Head of Department

Dr D.A.W. HoggMA, MSt, DPhil, PGCE

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.

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.

Classical Civilisation

In the Fourth Form, pupils explore three different areas of the Classical World. They begin the year learning about Tarquin the Proud, the last Roman king; they discover how he seized the throne, his foreign policy, his family’s actions and how he was overthrown by Brutus and the Roman Republic was established. Pupils consider different political systems, weighing the Roman Republic against institutions such as democracy or monarchy, and develop their own understanding and opinions of how countries are run.

In the second half of the term, they explore Roman Civilisation, focusing on a different part of the Roman Empire, ranging from Roman Britain, to Rome, to Palmyra. After an introduction into a variety of topics, such as religion, burial, and city planning, they embark on an independent project, whereby they explore an aspect of the Roman World they were interested in and compare it with the modern world. In the second term, they read extracts from Homer’s Iliad, arguing whether Homeric heroes are comparable with modern heroes and debating whether Achilles is more admirable than Hector.

Finally in the summer term, after studying the religious festival of the City Dionysia, they read an abridged version of Sophocles’ tragedy: Antigone. Understanding and evaluating a teenage girl’s steadfast resolve to go against the law and her uncle, a decision which led to her death, enabled pupils to question what is more important: family or state?

In the Lower and Upper Fifth pupils focus on the GCSE course. They study a range of topics, commencing with Homer’s Odyssey, which takes them through his adventures with the one-eyed cyclops Polyphemus, to the god of the winds Aeolus, past Circe, the Sirens and Scylla, the six-headed monster. Pupils debate to what extent Odysseus is an admirable character and consider the wider lessons of the text. In the Lent term of Lower Fifth they study the Persian Wars. They consider Xerxes’ reasons for invasion and his preparations, as well as the enigmatic oracles that led the Athenians to put their faith in their ships. They read Herodotus’ accounts of the Battles at Thermopylae, Artemisium and Salamis and question the morality of figures such as Themisocles and Leonidas.

In the Summer term, pupils read Euripides’ Medea, the tragic tale of a woman, betrayed by her husband, who seeks revenge by killing his new bridge, his father-in-law and, most shockingly, her two sons. In the Upper Fifth Year, pupils start by writing a controlled assessment on the Emperor Nero, reading and analysing two ancient texts: Tacitus and Suetonius. In so doing, pupils develop an ability to question the reliability of sources, and uncover the depravity of one of Rome’s most cruel emperors.

Pupils then learn about the Ancient Greek theatre and the religious and civic context for the theatrical performances, before embarking on revision.

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.

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.

Classical Civilisation

In the Lower Sixth, pupils focus on the Ancient Greek world. On one side of the course, they study Greek Art and Architecture from 500 to 300BC, including famous statues such as the Tyrannicides or the Knidian Aphrodite, impressive temples and their architectural sculpture, such as the Temple of Zeus at Olympia and the Parthenon, and grave monuments.

Pupils consider the ways in which the depiction of male and female figures develops during this period, and how gods and narratives were displayed. They debate the political implications of building programmes and designs, and evaluate their appeal to an ancient and modern audience. On the other side of the course, pupils read an extensive amount of Homer’s Iliad. By studying the plot and characters, pupils question what makes a real hero, to what extent Achilles’ anger can be justified, and what the role of women was in this epic tale.

Roman history and literature is explored in the Upper Sixth year. On one side of the course they study the history of Augustus, the first emperor of Rome. They question to what extent he really was a restorer of the Republic and a man who benefited the people of Rome and the Empire, and determine to what extent his autobiographical Res Gestae is a credible source. On the side of the course, they read Virgil’s Aeneid, a Roman epic that centres on Aeneas, a mythical founder of Rome. Pupils explore his travels past Carthage where he is seduced by a Cleopatra-type Dido, down to the Underworld to see his father, and on to Italy where he wages war against Turnus. The text complements the historical topic perfectly as it was written for Augustus and contains numerous references to him.

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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