At A level, students tackle some of the most enticing topics and debates from the ancient world, such as the Spartan Mirage, the causes of the Peloponnesian War, the downfall of the Roman Republic and the nature of Julio-Claudian imperial rule. Students encounter a wide variety of primary materials from some of the greatest authors of the classical world and learn to scrutinise sources critically and contextually.
Ancient history combines brilliantly with other humanities subjects, such as history, philosophy and politics and classical languages.
The A level course is divided into a Greek history component and a Roman history component, each divided into a period study and a depth study.
In the Lower Sixth, students begin the Roman course with the depth study, which considers the breakdown of the Late Republic, 88-31 BC, and the crises Rome faced as the system of government it had used since the sixth century BC failed. Meanwhile, on the Greek side, students start with the period study, which looks at relations between Greek states and non-Greek states, 492-404 BC, covering Greek victory in the Persian Wars, as narrated by Herodotus, followed by the rising tension between Athens and Sparta that led to the cataclysmic Peloponnesian Wars, as largely narrated by Thucydides.
During the Upper Sixth students then encounter the Roman period study, which looks at the (often-unpleasant) character and rule of the Julio-Claudian emperors, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero, through the eyes of various Roman sources such as Suetonius and Tacitus. Meanwhile, on the Greek side students face a depth study that considers the politics and society of Sparta, 478-404 BC, which is fascinating for many reasons, not least because the sources are almost universally non-Spartan, causing students to question whether our received view of Sparta is just a mirage.
We encourage students to read beyond the requirements of the exam specifications and to pursue their own interests. 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.
We regularly hold fascinating talks of a classical theme, and run clubs, trips, societies and competitions.
Two written exams at the end of the Upper Sixth.
Please note that Covid may have implications on the way exam boards award grades at this current time.