The specification for junior cycle Classics gives students the opportunity to engage with the culture, literature, languages, art and material culture of ancient Greece and Rome in a variety of ways. The course comprises three strands, and students will study two out of these three strands. The first strand, Core component, will be taken by all students. Alongside this, students have the option of studying either the Classical studies component (strand 2) or the Classical language component (strand 3). Each strand is designed for 100 hours of student contact time.
In this strand, students will become familiar with key aspects of Greek and Roman culture by exploring mythical storytelling and examining the realities of daily life in the ancient world.
A selection of myths gives students an insight into the values, ideologies and customs of a culture and provides them with a unique context to explore important questions in an exciting and non-threatening context. Myths evoke questions about right and wrong and about the meaning of life; they reflect the hopes, fears and ambitions of civilisations. They are powerful in helping students recognise patterns in language, stimulating their powers of imagination and creativity, providing them with problem-solving and decision-making examples, and assisting them in developing skills in dialogue and collaboration.
The daily lives of the Greeks and Romans provide another accessible window into these ancient civilisations; their lives can be explored through a rich and varied set of sources, from architecture and artistic representations to graffiti and literary texts. Students will examine how people were educated, their daily rituals and routines, how individuals of different social status and gender fared in society, and the relationships between humans and the divine.
Understanding the contexts in which myths are created and gaining insights into the daily lives of people in the ancient world will help shape students’ ability to interrogate and appraise their own values and attitudes, thus becoming more reflective in their relationships and more aware of their responsibilities towards others and as citizens of a community.
In this strand, students learn about public life in the ancient world by examining the social dynamics of Greek epic and exploring how the public space of the city of Rome reflects Rome’s status as capital and emblem of an empire.
In The world of Achilles, students investigate Homer’s representation of a conflict among Greek leaders and these leaders’ war against the city of Troy in the Iliad. Reading key sections of Homer’s magnificent epic, students reflect on the decisions, actions and emotions of the hero Achilles. They compare Achilles to other heroes—both from the Iliad and the world of today—and contrast his anger with other ancient responses and with their own values and attitudes.
Through this lens, they investigate a ‘heroic’ code of behaviour in which aspirations to excellence, honour and fame are balanced by the need for dignity and compassion and the recognition of suffering, human cost, and mankind’s mortality. Students will familiarise themselves with Homer’s peculiar poetic devices and techniques, the mythical stories and places associated with the Trojan War; the Iliad’s intricate plot and its cast of characters, which they also investigate through visual sources.
In Rome, centre of an empire, Rome’s grand and complex urban landscape gives students a lens into the public life, history and politics of a people who, between the 2nd century BC and 3rd century AD, conquered and held an empire stretching from the Irish Sea to the Persian Gulf. Students become familiar with key types of Roman public architecture and they study in depth three buildings, structures or sites, selected from Rome’s plethora of administrative centres, leisure buildings, military structures and commemorative monuments. They explore these buildings’ functions and imagine themselves as visitors at an historical event associated with them, such as a triumphal procession, a festival or gladiatorial games.
They investigate the Roman statesman or Emperor who commissioned them, and the practical and ideological reasons for their construction. Thus, they gain an impression of how the Romans shaped their metropolis into a capital that showcased their power and wealth and consider how this legacy is readily available for them to explore in their own home towns and cities. Studying key aspects of public life in the ancient world will help shape students’ ability to interrogate the dynamics of modern society and their own social and physical environment.
Students taking this strand learn either Latin or Ancient Greek, and through it gain access to the literature, thought and history of a civilisation at the roots of western culture. They learn to read, analyse and appreciate Latin or Ancient Greek texts, focusing on both the literary sphere of myth and the historical reality of daily life. They investigate many different kinds of texts, from stories, poems and staged dialogues to inscriptions, speeches and historical accounts. By translating, interpreting and creating these diverse texts, students engage in activities that help them appreciate Latin or Ancient Greek as a language which was spoken, heard and written by real people to communicate with each other.
They learn a language which has had a fundamental influence on western modern languages but which is substantially different from them. Comparison, systematic analysis, logical deduction and etymological association are therefore intrinsic parts of this strand. In addition to offering students the opportunity to enjoy the language of the Ancient Greeks or Romans, this strand also builds their confidence in their native and other languages, as well as strengthening analytical skills valuable to other subjects.
While the learning outcomes are set out under strand headings, this should not be taken to imply that the strands are to be studied in isolation. The students’ engagement and learning are optimised by a fully integrated experience across strand 1 (the core component) and the other chosen strand (strand 2 or strand 3).
To give further emphasis to the integrated nature of learning, the outcomes for each strand are grouped by reference to elements. These elements are:
- reading narratives and exploring representations
- analysing structures, patterns, values and ideologies.
Students will explore the ancient Greek and Roman societies through the lens of their texts, literature and language, and through their art, architecture and material culture. In this element, they engage with how these different exponents of culture can be read and explored. They examine their nature, characteristics and value, and investigate how they represent and narrate the (his)stories of communities and individuals. Regarded together, they allow students to develop an understanding of how a culture functions, evolves, thrives, and interacts with others.
In this element, students will engage in learning activities that encourage them to consider the ‘deep structures’ of Greek and Roman culture, as they emerge from the narratives and representations they study. These structures include key beliefs and expectations, duties, relationships and social expectations; the motifs, themes and messages of stories; and the modes, categories and patterns of language. Students discover what they can learn about how a society functioned by interrogating the myriad of structures, behaviours and connections that they encounter and relate them to their own experience and their own world.