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Ancient History & Classical Civilisation

Ancient History and Classical Civilisation is a standard-level subject available primarily in group 3 and also in group 6 that introduces students to the history and culture of ancient Greece and Rome, and through these to a wider study of individuals and societies.

Students explore different kinds of evidence for these two cultures: the literary record, thought to be representative of the best of the creative and political and historical achievements of these societies, and an archaeological record that is often suggestive of wider contexts for investigation. Students evaluate these records through the filters of modern critical frameworks as well as through their own personal viewpoints (both of which will inevitably reflect contemporary outlooks) together with their own cultural filters, and they are encouraged to examine and develop an awareness of how judgments on the past may be affected by these factors.

There is no prerequisite for students to have studied Classical Civilisation or Ancient History at GCSE but this course requires the students to have good written skills so a good GCSE result in English would be beneficial.

The course is composed of four topics and a written dossier of 1500 words on a topic of your own choosing. The topics are:

Part A: TWO TOPICS from the following four options:



Homer’s Odyssey, Books 1, 5-12 and 19-23. This epic poem is the story of the Greek hero Odysseus who, after helping the Greeks defeat the Trojans at the battle of Troy, incurred the wrath of the gods and spent ten years battling monsters and vindictive gods to get home.


Homer’s Iliad, Books 1, 3-6, 9, 16, 18-19 and 22-24. This epic poem spans 40 days of the Trojan War and is about the greatest Greek hero, Achilles. Most famously known for his skill as a warrior on the battlefield, this poem follows what happens when one man lets his wrath cloud his better judgment. The consequences for both Greek and Trojans alike is catastrophic.


Two plays by Euripides: Bacchae and Hippolytus.  During the classical age of Greece there was arguably no more popular form of entertainment than Greek tragedy. The plays were written and performed to be entertaining, accessible and thought-provoking for every member of society. The plays would take a famous myth which the audience would be familiar with, and each playwright would reinterpret it, give it a new focus, something poignant and telling to their audience, relevant to their own time.


Virgil’s Aeneid, Books 1-2, 4, 6, 7-8, 10 and 12.  The focus of study for this topic is both literary and socio-historical. Candidates will read about the Trojan hero Aeneas, who escaped from Troy to finally make his way to Italy where he and his people joined the local tribes to become the people of Latium, whom the Roman people were descended from. A political masterpiece celebrating the reign of the emperor Augustus.


An evidence-based study of religious beliefs and practices in Rome in the first century BC and the first century AD. The topic will focus on areas such as the gods; temples; sacrifice; priests; state religion and religion in the home.

Part B: TWO TOPICS from the following four options:


This topic is taught in Ancient History at GCSE so may not be considered for teaching at IB.


This topic thematically looks at Athenian culture and society through what was painted on vases (some 100,000 vases are recorded in the Corpus vasorum antiquorum). This is an invaluable look at Athenian art as there is very little wall painting left, showing everyday life and mythology.


A study of the architecture of the Romans in their religious, political, aesthetic, cultural and social context. In order to give the Topic a clear focus, we will be studying the towns of Pompeii (and Herculaneum for houses), Rome and Ostia and looking at famous buildings like the Colosseum and the Pantheon.


A historical look at the reign of Rome’s most first and most famous emperor, Augustus. The rise and rule of Augustus came at Rome’s extraordinary transition from a republic to a monarchy and began a long line of emperors. This topic is intended to give students an understanding of the political, social and cultural climate of the era, the roles played by the key historical figures of the time and the challenges faced and strategies used by Augustus throughout his political life.