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Classical Studies

Introduction

Classics may be defined as the study of ancient Greece and Rome, without the study of the classical languages Greek and Latin. Students gain an in-depth knowledge of important aspects of both Greek and Roman civilisation, and an understanding of their formative and enduring influence on the rich cultural tradition of Western Europe. The subject combines elements of several disciplines: literature, ancient history, art history and philosophy.

What is the value of Classical Studies?

Classics is a subject of significant intrinsic merit and teaches invaluable analytical and written skills which are crucial in today’s world. Classics introduces us to the high points of Western civilisation and allows us to examine some of the greatest works of the human intellect and creative genius.

We walk in the footsteps of countless generations who have learned to navigate the future more confidently by reflecting on the past. Classics teaches students to think analytically and independently. It also helps students to improve and develop their written skills. No matter what aspirations you have for the future, no matter what professional or career path you choose to follow, you will need to be able to think, speak and write clearly, logically and critically.

Classics not only opens our eyes to the outstanding achievements of the ancient world, enriching us personally and taking us to a world beyond our immediate and daily concerns, but also helps us to develop and hone skills that are crucial for both future study and professional life.

Is Classical Studies for you?

If you are interested in the humanities, and enjoy subjects like History, English, Languages, Music and the Arts, you may like to consider Classics. Humanities subjects provide excellent preparation for students thinking about careers in law, politics, government, diplomacy, academia, teaching, journalism, publishing, the media and communications, and in any of the creative professions.

If you are thinking of studying Latin at senior levels, you should definitely think about taking Classics as well – the two subjects work well together. Latin will enable you to focus on the language and literary aspects of original Latin texts, while Classics will give you the wider historical, social, political, artistic and literary background, and enable you to read Greek and Latin texts in translation. Latin students who take Classics as well, will also gain an insight into the civilisation of ancient Greece which underpins and influences so much of Roman literary and artistic achievement. Some of our top scholars in recent years have studied both Latin and Classics.

If you are thinking of embarking on a mainly scientific or commerce pathway, with a view to a career in medicine, engineering, technology or business, do not underestimate the value of taking at least one or two subjects as a senior student that will encourage you to step outside your comfort zone. Classics will introduce you to a very rich, invigorating and fascinating world beyond the perimeters of a strictly professional or career focussed course. A more holistic approach to learning at school is likely to be more beneficial to you, both personally and in your chosen profession, than you may envisage at this point. Many successful doctors, scientists, engineers, and businessmen among our Old Boys speak of the significant advantages gained from including a subject like Classics among their subject choices in their final years at school.

Form 5 (Pre-Q):

Recommended Achievement Levels: Students averaging over 60% in Form 4 English examinations or 50% in Latin have an appropriate achievement level to study Form 5 Classics. Students who do not fulfil this recommended achievement level should apply to the Head of Classics to discuss admission to the course on a case-by-case basis.

Description: The course is open to ALL students, whether they intend to follow a Cambridge (AS/A Level) or NCEA (Level 2, Level 3) pathway in the Senior School.

The course will provide an excellent foundation for students wishing to study EITHER Cambridge AS/A2 Classics or NCEA Levels 2 and 3 Classics in Forms 6 and 7, but will also be a valuable introduction to the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome for those interested in taking the subject for one year only.

Students will still be able to take up AS/A Level Classics and NCEA Levels 2 and 3, in Forms 6 and 7, without taking Classics in Form 5, although students interested in taking the subject at higher levels are encouraged to take it from Form 5.

Course Outline: The Form 5 course will introduce students to the civilisations of both ancient Greece and Rome. The course content may vary from year to year but will generally include the following areas of study:

  • Myths and legends, gods and heroes, drawn from the literature and art of both Greece and Rome, with a focus on the Roman poet Ovid’s witty tales of transformation in his entertaining epic poem Metamorphoses
  • Conflict, crisis and the quest for personal power in the final years of the Roman republic (including the role of the Roman legions and the careers of Pompey the Great and the most famous Roman of them all – Julius Caesar)
  • The contrasting worlds of 5th century BC Athens and Sparta, set against the background of the Persian Wars, 490-479BC (including the Battles of Marathon, Thermopylae and Salamis)
  • Selected examples of the awe-inspiring artistic and architectural wonders of the classical world with a focus on Roman architecture
  • An introduction to ancient Greek philosophers, including the pre-Socratic physical philosophers/first scientists, as well as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

Methods of Assessment: School Examinations:

  • 1 x 1 hour examination
  • 1 x 2 hour examination
  • 1 x 3 hour examination (Pre-Q)

The Form 5 course, in terms of content and focus, is specifically designed with Auckland Grammar students in mind. Form 5 Classics leads seamlessly on to our Cambridge (AS/A Level) and/or NCEA courses in Forms 6 and 7. The Form 5 course will be assessed by a written examination.

