Ancient Greek represents an exciting new GCSE elective subject, with first teaching at The John Lyon School from September 2014. Although Greek has been taught as an extra-curricular interest for several years now, the subject has now officially found its way onto the timetable! A brilliant opportunity for those students who love the Classics and those who want to stretch themselves academically.
Greek will initially be offered as a two-year intensive course over Years 10 and 11. Students do not need to have studied Latin or any Classical subject previously, but they should be strong performers in their other subjects. Although rapid in pace, we use a brilliant textbook – John Taylor’s Greek to GCSE – which is used very successfully by most independent schools offering Greek for the first time in Year 10.
So why study Greek? In part answer, think of most other school subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Drama, Economics, Geography, History, Mathematics, Music, Physics, Politics – all these have Greek names. This is a clue to the fact that they all have their intellectual foundations in ancient Greece. Many others, of course – Art, English and so on – have been profoundly influenced by Greek ideas and ideals.
More importantly perhaps, Greek (like Latin) extends intellectual horizons and disciplines the mind. Students become proficient in decoding an ancient language, yes, but also in applying reason, logic and flexibility to the challenges before them. These are qualities that are highly valued, both by the top universities and by employers (and just some of the reasons behind the high proportion of Classicists in the diplomatic corps and the intelligence services, as well as in law, journalism and other professions).
All this, and great enjoyment as well: an ability to read and understand Greek opens an exciting world to students, a world of tragedy and comedy, a world of humble philosophers and conquering heroes, a world of gods and monsters… In the first year of the GCSE course alone, we explore a variety of ancient readings, from the simple tales in Aesop’s Fables, to the exciting world of Homer’s Odyssey and the Cyclops, before following Alexander the Great in his conquest of the East. Plato, Herodotus and the great Athenian dramatists feature in Year 11, while we will read a section from one of the greatest works in Western literature, Homer’s Iliad, as our set text.
Students have the benefit of attending the annual Greek plays produced at University College and King’s College London, as well as museum visits to the British Museum and Oxford’s Ashmolean. The Classics Depart are also keen to promote a biannual seven day trip to Greece each October, visiting Athens, Delphi, Olympia and the mighty fortress of the Argolid.