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Classical Civilisation AS & A Level at Durham Sixth Form Centre

Course description

Classics is a wide-ranging subject bringing together the study of some of the World’s most fabulous works of literature in Homer’s Odyssey, Euripides’ Medea, and Sophocles’ Oedipus, together with ancient Literary Theory as explored in the Philosophers Aristotle and Plato, architecture and sculpture from Greece and Rome, and aspects of Roman historical writing on the empire.

It has been said that “Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.” And nowhere is this truer than in Classical texts, where the vast majority of what was written in the Ancient World has been lost and only those recognised as masterpieces have survived. The study of the temples and statues of the Ancient World and their meanings and functions will appeal to historians and art historians alike.

Course content

AS Course

This course includes a close study of Athenian sculpture and architecture in the context of the statues and the Parthenon (below) and the Caryatids of the Erechtheion. Students look at the stories represented, the stylistic features of the statues and the degree to which these outstanding works and temples are typical of the Ancient World.
The AS then has a more significant aspect of literature, looking first at Homer’s epic Odyssey: the original journey narrative; the inspiration for “brains over brawn” stories ever since; an exploration of human psychology; an adventure story with raunchy goddesses and brutal Cyclopes. Secondly we explore ancient tragedy; stories of human beings at their lowest ebb when everything has gone wrong: your loved wife turns out to be your mother, or a trusted husband betrays and abandons you to plot revenge. Why we enjoy such stories is a mystery, but we do (think Bambi’s mother!) and these are powerful emotional devices.

A2 course

This course builds on the AS and likewise looks at architecture and statues, but this time Roman examples including the Roman Forum and its buildings, a Roman Theatre, and statues of Augustus. There is also an aspect of Ancient Philosophy focussing on Plato and Aristotle’s investigations into the purposes and effects of literature. There is finally a mixture of history and literature in the study of the historians of Rome and their subjects, Tiberius and Claudius. Violence, sex, and politics abound in this murky period of Imperial Rome.
The course involves looking at a very wide range of sources: literary, philosophical, archaeological, architectural, and modern interpretations of events and of key points of historical debate. The course is assessed by exams at the end of the AS and A2 course with the A2 exams also covering all of the AS material. There is no requirement for any ancient language, but the Department does regularly offer the chance to take up some Latin as a voluntary extra-curricular activity

Future opportunities

Students who have studied with the Classics Department in the past have taken up places at Cambridge, Durham, and other prestigious universities across the country. Classical Civilisation as an A-level is explicitly valued by admissions tutors.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Durham Sixth Form Centre directly.

Last updated date: 13 January 2017
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Key information


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    • Durham Sixth Form Centre is located in Durham City Centre next to Gala Square and Freeman’s Quay. We are a couple of minutes walk from both the bus station and the railway station. Our students enjoy having all of the city centre facilities, shops, restaurants, the city library, cinema and theatre on our doorstep. In the city itself, students find a host of lively cultural, social and educational advantages and facilities. The galleries, exhibitions, museums and book shops all play their part in enriching the student experience. A large public car-park is directly opposite and adjacent to Durham Sixth Form Centre’s main entrance.