A Level Classical Civilisations

Course Content

Content Overview

Assessment Overview

The world of the hero

·      Homer’s Iliad

·      Virgil’s Aeneid


120 Marks

2 hour 20 minutes paper


40% of total A Level

Culture and the arts

·      The invention of the barbarian


75 Marks

1 hour 45 minutes paper


30% of total A Level

Beliefs and Ideas

·      Politics of the Late Republic

75 Marks

1 hour 45 minutes paper


30% of total A Level

The world of the hero

The poems of Homer were considered by the Greeks themselves to be a foundation of Greek culture, standing as they do at the beginning of the Western literary canon. This module provides learners with the opportunity to appreciate the lasting legacy of these works and to explore their attitudes and values. The epics of Homer, with their heroes, gods and exciting narratives remain popular today.

This module also provides learners with the opportunity to appreciate Virgil’s Aeneid, a cornerstone and landmark in Western literature. Drawing inspiration from Homer, as well as from his own cultural and political context, Virgil explored what it was to be a hero in the Roman world and created a work which has proven enduringly popular.

The Iliad

Homer’s Iliad tells the story of the darkest episode in the Trojan War. At its centre is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his refusal to fight after being humiliated by his leader Agamemnon. But when the Trojan Hector kills Achilles’ close friend Patroclus, Achilles storms back into battle to take revenge – although knowing this will ensure his own early death. Interwoven with this tragic sequence of events are powerfully moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle, of the domestic world inside Troy’s besieged city of Ilium, and of the conflicts between the Gods on Olympus as they argue over the fate of mortals.

After a century of civil strife in Rome and Italy, Virgil wrote The Aeneid to honour the emperor Augustus by praising Aeneas – Augustus’ legendary ancestor. As a patriotic epic imitating Homer, The Aeneid also set out to provide Rome with a literature equal to that of ancient Greece.

It tells of Aeneas, survivor of the sack of Troy, and of his seven-year journey Рto Carthage, where he tragically fell in love with Queen Dido; then to the underworld, in the company of the Sybil of Cumae; and finally to Italy, where he founded Rome. It is a story of defeat and exile, of love and war…

The Invention of the Barbarian

This module explores how the Greeks saw themselves as distinct from their ‚Äėbarbarian‚Äô neighbours. With issues of race and stereotyping so prevalent in the modern world, this component raises matters which are still important and relevant today.

The first topic looks at the Greek world and how united the Greeks were as a people. The second explores the possible disunity of the Greeks during the events of the Persian wars. In the innovative topic focusing on the reality of Persian culture, we will analyse how far the Greek stereotype of the Persians was based on fact or prejudice. We will be encouraged to question assumptions and think critically about portrayals of difference and identity.

Finally, we will examine depictions of the Persians in the work of Herodotus and Aeschylus, as well as the idea of barbarians in Greek myth, including why the Greeks were fascinated by female barbarians in particular. This close analysis of literary and artistic sources gives us the opportunity to work with a variety of material, creating an engaging course of study.

Politics in the Late Republic

The Late Republic was a period of upheaval and conflicting views on how the Roman state should function. These conflicts eventually led to the downfall of the Republican res publica (state) and the rise of the Roman Emperors. In this module students will study the political thought of the period from Sulla‚Äôs retirement in 79 BC to the death of Cicero in 43 BC, through examining Marcus Porcius Cato (‚ÄėCato the Younger‚Äô), Gaius Julius Caesar, and Marcus¬†Tullius Cicero. Events we will cover include the rise of the First Triumvirate, the civil war and the murder of Julius Caesar.¬† We will learn about the topic through the letters and speeches of Cicero.

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