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 A level classics, and will continue to do so through to the end of their Upper Sixth year (2016/2017).

Learning journey - Lower Sixth

Students take one module on Greek history and one on Roman history.

In the Greek history paper we study the society and politics of ancient Sparta. Although the city is one of the most notorious in the Greek world, students of it have to look at it through the eyes of other Greeks, whose texts provide the main evidence of this unique and strange culture.

We study the ‘Augustus and the Principate’ option for the Roman history paper. Two thousand years after his death, Augustus remains one of the most important figures in world history, and students will have the chance to assess him and his achievements on the basis of a range of literary and archaeological sources. This module will be a study of Rome as it entered what is considered its golden age.

Learning journey - Upper Sixth

From September 2017, students will take one further paper on each of Greek and Roman history.

For the Greek module students will study the 50-year period in which the Greek world came into contact and ultimately conflict with the Persian empire, using a wide range of ancient sources. They will need to understand the famous battles of Marathon, Thermopylae and Salamis, looking at the text of Herodotus but also at other sources including Persian inscriptions and artwork.

Alongside this, the Roman history module focuses on the crucial era when Rome ceased to be a republic and came to be ruled by emperors. We will investigated how power was wielded in Ancient Rome, by again looking at a diverse collection of ancient evidence that will enable students to form their own understanding of this foundational culture.

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.

The Classical Society, a student-led society, welcomes visiting speakers.

Classics at university

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

Numerous classicists have gone from the Perse to Oxford and Cambridge; all students hoping to read classics at university receive dedicated programmes of extension work to assist their interview preparation and transition to university.

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