The Perse School

Ancient History

An broad and deep investigation of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds

Our aim

Students investigate key periods of Greek and Roman history, reading texts by major authors and looking at archaeological and epigraphic evidence. They acquire a wide range of skills which can be applied within and beyond many higher education courses. Ancient history is held in the same regard as any other humanities subject; universities can be impressed by sixth formers who achieve well in such a challenging course of study.

The course covers major individuals including the Emperor Augustus and different cultures within the ancient world, such as Sparta. It gives students the opportunity to investigate the use and abuse of power in the ancient world, as well as some of its most significant conflicts.

Ancient history students undertake analysis and evaluation of ancient sources to ascertain both what happened, and how reliably we can know what happened. This helps develop their skills of interpretation and discrimination, and their ability to use a diverse range of sources to piece together an understanding of the past.

Please note that our current Upper Sixth are studying the unreformed A Level in ancient history, which differs from the information given below.

Learning journey - Lower Sixth

For the majority of the Lower Sixth, students complete depth studies on both the Greek and Roman sides of the course. The Greek depth study is “The Politics and Society of Sparta, 478-404 BC”, and while completing it students investigate this famous, but highly unusual, Greek city. The Roman depth study is “The Breakdown of the Late Republic, 88-31 BC”, during which students learn about the crises Rome faced as the system of government it had used since the sixth century BC failed. Towards the end of the year, students will begin the two period studies that will be completed during the Upper Sixth.

Learning journey - Upper Sixth

The main focus during the Upper Sixth is completing the two period studies that were begun towards the end of the Lower Sixth. On the Greek side of the course, the period study is of “Relations between Greek states and between Greek and non-Greek states, 492-404 BC”, and includes investigation of the famous Persian and Peloponnesian wars. The Roman period study is of “the Julio-Claudian Emperors, 31 BC-AD 68”, continuing the story of Rome through the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. The latter part of the year also includes revision of the depth studies completed during the Lower Sixth.

Providing stretch

Students participate in a number of trips during their sixth form career, most notably to lectures in Cambridge given by subject specialists.

We encourage students to read beyond the requirements of the exam specifications and to pursue their own interests. The Classics Department has its own extensive library in addition to the many classical works to be found in the school library. We have a collection of the Omnibus periodical aimed at those studying classical subjects in the Sixth Form. We encourage students to read widely. Suggested texts include Mary Beard and John Henderson’s Classics – A Very Short Introduction, Tom Holland’s Dynasty and Paul Cartledge’s Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities.

The Classics Department also makes available a number of resources via the School Virtual Learning Enviroment, which include seminal articles as well as links to blogs and other websites of interest. Students are encouraged to follow the Department on Twitter (@PerseClassics) so that they can stay abreast of new research within classics and suggestions for further independent exploration.

Beyond the classroom

We regularly hold fascinating talks of a classical theme, and run clubs, societies and competitions.

Some are organised by our 42 society, such a lecture on ‘How the Roman gods can predict your future’ by Dr Jerry Toner, Director of Studies in classics at Churchill College, Cambridge and an Old Persean, while some are given by students, perhaps as part of their EPQ, such as a presentation assessing evidence that the Ancient Greeks had post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sixth Form students (as well as those in Year 11) are invited to participate in regular Classics Seminars, led by members of staff and by pupils alike. The seminars feature presentations on different aspects of Classics, followed by discussion.

Ancient History at university

The Perse has a strong tradition of preparing students for entrance to top universities to read ancient history.

All students hoping to study ancient history or another classical subject at university receive guidance and advice to help them prepare for interview and make a smooth transition to university.

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