Continuation of Classical Studies: Upon completion of the Form 5 course, students may opt to take EITHER Cambridge AS Classics OR NCEA Level 2 Classics (depending on their individual assessment pathway), if they continue with Classics in Form 6.

Form 6 (NCEA Level 2):

Recommended Achievement Levels: Students averaging over 60% in Form 5 Classics, English or History examinations, or over 50% in Latin, have an appropriate achievement level to study Form 6 Classics. Students who do not fulfil this achievement level should apply to the Head of Classics to discuss admission to the course on a case-by-case basis.

Description: Students will explore a range of topics within the perimeters of the achievement standards set out below. At present, topics include Homer’s Odyssey, the Political and Social Life of ancient Rome in the time of Julius Caesar and the Art of Pompeii and Herculaneum. We also examine the life and career of Caesar.

Course Outline: The course currently comprises the following Level 2 achievement standards:

  • 2.1: Examine ideas and values of the classical world – Homer’s Odyssey [4 credits, External]
  • 2.2: Examine the significance of features of work(s) of art in the classical world – Pompeii and Herculaneum [4 credits, External]
  • 2.3: Demonstrate understanding of a significant event in the classical world – the death of Julius Caesar [4 credits, Internal]
  • 2.4: Examine socio-political life in the classical world – Roman social and political life in the age of Julius Caesar [6 credits, External]
  • 2.5: Demonstrate understanding of the relationship between aspects of the classical world and other cultures – the comparison of Homer’s Odyssey with modern film interpretation[6 credits, Internal]

Methods of Assessment: Form 6 Classics will be assessed through a combination of two internally-assessed and three externally-examined NCEA Level 2 achievement standards, making a total of 24 credits.

Continuation of Classical Studies: Upon completion of Form 6, students may opt to take Level 3 Classics.

Form 6 and 7 (AS):

Recommended Achievement Levels: Students averaging over 60% in Form 5 Pre-Q Classics, Form 5 Pre-Q and/or Form 6 English or History examinations, or over 50% in Latin at those levels, have an appropriate achievement level to study Cambridge AS Classics. Students who do not fulfil this achievement level should apply to the Head of Classics for admission to the course on a case-by-case basis.

Description: We explore in depth ONE Greek topic and ONE Roman topic.

The Greek topic invites us to explore the life and career of Alexander the Great. Born in 356BC, Alexander became king of Macedonia at just under 20 years of age. Within 10 years of crossing from Europe into Asia, he brought the rule of the mighty Persian Empire to an end, and became king, however briefly, of the lands from Greece to India. Alexander’s conquest spread Greek culture far and wide, and ushered in the Hellenistic Age that endured for over 300 years until the death of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, herself a descendant of one of Alexander’s own generals.

The Roman topic transports us to a crucial period in Roman history, the last years of the First Century BC. The death of Julius Caesar signals the death of the republic. With the rise to power of Augustus, we witness the beginnings of empire. The greatest of the Roman poets, Virgil, a contemporary and friend of Augustus, imbues his story of the Trojan hero, Aeneas, father of the Roman people, with universal themes that have resonated deeply with audiences from Virgil’s own day to our own. The course offers an excellent introduction to high points of both Greek and Roman civilisation and provides a superb foundation for Cambridge A2 Level Classics.

Course Outline: The course comprises the following two papers:

  • Paper 1: Greek Civilisation (Alexander the Great): This topic focuses on the life and career of Alexander the Great as seen through the eyes of his biographers. Students will gain knowledge and understanding of the main events of Alexander’s life, successes and relationships, with a focus on his impact and his legacy. This topic will develop students’ historical analysis skill, requiring them to offer critical evaluation of Alexander’s life, his career and successes in context. Students will study a selection of biographical works and other sources with particular reference to Alexander’s family, childhood and upbringing; campaigns and travels; military achievements and reasons for them; rule of his empire and Persian influences; relationships with others; attitude towards religion and mythology; personal and imperial legacy.
  • Paper 2: Roman Civilisation (Virgil’s Aeneid): Virgil’s Aeneid holds a premier position in the canon of Roman literature. This topic provides students with the opportunity to consider both the inspiration Virgil drew from Homer and the influence of Virgil’s own cultural and political context on his portrayal of what it was to be a Roman hero in the Roman world. This topic will develop students’ literary analysis and appreciation skills, requiring them to offer critical analysis of, and personal response to, Virgil’s Aeneid. This will include the religious, cultural and social values reflected in the Aeneid, including the changing concept of heroism; the role and importance of family, women, gods and goddesses, fate and destiny; and the historical and political context in which the poem was written, including the theme of Rome’s mission, and the extent to which Augustus, his regime and the Roman empire are promoted within the epic.

Methods of Assessment:

  • Paper 1: 1 x 1-hour 30 minutes examination (50 marks). Candidates answer two questions, one compulsory structured question (25 marks) and one out of a choice of two essay questions (25 marks). Externally-assessed (50% of AS Level)
  • Paper 2: 1 x 1-hour 30 minutes examination (50 marks). Candidates answer two questions, one compulsory structured question (25 marks) and one out of a choice of two essay questions (25 marks). Externally assessed (50% of AS Level)

Continuation of Classical Studies: Those students in the Form 6, upon completion of the Cambridge AS course, may opt to take Classics at Cambridge A2 Level.

