First Public Examination: Honour Moderations in Classics

classical texts

Course I

Course IA is intended for entrants who have both Greek and Latin to A-level, or to an equivalent standard. You will have college tuition in both Greek and Latin Literature from your first term onwards; you will also probably have inter-collegiate language classes for your first and second terms.

Course IB is intended for entrants who have Latin, but not Greek, to A-level or to an equivalent standard. You will have intensive University classes in Greek in your first two terms, with follow-up University classes in the following terms; you will have college tuition in Latin Literature and other parts of the course from the first term onwards; you will also probably have inter-collegiate language classes in Latin for your first and second terms.

Course IC is the counterpart of IB, for those who have Greek but not Latin to A-level or equivalent. It involves intensive University classes in Latin for the first two terms, then follow-up University classes in the following terms; college tuition in Greek Literature and other parts of the course from the outset; and probably inter-collegiate classes in Greek for the first two terms.

Course II

Course IIA is intended for entrants who have neither Greek nor Latin to A-level or equivalent, and who wish to specialise initially in Latin. It involves intensive University classes in Latin for the first two terms, with further follow-up University classes in the other terms; you will also have College tuition from the beginning. If you wish, you can then go on to study Greek at Greats (the final examination).

Course IIB is the mirror-image of IIA, intended for those with neither Greek nor Latin A-level but wishing to specialise initially in Greek. You will have intensive University classes in Greek for the first two terms, with follow-up further classes; you will also have College tuition from the beginning. You then have the opportunity to study Latin at Greats (the final examination).

Below is a list of papers for Classics Mods.

For comprehensive details of the papers available, and the rules on which combinations of papers students may take, please refer to the Examination Regulations. Detailed descriptions of the papers on offer, and information about teaching provision, can be found in the course handbook in our virtual learning environment, WebLearn.

Please note that changes may be made to course syllabuses from year to year, and that not all papers may be available in any given year.

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Not taken by Mods IIA candidates

This paper involves study of the Iliad as a poem generated by an oral tradition, and consideration of the appropriate critical methods to apply to such a work. You are expected to consider aspects such as narrative technique, structure, characterisation, heroic values, and the poetic representation of the divine world in relation to the human. Knowledge of the whole Iliad is required.

Not taken by Mods IIB candidates

This paper involves the study of the Aeneid both as a product of Augustan Rome and as a poem which has transcended its historical context. Besides examining plot, characterisation and style, you are expected to consider how the epic genre has developed since Homer, and how other forms of literature (including historical prose) have influenced the poem. Much attention is paid to the political and ideological factors shaping the poem. Knowledge of the whole Aeneid is required.

Taken by all Mods candidates

In this paper you study four topics:

  • The Persian Wars and Cultural Identities (Herodotus)
  • Dionysus, Drama, and Athens (Euripides, Bacchae; Aristophanes, Frogs)
  • Love and Luxury (Cicero, pro Caelio; Catullus, Propertius 1)
  • Class (Petronius, Juvenal).

These topics feature important and attractive texts and archaeological material; as well as introducing major themes in social and historical study, they will help you to see how links can be made between different parts of the subject. The balance of reading in Greek/Latin and in translation will vary according to whether you take Course IA, IB, IC, IIA, or IIB. Each year a body of archaeological images will be made available before the start of the course, from which the images used for the picture question in the exam will be drawn. Reading images and monuments is a vital skill in Classics (and more broadly). To get the most out of the subject students need to learn how to talk about images, and there will be a lecture course designed to make sure the skill is acquired by all.   

Available to all Mods candidates

Early Greek Philosophy involves studying the surviving fragments of the earliest, so‐called Pre‐Socratic, Greek thinkers, who wrote (among other things) on the nature of the universe, what it is made of and how it came to have its present orderly arrangement, the structure of matter, the nature of the gods and the possibility of knowledge. 

Available to all Mods candidates

These are two lively and philosophically important dialogues, in which Socrates and others discuss issues of knowledge and definition, especially of ethical concepts such as piety (Euthyphro) and excellence (Meno). Those doing IA or IC read Meno in Greek and Euthyphro in English, those doing IB and IIB read part of Meno in Greek, Euthyphro and the rest of Meno in translation, while those doing IIA read both works in English. 

Not available to Mods IA or IIB candidates

Book 4 of Lucretius’ masterwork on Epicurean philosophy deals with the causes of perception, sensation and emotion and concludes with a passionate argument for the control of one’s sexual desires. You are expected to read the whole book in Latin and study the arguments, their validity and coherence.

Available to all Mods candidates

This paper offers the opportunity to study a range of topics within general philosophy, moral philosophy and logic. For further information, please see the Philosophy Faculty website. 

