Head of Department

Dr D A W HoggMA, PGCE, MSt, DPhil

Overview

Classics is as comprehensive a subject as it is possible to imagine. Classicists develop skills in language and analysis; the study of literature, philosophy, archaeology and history is fully embedded in the school curriculum and beyond. Classicists, therefore, receive mental training in a whole range of different disciplines, and are capable of exceptional intellectual flexibility. In our world of rapid social and technological change, it is the capacity to react to new and unforeseen developments with flexibility which is most valuable in later life, and it is widely recognised that Classics and related subjects produce just that kind of person, with an unparalleled capacity to adapt to new circumstances and learn new skills.

Lower School

Latin

In the Fourth Form pupils follow a course specifically geared to the needs of Cranleighans. The course is intellectually stimulating, challenging and always rewarding. It helps develop extremely important ‘thinking’ skills in our pupils. One of our key aims is for pupils to appreciate the differences and similarities between the Romans and ourselves.

For GCSE, we study Roman literature in the original Latin. We may read about subjects as diverse as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the rebellion of Boudicca, the last stand of the Druids, the murder of the Empress Messalina or the love affairs of the poet Catullus. These activities combine well to develop sophisticated literary, historical and linguistic skills in our pupils.

The exam comprises papers testing unseen translation, unseen comprehension, as well as the candidate’s knowledge and understanding of prose and verse set texts – there is also the opportunity to focus on key aspects of Roman Life, History and Culture.

Classical Civilisation

The importance of the Classical World cannot be overestimated. The civilisations of Greece and Rome have a deep and powerful influence on the way live today. Art and architecture, literature and theatre, politics and philosophy are some of the many areas that have been founded and shaped by the ancient world. The GCSE course provides an opportunity to learn about these civilisations in their historical setting and to explore the similarities and differences between then and now. Pupils study some of the great works of ancient literature in translation whilst having the chance to understand and form a personal response to them. The course consists of three examined modules and one coursework module. In each of these, there is a wide choice of topics and we aim at achieving a balance between Greece and Rome, and between literary and historical. 

GCSE Classical Civilisation takes two broad themes – War and Myth – to explore the values and events of the ancient world. We move from the greatest hero who ever lived, Hercules, to the Battle of Actium, which was the founding moment of the modern Western world. We use written and visual sources to bring alive the societies that produced ours; societies in which we can see ourselves, and are yet horrified at the differences. The formal title of the course is OCR GCSE Classical Civilisation J199. Every year we offer a variety of trips both locally and further afield to Italy, Greece or somewhere even more exotic; we also attend plays, lectures and workshops.

 

Greek

For the most ambitious and interested pupils we offer a combined Greek and Latin course at GCSE, commonly known as ‘Gratin’. It is suitable for pupils who are aiming for top universities in any discipline, and wish to challenge themselves intellectually and actively demonstrate their academic ambition and self-motivation.

By studying Greek, pupils open up for themselves a world which saw the invention of western literature, philosophy, politics, history, theatre, democracy and more. In the GCSE course we study parts of that in the original language, whether the story of Troy in the Iliad or Odysseus’ 10-year attempt to return home in the Odyssey; we might study the first plays, whether the tragedies of Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus, which are still performed on major stages today; or the raucous comedies of Aristophanes. Herodotus, the Father of History, is a common choice of set text too, with his tales of the Persian Wars, reimagined in such films as 300, or his stories of ants as big as horses and cannibalistic rituals in the East.

Upper School (A Level)

Latin

Latin, as one of the most highly regarded A Levels, is a natural choice for those aiming for elite universities. We follow the OCR A Level course. There is no coursework and all exams take place in the Summer term. In general classes tend to be small, informal and provide a lively and mature forum for discussion and debate. A typical week’s work will involve unseen translation and more advanced grammar work; reading, annotating and discussing the set text; composing an essay or other piece of criticism; appraising the ancient world and looking at modern parallels and differences.

Pupils develop skills in reading and even writing Latin, focusing on the first century BC in Rome. This period, which saw as much upheaval as any other in the history of the world, was the furnace in which modern Europe was forged: out of one hundred years of civil war came our concept of the rule of law, oratory, the basis of modern political systems, the languages of Europe and even the literature and the calendar.

Studying Cicero, pupils have the opportunity to see an actual court case in process at a time of great danger in Rome. They also study Virgil’s Aeneid, one of the foundational texts of the Western canon. They follow Aeneas as he escapes from Troy to Italy to found the Roman race, exploring the conflict between duty and emotion, the nature of human responsibility to family, country and gods, and what it takes to be a hero in the new age of Emperor Augustus’ Rome.

