St Paul’s School / Academic

Interest in the ancient world has never been higher, witness the constant stream of new history books, archaeological finds reported in the press, programmes on television, theatre productions etc, and we aim to combine rigorous linguistic teaching with the fun and joy of looking at Greece and Rome.


The teaching of Latin, Greek and Ancient History entails detailed study of the literature and history of the Romans and Greeks, and you will gain a thorough, comprehensive knowledge of both, at GCSE and A level. But you can also expect at St Paul’s to develop a wider knowledge of the ancient world, to learn something about Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, cuneiform, to name but several, and you will be able to make informed comparisons between the ancient and modern worlds. Not only do we seek to teach an enriching programme, but we enhance it with talks, lectures, visits to museums etc, and there are regular trips to Greece and Italy, as well as chances to enter academic competitions.


We teach OCR’s exciting Ancient History GCSE. Three topics are examined: the Greeks at war — either the period of the Persian Wars (499–479 BC) or that of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC); the rise of Rome — either the period of the early kings (753–508 BC) or the Hannibalic Wars (218–146 BC); women in Ancient Politics — either Cleopatra and her impact on Roman politics (69–30BC) or Agrippina the Younger (AD 41–59). These topics are all studied through the actual surviving ancient sources, literary, and archaeological and much attention is giving to analysing the reliability of these sources. There is also an engaging range of topics from which to choose for the controlled assessment: for example, Ancient Egypt; the Mycenaeans and the Trojan War; Minoan Crete; Ancient Persia; the Hellenistic world; the Celts.

Boys studying Latin and Greek (OCR) to GCSE acquire not only a good linguistic awareness but also a flavour of life in the Roman Empire and in 5th century Athens.

Having had a good grounding in Roman Britain and the age of Athenian Direct Democracy (in the age of “Brexit” such chances for comparing and contrasting are frequent and thought-provoking), they have, with the start of the GCSE course proper, the chance to study classical literature in the original language, studying a verse text and a prose text in each language. The current GCSE texts for Greek are selections from Xenophon (on the virtuous King Agesilaus of Sparta and also on the return to Greece of the ill-fated mercenary expedition to Persia) and for verse, selections from Book 1 of Homer’s Iliad, while in Latin pupils study selections from the love poetry of Catullus and Ovid, together with Tacitus’ account of Messalina, the unfaithful wife of the emperor Claudius, and a story about a high living old lady called Ummidia Quadratilla. In Latin and Greek pupils will have the chance to stretch themselves with some elementary composition into those languages.

A level

Latin and Greek

Opting for Latin or Greek or both gives Paulines the opportunity to develop and deepen the knowledge and skills gained at GCSE. With the reform of the A level curriculum, Paulines now have the chance to really spread their wings intellectually, and read widely in the genres. The first two thirds of the lower 8th are spent building the necessary linguistic and literary foundations for the formal A level programme. The teaching is divided into prose and verse: one (or in some cases two) teachers handles prose literature, elementary prose composition as well as general linguistic development, whilst the other teacher handles verse texts and verse unseen transition. For the first two thirds of the lower 8th we will read selections from a wide variety of literature, to give pupils a good sense of Latin and Greek authors (e.g. Catullus, Horace, Ovid, Virgil, and in Greek: Aristophanes, Lysias, Homer, Herodotus, Aeschylus and Plato). Finally, we will move to reading the prescribed literature for A Level: in Latin this will means selections from the love poetry of Ovid, Tibullus and Propertius, plus Virgil Aeneid X, and in prose, the pro Milone of Cicero followed by Tacitus Annals 1; in Greek the texts will be: Plato’s Apology of Socrates plus Thucydides Book IV, and in verse Homer’s Odyssey Book 10 and Sophocles Antigone.

Ancient History

Ancient History does not start its reformed syllabus till 2017. Boys currently in the Upper 8th are studying for the last year of A2 the period of the Persian Wars (500-479 BC) together with the earlier Roman emperors (31BC - AD68).


There are regular trips to Naples and to Greece. In a typical year there will also be several theatre trips, and we regularly go to the Cambridge Greek Play: this year the production takes the form of a double bill and two plays centring on famous women characters: the Antigone of Sophocles and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. We also run two classical societies, to which boys of all ages are invited (and where they also give talks). Our senior society regularly welcomes distinguished academics: this year we have heard talks on “Nature and the Supernatural in Latin Literature”, “Sophocles’ New Antigone”, “The History of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus”, “The Jews and Rome”, “Heraclitus and Flux”, “Biography of a Greek Vase”, and “the Oxyrhynchus  Papyri.” Boys continue to enjoy writing essays in several Oxbridge College prize essay competitions.

After St Paul's

A steady stream of Paulines read Ancient History or Classics at university.

Distinguished Pauline Classicists teaching in some of the great universities of the world include:

Martin West (1937-2015) was made a Member of the Order of Merit by HM The Queen in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List.

Classics Staff Members

  • Photo of Sarah Burges Watson

    Sarah Burges Watson

  • Photo of Douglas Cairns

    Douglas Cairns

  • Photo of James Harrison

    James Harrison

  • Photo of Russell Katharine

    Russell Katharine

  • Photo of James Lloyd-Thomas

    James Lloyd-Thomas

  • Photo of Hannah Mervis

    Hannah Mervis

  • Photo of Alex Stewart

    Alex Stewart

  • Photo of Robert Taylor

    Robert Taylor

  • Photo of Katy Waterfield

    Katy Waterfield