Townley’s Classics Department aims to give all students the skills and enthusiasm to engage with the ancient world in a meaningful way.
Students of Latin get the chance to learn about the lives and language of the ancient Romans by translating stories. These stories teach students a range of Latin vocabulary and grammar, whilst also helping them to appreciate aspects of Roman culture. More advanced students will be able to use their abilities to translate genuine ancient texts, further deepening their understanding of this fascinating ancient civilisation.
Students who elect to take Classical Civilisation have the opportunity to read some of the greatest literature, appreciate the most beautiful art and investigate the most exciting lives and societies in the history of the Western World. We aim to deliver courses which enable students to interrogate evidence with the skills of a historian, as well as to engage with literature from the perspective of an English specialist, and appreciate art and architecture for its aesthetic beauty as well as its cultural significance. Students of Classical Civilisation are able to develop all these skills and, as such, boast that they are generalists able to view ancient cultures from a holistic standpoint.
The department has an excellent record of high exam results, with the most common GCSE grade being an A* across the cohort in 2016, and 100% of our A2 students achieving A*-C in 2016. The department also consistently ranks highly on a national scale in terms of “value added” for the subject, demonstrating that we are able to get the very best from our students. Indeed, our 2015 leaving cohort achieved the “best performance by girls taking Classical Civilisation at an English Grammar School” by the Good Schools Guide Awards.
Townley’s Classical Civilisation Department sits within the highly successful Humanities Cluster. The subject is led by two full-time specialist teachers and is based in the Classical Civilisation subject room. Students have access to a library of selected Classical texts and study resources, as well as a range of online tools, which enable them to deepen their understanding of the Classical World.
Classical Civilisation is highly regarded by colleges, universities and employers. This is because it is a multi-disciplinary subject that encourages students to examine issues from multiple viewpoints and to hone a range of valuable skills. Students have the chance to discuss great works of literature and art, as well as hone their historical skills by using visual and written sources to learn about the ancient past. They also practice debate and develop strong written communication skills. Students who choose this course will have the opportunity to examine the mythology, history, literature and society of ancient Greece and Rome, examining significant events and exciting individuals as well as the “ordinary” lives of common citizens.
Around 140 students are currently taking GCSE Classical Civilisation at Townley. Students follow the OCR board syllabus, which gives the opportunity to study at least two different ancient societies as well as works of art and literature. If you are interested in studying Classical Civilisation at A Level, GCSE Classical Civilisation is recommended.
There are two main areas of Study:
Each module is worth 50% of the overall qualification and all take the form of a written examination, taken at the end of Year 11.
Classical Civilisation has been interesting and insightful as I have been able to transfer useful skills from these lessons to my other subjects, helping me to excel. Nene E
I chose to study Classical Civilisation because I’ve always been interested in the culture of ancient Greece... I really enjoy this subject because you get to study an aspect of history that isn’t on the key stage 3 curriculum, and lean in a variety of ways. If you want to try an interesting new subject, choose Classics! Rachael D
The skills you will acquire over the 2 year GCSE course are valuable and well respected by Oxbridge colleges, who identify Classical Civilisation as a preferred course for applicants. You will be able to look critically at evidence (both written and visual) and make informed judgements about the ancient world. You will be encouraged to make links between the societies of the ancient world and our modern society and see how antiquity has impacted the world we live in today. You will be able to converse on the subjects of myth, great literature and drama, philosophy, art, architecture, archaeology and ancient history.
Classical Civilisation is a multi-disciplinary subject, containing elements of English Literature, Art, Architecture, History, Philosophy, Archaeology, Religious Studies and Politics. As such, it is highly valued by colleges, universities and potential employers because Classicists have honed a wide range of useful skills.
The study of any Classics subject would benefit those students interested in, among others, a career in Law, the Civil Service, Politics, the Media, Finance, Teaching, Art, Medicine, Publishing, Marketing, Journalism and working in museums and archives.
