Classical Civilisation


Key Stage 5

Students will study the OCR Classical Civilisation (H408) GCE syllabus. 

In Year 12 students will study The World of the Hero and the Invention of the Barbarian module. The topics will be taught at the same time by different teachers.

In The World of the Hero component learners will study Homer’s Odyssey, as well as Virgil’s Aeneid. Learners will develop an increasingly sophisticated level of knowledge and understanding of the epics themselves, the way in which they were composed, and the religious, cultural and social values and beliefs of its society. Each text will be studied in an equal level of depth.

The poems of Homer were considered by the Greeks themselves to be a foundation of Greek culture, standing as they do at the beginning of the Western literary canon. This component provides learners with the opportunity to appreciate the lasting legacy of these works and to explore their attitudes and values. The epics of Homer, with their heroes, gods and exciting narratives, have been in continuous study since their conception, and remain popular with learners and teachers today.

This component also provides learners with the opportunity (in Year 13) to appreciate Virgil’s Aeneid, a cornerstone and landmark in Western literature. Drawing inspiration from Homer, as well as from his own cultural and political context, Virgil explored what it was to be a hero in the Roman world and created a work which has proven enduringly popular. Learners will study the topics, prescribed sources, and knowledge; skills and understanding listed for each option in conjunction with one another, taking a thematic, holistic approach. This component will make use of relevant secondary scholars and academics to support their analysis and argument.

Part One: Literary techniques and composition
Part Two: The heroic world
Part Three: The social, cultural and religious context
Part Four: (Aeneid only) Historical and political background

In Year 12 students will also study the Invention of the Barbarian component.

This component allows learners to explore how the Greeks saw themselves as distinct from their ‘barbarian’ neighbours. With issues of race and stereotyping so prevalent in the modern world, this component raises matters which will resonate with learners and encourage them to think about their own society and beliefs.

The first topic introduces the learner to the Greek world and asks how united the Greeks were as a people. The second explores the possible lack of cohesion of the Greeks during the events of the Persian wars.

Learners will then look into how the image of the barbarian as being distinct from, and inferior to, the Greeks emerged and persisted.

In the innovative topic focusing on the reality of Persian culture, learners will analyse how far the Greek stereotype of the Persians was based on fact or prejudice. They will be encouraged to question assumptions and think critically about portrayals of difference and identity.

Finally, learners will examine depictions of the Persians in the work of Herodotus and Aeschylus, as well as the idea of barbarians in Greek myth, including why the Greeks were fascinated by female barbarians in particular. This close analysis of literary and artistic sources will give learners the opportunity to work with a variety of material, creating an engaging course of study. 

Part One: Greek identity
Part Two: The Persian Wars and Greek (dis)unity
Part Three: Greeks and Barbarians
Part Four: Depictions and portrayals; mythical barbarians and historical barbarians
Part Five: The reality of Persia

In Year 13 students will also study the Politics of the Late Republic

The Late Roman Republic was a period of upheaval and conflicting views on how the Roman state should function. These conflicts eventually led to the downfall of the Republican res publica (state) and the rise of the Roman Emperors.

In this component learners will study the political thought of the period from Sulla’s retirement in 79 BC to the death of Cicero in 43 BC, through examining Marcus Porcius Cato (‘Cato the Younger’), Gaius Julius Caesar, and Marcus Tullius Cicero. 

The exploration of the very different ideas of three contemporary political figures brings this tumultuous period to life for learners and moves beyond simply studying ideals and abstracts, and into discussion of the practical difficulties familiar to states throughout history. By examining their distinctive attitudes, political beliefs, conduct, and impact, learners will explore the ways in which the later Republican res publica (state) developed, changed, and ultimately fell.

The final two topics are devoted to an in depth study of two of Cicero’s major works: his early speech against Verres, and a selection of his letters. Learners will study these works in stylistic terms as well in order to see Cicero’s ideas in action.

Part One: The background of the late Republic
Part Two: Cato and the politics of the optimates
Part Three: Caesar as popularis and dictator
Part Four: Cicero and the res publica
Part Five: Cicero as orator and as correspondent

Useful Links

OCR Classical Civilisation GCE


The British Museum 

Mary Beard

Encyclopaedia Iranica

Ancient History Encyclopaedia: Roman Republic


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