Classical Civilisation

An inquiring mind and a willingness to immerse oneself in the civilisations of the past are the qualities necessary for success in Classical Civilisation: in return this course should be a rewarding one for you as it links well with a variety of academic interests. The specification is split between the study of Greek and Roman literature and culture. This course does not require you to have any previous knowledge of GCSE Classical Civilisation. Classical Civilisation can be combined particularly well with English, History, Religious Studies, Art, and Politics, as it considers all these disciplines and places them within the context of the ancient world.

Component 1: Homer, Odyssey and Virgil, Aeneid (selections)

The Odyssey, which is set after the Iliad, is the story of the great warrior Odysseus and his return home after the Trojan War as enshrined in the glorious epic poetry of Homer. Virgil’s Aeneid was the Roman answer to the Iliad and Odyssey. It tells the tale of Rome’s mythical founder Aeneas. Read how he escapes from burning Troy, is seduced by a beautiful eastern queen, is hounded by the goddess Juno and fights for the hand in marriage of the noble Lavinia.

Component 2: 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. We study the production of Greek drama coupled with an in–depth study of three plays, all of which have proven to be enduring favourites. The themes and concepts explored by these plays are of significant relevance and interest as much to the modern audience as they were to that of the original performance. The plays we study include Oedipus the King, considered to be the ultimate tragedy and in many ways the basis of Shakespearean and other Elizabethan tragedy; the Bacchae, the story of a king’s brutal punishment when he attempts to reject a god; and the Frogs, a madcap comedy involving Hercules, the underworld, a form of the world’s first rap battle.

Component 3: Greek Religion

Religion was an essential part of ancient Greek identity, permeating all strata of society and all aspects of 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 oracular intervention. Religion was also an important tool for the creation of local and Panhellenic identities, as well as of competition between the Greek city-states. 

Learners will also explore the nature of the gods and their relationship with mortals. Key to this is the depiction of the gods by Homer and Hesiod, whom Herodotus credited with giving the Greeks their first understanding of the characters and responsibilities of the gods. Also included are the very different role of Mystery Cults, and the tensions caused by the rise of philosophical thinking.

A typical lesson will involve reading or studying a primary source followed by a discussion. Often we will turn the spotlight back from the ancient world and onto our own world to reassess the nature of our modern societies and values. We make good use of the excellent resources both locally and further afield and trips are regularly organised to visit museums and to attend lectures or theatrical productions. We also have an annual Classics trip for all year groups that visits sites of the ancient world.  Recently we have been on a tour around Greece, Pompeii and Rome, and this year we will be returning to Greece.

Greek

Classical Greek is one of the more challenging and rewarding courses open to Sixth Form pupils. A Level Classical Greek is an elite subject embarked on by only a few hundred pupils every year: it is an ideal preparation for candidates with ambitions for the top universities in any discipline, as it provides a benchmark of academic achievement and aspiration.

We offer the course as a two-year AS, with one module in the summer of Lower Sixth and one in the summer of Upper Sixth.

  • The first module, Classical Greek Verse and Prose Literature, involves the study of two texts in Classical Greek. These include passages from Homer’s Iliad, such as the final climax of the text when Aeneas and Hector finally meet and fight, and actual courtroom cases from fifth century Athens.
  • In the Upper Sixth the emphasis will move more firmly towards language work for the second module, Classical Greek Language.

In general, classes tend to be small and informal, providing a lively and mature forum for discussion and debate. We encourage you to aim for a high standard of written expression and argument, as well as a sensitive and perceptive interpretation of literature, history and culture, and a sophisticated understanding of language and idiom.

Trips and events

We run a number of trips. Our main trip is an annual trip abroad; in the past, we have travelled around the greatest archaeological sites of Greece, starting from Athens and going past the oracle at Delphi, the athletic sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia, the Homeric world of Mycenae, the theatre and health centre of Epidauros, the pagan and Christian community at Corinth, and culminating on Cape Sounion, where the Temple of Apollo is one of the most memorable classical sites.

We have also travelled to the Bay of Naples, exploring Pompeii and Herculaneum, before travelling to the heart of the Roman Empire: Rome. We run a series of trips within the UK as well, ranging from the Roman Palace at Fishbourne, to a discovery of Roman London, via the Museum of London and the underground amphitheatre below the Guildhall. We also run regular trips to the British Museum. We have an extensive lecture series programme to complement and stretch our pupils’ classical knowledge.

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