The subject is available at A Level but study of the GCSE is not a requirement. If the GCSE has been taken however, a 6/7 minimum grade would normally be required to join the A Level course. The subject is assessed by means of written work, so good written English skills are required.
The A Level course comprises three units: The World of the Hero, Imperial Image, and Love & Relationships. Each of these units is examined at the end of Year 13 by means of a written examination.
The World of the Hero is concerned with epic poetry in Greece and in Rome. You will study two epics, one from each society, and critically compare these texts asking: what does it mean to be a hero in antiquity? From Greece, read Homer’s Odyssey, the 10 year quest of Odysseus, the cleverest of all the heroes of the Trojan War, as he tries to return home to his wife Penelope. From Rome, read Virgil’s Aeneid, the story of Aeneas, a Trojan prince and refugee from the Trojan War. See how Virgil paid homage to Homer’s poem, but also to Rome and its leader Augustus. This module spans two years and you will study the Odyssey in Year 12 and the Aeneid in Year 13, sitting one exam at the end of Year 13.
Imperial Image looks at the art, artefacts and literature of Augustan Rome to see how one man (Augustus) was able to transform the Roman Empire from a more or less democratic republic into a principate, ruled by one man: himself. The greatest tool at Augustus’ disposal was official propaganda. We are used to modern politicians “spinning” their image and modern advertisers selling us ideas and products. This module gives you the chance to see how Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, used these techniques to take control of an empire of millions and keep that power for nearly half a century. This unit is studied in Year 12 and examined at the end of Year 13
Love & Relationships allows you to recognise and relate to the passions, frustrations and delights of love in the ancient world. You will study the work of philosophers and poets from Greece and Rome to appreciate how ideas and beliefs concerning love and relationships differed between these two ancient societies. This module will be studied in Year 13 and examined at the end of Year 13.
"Classical Civilisation is a great subject that combines all the interest of History with addictive fantasy and thought-provoking tales from one of the earliest and greatest works of Western Literature – the Odyssey – as well as several plays. It is a subject I enjoyed at GCSE level but find even more enticing at AS Level as my studies have become more in depth and sophisticated. Definitely a subject you can’t regret taking".
Emma Washington, Townley Graduate (2016)
“Classical Civilisation is a beautiful insight into the development of the ancient world and how this sparked modern art and literature. People should take this subject because it’s the only lesson I ever want to go to!”
Catherine Tappenden, current Year 13
The Classics Department maintains excellent links with top universities and is often able to arrange enrichment opportunities for our students. Our students have been fortunate enough to be given a guest lecture from Professor G. Trimble of Oxford University on ‘How we get our Classical Texts’, which helped to put their own studies into broad historical context. Year 12 students were also given the opportunity to visit the Faculty of Classics at Cambridge University to see what studying Classical subjects beyond school can be like. Year 13 students were able to attend a day of lectures from eminent Classics scholars on the topic of Virgil’s Aeneid ahead of their A Level examinations.
We are also lucky to be able to take students into London to take advantage of the fantastic museums and theatres of the capital. In the past we have taken Year 10-11 students to see a performance of Euripides’ tragic Bacchae, and our Year 12s to see Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche in a new production of Sophocles’ Antigone at the Barbican Centre, as well as the critically-acclaimed Oresteia Trilogy as part of the Almeida’s Greek Season.
The Classics Department also has a long history of running residential trips abroad to Greece and Rome. These trips give students the chance to visit sites of great archaeological significance and beauty. What could be more impactful for a student’s understanding of ancient drama than to perform in the Theatre of Epidaurus? Or for their appreciation of the ancient Olympic games than to compete in a footrace at the Stadium at Olympia?
KS5 students are encouraged to take advantage of numerous competitions, summer schools and excursions available outside of school. This year students have entered the St John’s College Oxford essay competition and are in the process of applying for summer schools in subjects ranging from ancient languages to archaeology.