Classics: Durham School: independent day and boarding school in the North East of England for boys and girls
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Understand the modern world by exploring the languages, lifestyles and cultures of the civilisations from which Western society has evolved.

Head of Department: Mr C J Hope

Teaching Staff: Mrs K Addison, Mrs A Warne


The department offers both Latin and Classical Civilisation, taught across all age ranges. Latin focuses on the language of the Roman world but also the historical and social context of the Roman world. Classical Civilisation offers pupils a chance to access the societies of the ancient world by introducing them to the gods, cities, leisure pursuits and literature of Greece and Rome.

The department expects to run trips to Rome and Pompeii as well as Hadrian’s Wall and has close links with Durham University from which speakers are invited to present talks to older pupils.

Year 7-8

Latin is taught to all pupils in Year 7 and 8 using the Cambridge Latin Course. Basic grammatical concepts are introduced in reading passages set in Pompeii. Each chapter concludes with background material on Pompeii revealing how Roman society functioned.

Year 9-11

Latin during Year 9 continues from the next Cambridge Latin Course textbook, with the stories and historical background concentrating on Britain and in Egypt under the Roman Empire.

Classical Civilisation in Year 9 involves an introduction to a number of ancient civilisations and their inventions and myths before focussing on Greece and Rome. The material studied in Year 9 links closely to that of the GCSE course so the course serves as a ‘taster’ for further study though integral in itself.

Latin in Years 10-11 continues to develop pupils’ grammatical and vocabulary knowledge while a large component of the course is the reading of two texts in the original language. Preparation is also made for two language examinations (sight translation).

Classical Civilisation in Years 10-11 is comprised of four modules: the study of Rome, life in Pompeii, Homer’s Odyssey and a controlled assessment module, currently Sophocles’ Antigone. The course focuses on the everyday life of people living in ancient societies.

Year 12-13

Latin at A Level involves the translation and understanding of more advanced texts in preparation for examinations on set texts and in translating previously unseen passages of Latin.

Classical Civilisation at A Level involves the study of two modules each year: Life in the cities of Roman Italy and Greek Tragedy in Year 12; Roman Britain and Virgil’s Aeneid in Year 13. No prior knowledge of the Classical world is required while the options provide a breadth of study which furnishes pupils with an understanding of many facets of ancient society and culture.

All GCSE and A Level Classics courses currently follow the OCR specification.

After Durham

Both subjects teach skills which are applicable to a number of other subjects should further study be the aim as well as to many aspects of the working world. The academic rigour, attention to detail and linguistic competency which are associated with Latin makes it a qualification which remains highly regarded while the essay-writing skills and knowledge about other civilisations that broadens cultural awareness and understanding which make up the study of Classical Civilisation means that a variety of options are open for those who have pursued such subjects. Popular degree subjects other than Classics for those who have taken Latin or Classical Civilisation include English Literature, History, Politics, foreign languages, Archaeology, Anthropology and Law. The majority of those who study Classics at university go on to fields such as Law, Accountancy, Management Consultancy, Politics and Journalism.


Studying Latin is both fascinating and enjoyable as well as being intellectually stimulating. It has helped me to cultivate strong language and analysis skills which I can use not only at university but in my future life. The teaching is superb and the individual support that small class sizes allow has been invaluable.

Lexy Powell, Year 13

I am thoroughly enjoying studying A-level Latin, despite its challenges. I am very lucky to be taught within such a specialised, friendly and close-knit department. Small class sizes ensure that the transition from GCSE to A-level is quam facillime, and due to tailored, expert guidance, I have seen my abilities improve massively - I can honestly say that I look forward to every lesson! Thanks to the many opportunities on offer, I am now tackling the intricacies of Ancient Greek, which will undoubtedly help in broadening my understanding of classical languages and cultures.

Benjamin O'Neill, Year 12

I chose Latin GCSE because it combines a thought-provoking mix of reading ancient Roman texts, the use of logic to decipher passages of interesting stories and the provision to increase our knowledge of who people were, and how they lived their lives. Latin is actually one of the most useful subjects I take, because it perfectly complements all the other subjects I do; in English it improves my grammar and sentence structure, in any modern foreign language it expands my repertoire of vocabulary and it reveals previously hidden meanings of key words in sciences. It may be a dead language, but it is what many other subjects have built their legacies on.

Will Bowles, Year 11

I love studying Latin. It is challenging but it provides a brilliant understanding of the roots of the English language. It makes you think creatively and can really improve your vocabulary, as lots of words we use today are derived from Latin. If you enjoy solving puzzles, you will like Latin.

Lottie Craven, Year 8

The biggest attraction to Classics for me is the fact that it is such a broad subject - covering aspects of ancient life from literature, art, and religion to the construction of buildings and archaeological evidence of types of food eaten in Pompeii. I genuinely love the anthropological aspect of the subject, learning about the day to day way of life of ancient cultures, and because of this I find Classics incredibly easy and enjoyable to connect with.


Sebastian Robson, Year 13

Classical Civilisation is an intellectually stimulating subject that covers a broad range of interesting topics such as Greek Tragedy, Roman daily life and the expansion of the Roman Empire. I am fascinated by all these areas and therefore I plan to study Classics, jointly with English Literature, at degree level. It is very useful in all areas of life as it teaches us about the way culture has developed through time and how cultural aspects of the modern world, such as literature and art, all originate from the ancient world.

Claudia George, Year 12

I enjoy Classical Civilisation because it tells you what things were like in the ancient world and how things in the modern day have developed from them. We also look at a variety of Greek plays and myths which I personally find extremely engaging as they teach us all about the morals and the ways in which society was different back then.

Charlotte Davison, Year 11
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