Classical Civilisation

A Level Classical Civilisation

Explore ancient Greece and Rome through translated literary works including Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Euripides’ Bacchae and Aristophanes’ Frogs, and the writing of Cicero, as you develop critical thinking skills through themes such as heroism, war, justice, love, homecoming and the role of the Gods.

Why St Mary’s

This course is an opportunity to explore the fascinating worlds of ancient Greece and Rome. You will benefit from a supportive learning environment, working with teachers who are passionate about this broad, engaging subject which covers key issues of history, society, literature and culture in one qualification.

Our enriched learning opportunities can include:

  • Cambridge Classical Association lectures
  • The Cambridge Greek Play and other theatre trips
  • Cambridge University Classics A Level study days
  • Classics trip to Italy or Greece
  • Museum visits to view classical collections
  • Leading our Classics Club for younger students
  • Teacher surgeries to support your progress

Enabling your transition from GCSE

This course uses translated literature and is therefore open to students who have not studied Classical Civilisation GCSE. Our small class sizes ensure you have access to all the teaching support you need, tailored to suit your preferred learning styles. Regular teacher surgeries offer additional individual help and support, as required.

Throughout your course, you will have access to exceptional resources to support progress including JSTOR and MASSOLIT for scholarly articles on ancient literature and culture.

Course overview

A Level content

  • The World of the Hero Through translated versions of either the Iliad or Odyssey (Homer) and the Aeneid (Virgil) you will explore the Trojan War and following events through themes such as heroism, justice, revenge and fate. As you investigate plots and characterisations, you will compare and contrast the different contexts and values of each story.
  • Culture and the Arts You will explore Greek theatre, including its role in religious festivals, theatre design and the development of styles and plots. Oedipus the King tells a tragic tale of a man who unknowingly murders his father and marries his mother. In Bacchae, a second tragedy, you will learn of the terrible repercussions of failing to respect the gods. In the comedy Frogs, you will join Dionysus’ quest to the Underworld to rescue the best tragic poet, accompanied by a chorus of frogs.
  • Beliefs and IdeasIn this unit, you will study politics of the late republic, exploring the end of the Roman republic and rise of the Roman Emperors, to highlight key events in the civil war, class conflict and the development of key political ideas.


A Level assessment

  • Paper 1: The World of the Hero (40% of the total mark)
  • Paper 2: Culture and the Arts (30% of the total mark)
  • Paper 3: Beliefs and Ideas (30% of the total mark)
At a glance
  • Syllabus: OCR (H408)
  • 3 written exams
  • Small class sizes
  • Classics trip to Italy or Greece

Entry requirements

GCSE grades (or equivalent)

  • Subject 1: English Language: 6 (CEFR B2.2)


You will enjoy this course if you...
  • Can analyse information
  • Have an interest in history
  • Are curious about society
  • Have a problem-solving approach
  • Like debate and communicating ideas

What our teachers say...

“I was initially drawn to Classical Civilisation through a love of mythology and literature and enjoyed a chance to study such a varied discipline covering literature, history and culture. I like contrasting ancient views with how we think today.”

“Cleverness is not wisdom.” Euripides, The Bacchae

Classical Civilisation is a study of literature and culture which offers unique insights into human nature and the mistakes and successes of history. Knowledge of this ancient society, which shaped so much of today’s world is key if we want to build a future that doesn’t repeat the mistakes of history.

Classical Civilisation encourages you to look at the big picture, to think analytically and to confidently communicate your own ideas and opinions – all skills that are great preparation for higher education. It is also interesting to note that GCHQ and MI5 seek to recruit Classicists because they develop an aptitude for code-breaking!

The University of Cambridge ranks Classicists as one of the most employable Arts graduates due to the wide range of transferable skills they possess, and they pursue a wide range of inspiring career paths including law, journalism, politics, academia and the civil service.

Leaver destinations

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