Classical Civilisation A Level

Course Content

By studying Classical Civilisation A Level you will gain a broad and coherent insight into the literature and culture of the classical world and you will form an understanding of the profound ways in which the Greeks and Romans have shaped our modern world. You will engage closely with the oldest surviving works of literature in the Western literary canon, the origins of democracy, the birth of theatre, art and artistry, developing a wide range of analytical skills in the process. No knowledge of Greek or Latin is required; all source material will be in English translation.


Paper 1: The world of the hero (40% of A level)

Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes

You will start off by studying Homer’s Odyssey, one of the very first works of Western literature.  With gods and monsters aplenty, it recounts the dramatic (and touching) return home of the ingenious Greek hero Odysseus, following the Trojan War.  In Year 13, you will move on to Virgil’s Aeneid, which addresses the same theme from a Trojan and Roman perspective.  While the Aeneid is full of meddling gods and exciting battle scenes, its haunting depiction of the human cost of imperial ambition (poor Queen Dido!) resonates with us still today.

Paper 2: Culture and the arts (30% of A level): Greek Theatre

Written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes

In their festivals celebrating the god Dionysus, the ancient Athenians invented drama as we know it.  You will study two tragedies: the nail-biting Oedipus the King (whose hero murdered his father and married his mother…) and the violent, gory Bacchae, in which a powerful king is humiliated by Dionysus, then torn limb from limb by his own family.  For some light relief, you will move on to Aristophanes’ Frogs, experiencing the lewdness and crudeness of Athenian comedy.  You will also study staging, costumes and rituals, by reference to the surviving theatres themselves, and to depictions found on Greek pots.

Paper 3: Beliefs and ideas (30% of A level): Love and Relationships

Written exam: 1 hour 45 minutes

Transcend 2600 years, and share the poet Sappho’s raw emotions, as she pines for lost lovers and celebrates the natural beauty of her home on Lesbos.  Feeling a bit more cynical?  You will enjoy the Roman poet Ovid’s calculating advice about the Art of Love.  Prefer philosophy?  As a fly on the wall at a dinner party, you will discover what the most brilliant minds of Classical Athens believed love to be all about.  You will also study the (often surprising) Greek and Roman norms about marriage, the strict moral laws of the Emperor Augustus, and the uncompromising self-denial of the Stoic philosophers.


To be accepted onto the course, you need at least a Grade 6 in English Literature and a Grade 6 in a Humanities subject at GCSE. The course demands good essay writing skills and a willingness to contribute to discussion. You will be set independent learning tasks each week and you will also be expected to carry out a large amount of self-study.

Examination Board: OCR.   Course Number: H408