Form 7 (NCEA Level 3):

Recommended Achievement Levels: Students averaging over 60% in Form 6 Classics, English or History examinations, have an appropriate achievement level to study Level 3 Classics. Students who do not fulfil this achievement level should apply to the Head of Classics to discuss admission to the course on a case-by-case basis.

Description: Students will explore a range of topics within the parameters of the achievement standards set out below. At present, topics include the career and achievements of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.

We focus on his rise to power and revolutionary transformation of Rome into an empire, by ruthlessly employing all the means at his disposal: civil war, violence and intimidation, bribery, political office, propaganda – even his own family and friends.

We also study some of the greatest works of Roman architectural and engineering genius, including the Colosseum, the Pont du Gard and the Pantheon; and we meet many of the major Roman gods and goddesses in Virgil’s epic masterpiece the Aeneid, which tells the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas who flees from Troy to find a new home in Italy and becomes the father of the Roman people.

Course Outline: The course comprises the following Level 3 Achievement Standards:

  • 3.1: Analyse ideas and values of the classical world – Virgil’s Aeneid [4 credits, External]
  • 3.2: Analyse the significance of work(s) of art in the classical world – Roman Art and Architecture [4 credits, External]
  • 3.3: Analyse the impact of a significant historical figure on the classical world – Augustus [6 credits, External]
  • 3.4: Demonstrate understanding of significant ideology(ies) in the classical world – Political messages through Roman Art and Architecture [6 credits, Internal]
  • 3.5: Demonstrate understanding of the lasting influences of the classical world on other cultures across time – Experience of War [6 credits, Internal]

Methods of Assessment: NCEA Level 3 will be assessed through two internally-assessed and three externally-examined NCEA Level 3 achievement standards, providing a total of 26 credits.

Form 7 (A2):

Pre-requisites: AS Classics – students who have not taken Cambridge AS Classics may not enter for the Cambridge A2 Classics course. Students who gain an A to a good D grade in Cambridge AS Classics will be admitted to this course. Students who do not fulfil this achievement level should apply to the Head of Classics to discuss admission to the course on a case-by-case basis.

Description: A2 Classics gives students the opportunity to go deeper in discovering and uncovering the riches of the ancient world through the critical analysis and interpretation of its literary texts, studied in their own contemporary contexts. The course of study progresses naturally from the topics studied in the AS Classics course. The texts studied will range from epic poetry to ancient biographies and histories, and students will be expected to read widely around the topics, in addition to the primary and secondary set texts.

Course Outline: The course comprises the following two papers:

  • Paper 1: Classical History (Athens and Sparta): This topic focuses on the history of the fifth century BC as seen through the eyes of the authors of the period and later. Students will gain knowledge and understanding of the main events of the period (499-404BC). This topic will develop students’ historical analysis skills, requiring them to offer critical evaluation of the impact of the historical events in this period on the people of Athens and Sparta and the contribution of people of different status living in these communities. Students will study a selection of historical, biographical and other sources with particular reference to: the roles of men, women and non-citizens in Athens and Sparta; political systems, functions of different groups within these systems and the influence of individuals on events; the reasons for, impacts and outcomes of the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars; alliances with other states; and the relationship between the state and outsiders.
  • Paper 2: Greek Literature (Homeric Epic): The epic poems of Homer were considered by the Greeks to be a foundation of Greek culture, being the earliest surviving literature. This topic provides students with the opportunity to study both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Students will gain an understanding of: the historical and mythological background of the poems; the oral nature of composition and transmission of the poems, later written down, but containing traces of earlier societies and culture. This topic will develop students’ literary analysis and appreciation skills, requiring them to offer critical analysis of, and personal response to, the literary achievements of Homer and the religious, cultural and social values reflected in the poems. Content will include: literary techniques; significant themes and the depiction of the Homeric world; the nature of the Homeric hero; characterisation of other characters, including gods and goddesses, and their role and importance in the epics; the role and importance of omens and prophecies, fate and destiny.

Methods of Assessments:

  • Paper 1: 1 x 1-hour 30 minutes examination (50 marks). Candidates answer two questions: one compulsory source-based question (20 marks) and one out of a choice of two essay questions (30 marks). Externally assessed (25% of A Level)
  • Paper 2: 1 x 1-hour 30 minutes examination (50 marks). Candidates answer two questions, one compulsory source-based question (20 marks) and one out of a choice of two essay questions (30 marks). Externally assessed (25% of A Level).

If you would like to learn more about, or discuss in more detail, any of the Classics courses outlined below, please feel free to see Mrs Hay-Mackenzie (HOD, Classical Studies) in C2 or email f.hay-mackenzie@ags.school.nz.