In study

My Experience with Classics AS

When I started doing an AS level in Classical Civilisation in September, I thought I would be learning all about the Greek and Roman gods and mythology, with a bit of more factual Ancient History thrown in there. Boy, was I wrong! Well, mostly. Partly.



Classical Civilisation is the study of the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome – the cultures, languages, literature and societies – and that encompasses a whole lot of stuff other than the different mythologies.

There are two components of the qualification: the first exam being on the women of Ancient Athens and Rome, the second on Homer’s The Odyssey, which I already knew having researched the course beforehand (always do that!), but there were elements I didn’t expect.

When we studied women of Athens and Rome, our work was based on different sources from the time, the majority of which being transcripts and accounts from law courts - cases involving women. In fact, 5/6 of the Athens sources are on the law courts. I find this aspect in particular to be fascinating, as the people we learn about were real with real lives and real issues. I just can’t get enough of that. It’s kind of annoying as we don’t know the outcome of the cases, although we can probably guess reasonably well for some of them, but others there’s no way we can guess. There’s no doubt that if you’re feminist in any way, then you’ll object to much of the content of the course, but it’s great to interpret the different arguments and to better understand the lives of the women of the past.

I think, out of both sections, the Odyssey was the one that surprised me most. We studied the poem in great depth - so that it was like English Literature in a way, yet not as we didn’t study the exact wording in most cases due to the nature of translations. From this section of the course I have learned about plot and plot devices (in media res anyone?), how to create tension and suspense, showing not telling when writing and how that is more effective and a bunch of other things I would never have thought would be included at the beginning of the year, so I would therefore recommend it to anyone wanting to hone their craft in film or writing - any kind of storytelling really. The questions for this paper dig deeper into the poem - the story and even the morals of the characters. For example, I don’t know a single person who likes Odysseus. We all agree he’s a bit of a dick, but for Ancient Greek standards he’s great - a hero.

My time with Classics is drawing to a close, as I finish my last exam in early June, but this may just be the beginning for you if you’re starting your A Levels (bear in mind you can’t do AS now, at least I don’t think so anyway). If you’re considering this as an option I hope you found this useful!

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