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Ancient History

What is on offer? How will it work?

The option to study GCSE Ancient History is only available as an additional option, on top of the compulsory GCSEs and three option subjects, and outside the framework of the normal timetable.

Lessons will take place during (and instead of) the History of Ideas sessions, supplemented with some lunchtime lessons. Currently there are thirteen students taking this option in Year 10 and eleven in Year 11.

You can start the course on a trial basis in Term 6 of Year 9, but you will need to make a firm decision as to whether or not to commit to the course at the start of Year 10. Looking ahead, Ancient History also now runs as an AS option in our Sixth Form (ten students at present).

You can take Ancient History regardless of whether or not you also choose (Modern) History as one of your three option choices.

Why might you want to take it?

Obviously this is only an appropriate choice for highly-motivated students who are keen to explore the ancient worlds of Persia, Greece and Rome, and are ready to take on significant additional study demands in order to do so. You will also need to be proficient and confident in literary-based subjects. This is particularly important as the course involves the careful reading and use of literary texts from the ancient world, including authors such as Herodotus, Plutarch, Livy, and Polybius.

While this course will give you an additional, fully-certified GCSE qualification, and also involves a real focus on developing intellectual skills of careful source reading and piecing together complex and fragmentary evidence from the distant past, the main motivation to take this course should simply be interest and a desire to learn about the ancient world. If you enjoyed the Year 9 History of Ideas course on ancient history, it is well worth considering this option.

What will you study?

The GCSE course is offered by the OCR exam board and involves the following units of study:

  • The Persian Empire 559-465 BC
  • Alexander the Great 356-323 BC
  • The foundations of Rome 753-440 BC
  • Hannibal and the Second Punic War 218-201 BC

It is examined through two exam papers of 1h45m each, both taken at the end of Year 11. You can find further details about the course at

Ancient History (AS Level only on offer)

What is on offer?

 The opportunity to study the history of ancient Greece and Rome to AS level, via the OCR syllabus. AS levels are roughly equivalent to half an A level. The course will run over two years, with the exams in the summer of Year 13. You will have five timetabled lessons each fortnight.

You would take this in addition to your three (or even four) A levels. You can take this instead of your EPQ, or in addition if you wish.

You can take Ancient History regardless of whether or not you are taking A level History.

The course will be taught by Mr J Eagle (BA Hons, Ancient & Modern History, Oxford).

“That’s just ancient history!” What’s the point of studying events from over 2000 years ago?

 Although what you study in Ancient History is, by definition, long in the past, you will find great contemporary relevance in the themes explored in the course: war and empire, the nature of autocratic power, and relations between different cultures, to name but a few. Ancient Greece and Rome have a particularly important place in the broader story of human history, being (arguably) the starting point for many ideas and ways of thinking that are central to the modern world: democracy, empire, political theory, the systematic study of history itself…

Who is this course for?

 In short, anyone who has a passion for learning about the past and an interest in the ancient world in particular. While you will gain an additional qualification from this course, it should be passion not qualification-hunting that inspires you to take it.

This course is equally suitable for the specialist historian who is also taking A level History, or for a student who wishes to complement a broader selection of subjects.

No prior knowledge is required, so it doesn’t matter if you have already studied GCSE Ancient History or Classics, or not. You will need to be confident and adept in ‘humanities’ skills – reading texts, analysing them, writing essays – and to demonstrate this through your grade in GCSE History or (if you haven’t taken History), GCSE English.

What will I study?

 The course has two equally-weighted elements. Each is examined via a 90-minute written exam. There is no coursework.

  • Roman History 31BC – AD68. This covers the establishment of the Roman Empire by Augustus, and the reigns of his first four successors: Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero – among the most colourful, if not infamous, rulers in history. Central themes are the military, political, and social achievements of the emperors, and how they are presented in the ancient source material, including the works of Suetonius and Tacitus
  • Greek History 492-404BC. This period is the cultural ‘golden age’ of classical Greece, but the focus of this paper is on the political history of the Greek city-states and their relationships with each other, and with the Persian empire. The paper begins with the great war between the Greek states and Persia, and traces the growth of an Athenian empire and its rivalry with Sparta, culminating in the long and terrible Peloponnesian War. Key ancient texts are Herodotus and Thucydides.