greece has helped in shaping modern Europe and how Classical influences are still important in today’s world. All sources are studied in English translation – there is absolutely no need for you to have any understanding of Latin or Classical Greek to choose this course.
The topics cover aspects of classical civilisation which have been significant in the development of the modern world. All include a study of primary classical sources and all encourage students to gain an understanding of Greek society and its values. We have an excellent stock of audio-visual aids to complement the study of all our topics and, whenever possible, we accompany our students to see modern productions of the comedy and tragedy plays we study.
What can I do next?
It provides a natural base for degree work in many subjects at University. It develops the critical and evaluative skills which enable students to go on to study a wide range of courses. The points gained will count towards admission for any degree course. For the enthusiast there are degree courses available in Classical Civilisation or Ancient History. The cultural, literary and political achievements of the Greeks have had a lasting influence on our own society, and are essential to a proper understanding and appreciation of the history of civilisation. In addition, as we share with Europe the legacy of the Ancient World, a study of Classics helps to increase our awareness of a common European heritage.
Subject minimum entry requirement
The specification does not require any previous study of Classical Civilisation or knowledge of Latin or Greek. What we ask for above all is a determination to share our enthusiasm for the classical world.
“I did not know what to expect when I took Classical Civilisation but my friend recommended it. Now I am so glad I did. The topics are really interesting and, despite the cultures we study being thousands of years old, you can relate them to how we live now.”