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Aims & Philosophy of the Classical Civilisation Department

“Children have schoolmasters to teach them, adults have the poets.” –  Aristophanes

Classical Civilisation is the gateway to two different, and often magical, worlds. Who has never been enchanted by the Greeks, with their complex mythology, their elegant temples, and their beautiful statues? Or who has never been fascinated by the Romans, with their ruthless efficiency and powerful sense of order? At Queen Margaret’s, the Classics Department aims above all to foster a feeling of wonder for the Greek and Roman world. We believe that studying and appreciating these two civilisations gives our students greater insight into their own lives.

Overview of Key Stage 5 Curriculum

In the Sixth Form we focus on classical literature, and read some of the most exciting and dramatic works which have ever been written.

At AS Level we study Greek tragedy. Recent texts have included Medea, the story of an abandoned wife who takes a horrible revenge, Trojan Women, which examines the plight of women caught up in a war, and Agamemnon, about a man who puts his country before his family. We also read the Odyssey, and follow Odysseus’s adventures until he is finally re-united with his long suffering wife Penelope.

At A2 level we turn to the Aeneid and the struggles of Aeneas as he leaves his war-torn homeland to found a new city. We also look at Greek and Roman comedy, starting with the breath-taking and outrageous plays of Aristophanes, before moving on to the fast-paced farces of Plautus.

Classical Civilisation A level gives students an enormous insight into the beginnings of European literature, and allows them to experience the works which have influenced other writers from Chaucer and Shakespeare all the way to J.K. Rowling and Carol Ann Duffy. It forms a natural partnership with English Literature, and is also very powerful in combination with subjects such as Theatre Studies, History of Art, Philosophy and History.

It is not necessary to have studied this subject before, and many of our most successful candidates take up Classical Civilisation for the first time in the Sixth Form

What makes the Classical Civilisation Department unique from those at other schools?

We pride ourselves on our ability to cater for the individual. We are unusual in being able to offer Greek, Latin, and Classical Civilisation as fully timetabled subjects at GCSE and A level, especially given the relatively small size of the school as a whole. As a consequence, classes tend to be small, allowing much greater interaction between pupils and teachers, and also allowing us to tailor what we teach to the interests and requirements of individual girls. GCSE Greek, for example, may be offered as a possibility in the Sixth Form, or extra lessons given to Oxbridge candidates.

The location of Queen Margaret’s also enables us to take advantage of a wide range of extra-curricular events across the country as a whole. Visits to Hadrian’s Wall, to the undercroft of York Minster, and to the British Museum are regular features of life in the Department. We are also close enough to be able to attend lectures and study days at the universities of Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, and Manchester, and productions of Classical plays in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. There have also been highly successful trips to Pompeii and Athens in recent years.

To learn about the Classical Civilisation Department
curriculum in other Key Stages please choose a link