Classics at Marlborough is a large and thriving department that offers a stimulating foundation in the language, literature, culture and history of ancient Greece and Rome. We study the ancient world in order to appreciate the modern, through an understanding of the words we speak and the books we read, the plays we watch and the art we admire, and the ideas which frame our institutions and thinking.

Latin and Greek are taught throughout the school with Classical Civilisation as an option in the Sixth Form. The classical languages are popular, with over 60 pupils studying Latin to GCSE and typically ten to A level. At least one pupil a year goes on to read Classics at Oxbridge and many others to pursue Classics-related courses elsewhere.

The Department is well resourced with an excellent library, a cast collection of Greek sculpture and even a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy.

All pupils study Latin in the Shell, following either the GCSE Latin or Oxford Latin Course. The OCR course requires pupils to master the basic elements of Latin grammar and vocabulary together with close study in the original of a verse text (usually Virgil’s Aeneid) and a prose text (chosen from Tacitus or Pliny). At A level, the aim is to extend their knowledge of the language and, through class discussion, written commentary and essay writing, to develop their personal response to a wider range of authors which typically include Catullus, Horace, Ovid, Virgil, Cicero, Livy and Tacitus.

Some pupils can study Ancient Greek in the Shell in the time normally allocated to Latin. Typically, ten pupils opt for GCSE, using John Taylor’s Greek to GCSE. The OCR course requires pupils to master the basic elements of Ancient Greek grammar and vocabulary, together with close study in the original of a verse text (typically Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey) and a prose text (usually Herodotus). At A level, the aims are similar to those in Latin, with pupils reading from genres such as tragedy (Sophocles and Euripides), philosophy (Plato), history (Herodotus and Thucydides) and epic poetry (Homer).

Curriculum: Classical Civilisation

The OCR course involves three main areas of study: epic, history and art. We study Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid for the World of the Hero. The end of the Roman Republic is the focus for a study of the beliefs and ideas of Cicero, Caesar and Cato in this turbulent period of Roman politics. Greek vase painting, architecture and freestanding sculpture from 600–400BC is the focus of the topic on culture and the arts.

The Classics Society invites speakers twice a term, typically to talk on topics related to areas of Sixth Form study. Previous speakers include Catherine Nixey, author of The Darkening Age, Professor Angie Hobbs on Democracy and Demagoguery, Dr Matthew Nicholls on the Digital Reconstruction of Ancient Rome, and Ben Kane, historical novelist, on the campaigns of Alexander the Great.

In the Lent Term we enter pupils for the Salisbury Classical Reading Competition, where they are required to read aloud a passage of Latin or Greek. In the Easter holiday, a biennial study tour of the sites and museums of Greece provides an unparalleled opportunity to explore the cultural context of Greek civilisation. Although primarily aimed at those doing classical subjects, the trip is also open to any Sixth Former with an academic interest in History, History of Art or Religious Study. The tour embraces over 5,000 years of cultural history, visiting the sites and museums of Athens, Delphi, Olympia and Mycenae as well as Mistra, Epidaurus and Corinth.