Classics is the study of two ancient languages – Latin and Greek – and their rich and varied literature. These writings give access to two great civilisations which have done so much to shape the thought and culture of our modern world.
All girls study Latin in MIV-LV, and it is a popular choice at GCSE and beyond. Classical Greek is added as an optional GCSE subject in the V and runs through to A level. From the beginning we value the precision of each language and, through their study, learn much too about English and about the structure of language in general, as we seek to produce accurate yet idiomatic translations. At the same time we never lose sight of the fact that both languages were living, evolving means of communication which can tell us so much about the rich and varied cultures which gave rise to them.
The sound and beauty of the languages are important to us: each year our students participate with success in the London schools Classics Reading competitions, and direct and produce a piece of drama in Greek, most recently Euripides’ Medea. We also firmly set our study of Latin and Greek in their historical and geographical contexts, both in the way in which we teach them in the classroom and with regular visits to Greece and Italy as well as trips to classical sites closer to home, such as Bath.
We follow the OCR syllabus in both languages at GCSE and A level, encouraging reading and reflection beyond the requirements of these examinations. From the V, we study Greek and Roman source material and read, in their original tongue, authors such as the Roman historian Tacitus viewing the imposition of autocratic rule at Rome or Homer evoking in his epic poems the earliest Bronze Age society. All these writers lead us to respond readily to the beauty of their language or to the expression of an idea or concern, and also to feel a sense of dissonance as we encounter assumptions and values so very different from our own. It is this mingling sense of recognition and alienation which makes the study of classics so endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking, and which enriches so much of the way in which we view our world.
Our interest in the Classical world easily moves outside the classroom. Students contribute to the teaching of the Minimus Latin scheme at two local primary schools, and a junior Classics Club meets each week for hands-on activities such as making mosaics and draping togas. Senior students produce a classics magazine with articles to appeal to all in the school, and a thriving senior Classics Society attracts large numbers to its meetings at which visiting speakers address a range of topics and give a glimpse of the richness of the subject at university level – indeed, each year a good number of students choose to continue their study of the Classical world at leading universities.