Classics

The influence of both the classical cultures upon the modern world is profound and there is a continuing fascination with the ancient world which shows itself both in popular culture with Hollywood blockbusters such as “Troy” and “300” filling cinemas, and at the level of general knowledge with documentaries and dramas on Classical themes regularly appearing on television, and at the top level academically with lively and innovative scholarship at universities. The range of the discipline can be extended to include philosophy, archaeology, philology and anthropology, not to mention branches of science and mathematics, and it has been well remarked that the Classics can be said to comprise a whole curriculum in themselves.

At RGS our aim is to give each student, even if he only studies Classics for one year, an experience both to enjoy at the time and to profit from intellectually in the future. In Year 7 all students follow a Classical foundation course comprising some ancient history, some mythology and some simple Latin language.

The opportunity to study either Latin or Classical Civilisation further is provided in the years up to GCSE. Both these can subjects can be studied for GCSE.

In the Sixth Form, A Level courses are offered in Latin and Ancient History. Teaching utilises the best of recent technology, and the internet provides a wealth of relevant material for both serious study and fun. IPads are a useful tool in Years 8 – 11 for accessing the Cambridge Latin Course website and for generating hotly contested competitions using Kahoot and Quizlet. In addition to classroom work, we also take parties of students to visit Classical sites abroad (in particular to Greece and Italy), and these trips are always extremely popular; 2016 sees a trip to Italy.

Classics attracts a cohort of dedicated pupils, a number of whom continue to study it beyond school at various universities, including Oxford (with whom the department has links through OWs) and Cambridge.

All students are introduced to Latin as part of the Year 7 curriculum. Thereafter it becomes an option available at all levels up to Year 13. Latin is a useful foundation for English, Medieval History and Modern Languages. However it is for its intrinsic worth and interest that it is taught as well as for the way in which tit develops analytical thought.

From Year 7 up to GCSE the Cambridge Latin Course is followed. This gradually introduces Latin grammar with an emphasis on reading comprehension. Knowledge of grammar is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Right from the first chapter students are reading continuous stories, and within a few chapters these become quite substantial and increasingly complex, with continuing themes that run right through the course. The stories are intriguing and students are always keen to know what happens next. By the end of Year 10 students are reading simple passages of real Latin, which leads into Year 11 and to their preparing short literary texts from key authors such as Virgil and Pliny for the GCSE examination. Throughout the course students are encouraged to make connections between Latin vocabulary and that of English and other modern languages, and also to use their understanding of Latin to refine their use of English.

Alongside the language work students also learn about Roman life and society, with each book of the course having an over-arching theme, divided into topics chapter by chapter. For example, in Book 1 the theme is “Pompeii” and the topics include: Roman houses, food & drink, daily routine, the theatre, slavery and gladiators. Later books cover such themes as the Roman army, Roman Britain, Roman Egypt, the city of Rome, and Roman government.

At A Level the language work is extended and the skill of translation from English into Latin is introduced as a means of improving grammatical understanding of both languages. Furthermore, longer and more challenging literary texts, written by authors of central importance such as Cicero, Ovid, Tacitus, Livy, Sallust, Catullus and Virgil, are studied. Activities range from straightforward translation, through discussion and explanation of the subject-matter, to literary criticism.

CLASSICAL CIVILISATION

The course is made up of a series of topics on the social life, culture and literature of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Particular emphasis is laid upon the study and interpretation of the ancient evidence, both archaeological and literary, but no knowledge of Greek or Latin is required since all written sources are studied in translation. Students are encouraged to make reasoned comparisons between the ancient and modern worlds, and, where they find differences, to show understanding of and sympathy with ancient behaviour, attitudes and ways of thinking.

The aim in Years 8 and 9 is to establish broad general knowledge of the ancient world. The work is topic-based and may include: Minoan & Mycenaean civilisation, the Persian Wars, the life and times of Alexander the Great, Greek theatre, the Olympic Games, Greek mythology, the life and times of Julius Caesar, Roman entertainment (gladiators and chariot racing), the Roman Forum, Roman Britain, the Roman army, stories from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, and the influence of the two classical languages upon English.

In the GCSE years study focuses on five specified examination topics, which will include some with a cultural and some with a literary theme. The opportunity arises here to read in translation some of the greatest works of world literature such as Virgil’s Aeneid or Sophocles’ Oedipus the King; and in addition to study topics with a contemporary resonance such as Greek athletic festivals.

ANCIENT HISTORY

Ancient History is a course which runs only in the Sixth Form at Advanced Level. It might be of especial interest to those who have taken Classical Civilisation at GCSE or who have enjoyed the Roman Life aspect of the Cambridge Latin Course; however, anyone is very welcome to take the course, since no previous knowledge is assumed. No knowledge of Greek or Latin language is required other than a few technical terms which are learnt as they occur in the reading.

The full A Level is made up of two aspects (which are each examined at both AS and A2 Level):

•    Greek: The current topic is Sparta: how did Sparta come to be known for its fearless warriors, were they as invincible as depicted, and how true is the story portrayed in ‘300’?

•    Roman: the 1st century BC – an era in which a long-established political system (the Roman Republic) gradually broke down to be replaced by the centralised autocratic rule of the Emperors. Characters and themes include: Julius Caesar, practical politics, imperialism, propaganda.

Throughout the course great emphasis is placed upon examining ancient evidence (whether literary or archaeological) and discussing its credibility as a way of establishing the facts. Essays are regarded as a vital element in the processes of research and discussion. In addition to its own inherent fascination, this subject should be a training of practical use to any would-be historian or lawyer. It also offers opportunities to demonstrate the key skills of ICT, problem solving, communication and working with others.

Classics has a continuing influence on modern societyCurrent Teacher
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