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Ancient History

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The Subject

This subject provides the student with an insight into the Ancient World, through the study of a variety of sources now available in translation. Not only can one read great historians, such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy and Tacitus, but also biographies of Plutarch and the works of Aristotle and Xenophon.

This is a subject which allows students to make up their own minds about past events. Sources have to be evaluated and scrutinised for plausibility and truth. Often one has to come to the uncomfortable conclusion that not everything on a printed page is true! As an A level, it is almost unique in encouraging pupils to question the truth and "spirit" of public pronouncements. There is no better way to understand contemporary politics than to study the uncomfortable world of the ancient Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic and Empire.

No prior knowledge of the ancient world or of classical languages is required to take this course, but students are normally expected to have a good track record in History. Taking Ancient History at A Level makes for an excellent pairing with most subjects, given the breadth of the material studied. In particular, studying the roots of western civilisation and culture will greatly change how you understand later history, literature and politics.

An Ancient History A-level is excellent preparation for a number of degree courses including Law, English, History, Philosophy, and of course, Classics.

Beyond university Classicists have found careers in all walks of life, including banking, teaching, business, journalism and politics. Notable figures who studied classical subjects at university include Charlotte Higgins, Boris Johnson, C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling.

The Course

During the course, students explore fifth century Greece and the first dynasty of Roman emperors. We trace the rise and fall of Athens’ empire following the Persians’ unsuccessful invasion of Greece in 480BC, which led towards the great Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in the last three decades of the century. Alongside this period, we will explore the creation of the ‘principate’ in Rome in the wake of the collapse of its Republic, and chart the course of the first dynasty of emperors from the famed Augustus to the despised Nero.

Students then carry on to consider the broader culture and societies of these two ancient civilisations. One module considers the culture and society of classical Athens, including its political structure and festivals. For the Roman half of Year 13, students have the choice of either exploring the collapse of the Republic, or moving on to the politics and exploits of the Flavian dynasty, who came to power in the wake of the civil war following Nero’s assassination.

This qualification is examined by OCR.




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