Not available to Mods IIA candidates

This paper involves both literary and historical questions: with a gifted writer of history such as Thucydides, the two are inseparable. You study the two books (VI and VII) in which he describes the failure of the Sicilian expedition and other events of that period, and also Plutarch, Nicias. Larger questions include the conditions of warfare in Sicily, the political environment of Athens, and the qualities of leadership on both sides.

Not available to Mods IIA candidates

This paper involves study of three comedies: Wasps, Lysistrata and Knights, as well as the ‘Old Oligarch’ writing on the ‘Athenian Constitution’. These plays explore the politics and society of Athens during the Peloponnesian War: the maintenance of power by the dominant speakers in the assembly (especially Cleon, parodied in Knights), the functioning of the law courts, the relations between male and female, fathers and sons; the freedom allowed to the comedians; the values and antagonisms of a polis at war. Lysistrata has also been interpreted as an ‘anti‐war’ play, and this is another political aspect to consider. ‘Literary' elements (such as parody, stagecraft and formal dramatic structures and techniques of comedy) are also an important element in this paper.

Not available to Mods IIB candidates

This paper is more historical than literary, but involves engagement with the primary texts from which we derive most of our historical knowledge about the crisis year 63 BC, the year of Cicero's consulship and of Catiline's conspiracy. Much of our information comes from Cicero himself (especially the speeches set: In Catilinam 1‐4 and Pro Sulla), and from the colourful monograph by Sallust (the Bellum Catilinae, also prescribed). (For Mods IC and IIA the prescription is reduced.) You are encouraged to interrogate these sources and test how far we can trust the reconstructions of the events which have become canonical. Was Cicero really an optimus consul? Was Catiline the fiend he was later painted? What were the real political issues of the year, and how far back did the roots of discontent and revolution go? Like ‘Tacitus and Tiberius’, this paper is a good introduction to many of the topics which you will meet in Ancient History in Greats.

Not available to Mods IIB candidates

The reign of Tiberius, covered in Books 1‐6 of Tacitus’ Annales, has had a grim reputation since antiquity, and its darker aspects are unforgettably handled in these books, the historian’s masterpiece. You are expected to study Books 1 and 3 in Latin and to know the rest in English. For Mods IC and IIA the prescription is reduced. Questions which need consideration are Tacitus’ sources, motives and ‘bias’ – or is that the wrong term entirely?; the political conditions at Rome and the wider picture of the empire; the role of the armies; the power of the senate and the handling of the laws of maiestas. Crucial too is the question how far Tacitus’ conception of historical writing resembled that of modern scholars (themselves far from united in approach). This is a challenging but rewarding paper.

Available to all Mods candidates   

This subject comprises the archaeological history of the last centuries of the Minoan and Mycenaean world, and the first of the Greek Iron Age, the setting in which the Homeric poems were formed and which they reflect in various ways. This is where classical Greek culture and literature begin. The course covers the full range of material evidence and artefacts surviving from this period, of which there is an excellent representative collection in the Ashmolean Museum.

Available to all Mods candidates

Painted vases give the fullest visual account of life and mythology in ancient Greece and provide important archaeological data for refining and adding to our knowledge of various 66 aspects of ancient culture. The course looks at the techniques and functions of painted ceramics as well as their subjects and styles, from the ninth to the fourth centuries BC. The Ashmolean Museum has a fine collection of painted pottery of the period covered by the course, and examples from the collection are used in classes and lectures.  

Available to all Mods candidates

Greek statues and reliefs in marble and bronze retain a strong visual impact, and our knowledge of the subject is constantly being improved and revised by dramatic new discoveries, from excavation and shipwrecks. The course studies the emergence and uses of large marble statues in the archaic period, the development of bronze as a large‐scale medium, and the revolution in seeing and representing that brought in the new visual system that we know as ‘classical’, in the fifth and fourth centuries. The Cast Gallery, located behind the Ashmolean, has an excellent collection of plaster casts of major sculptures from this period. Practical classes are given in the Cast Gallery on ways of assessing and interpreting ancient statues and reliefs.

Available to all Mods candidates

Architecture was the Roman art par excellence, and Roman buildings provide some of the most impressive and best preserved monuments from the ancient world. The course studies the materials, technology, and functions of the buildings as well astheir appearance and effect, from the Republic to the Tetrarchy, in Italy and the provinces as well as in Rome itself.  

Available to all Mods candidates

This paper introduces the study of the origins of Greek and Latin and their development from a common ancestor, Indo‐European (also the ancestor of English). It covers the methods of historical and comparative linguistics, the reconstruction of the (unattested) Indo‐European proto‐language, the numerous changes in sounds and forms that resulted in the Greek and Latin languages as we know them, and some of the ways in which these languages continued to change down to the classical period. Selected passages of Homer and some archaic Latin inscriptions are examined in detail with regard to points of linguistic interest, to show how an understanding of the prehistory of Greek and Latin, and of the processes of change, can illuminate early records of the languages. Knowledge of one, but not necessarily both, classical languages is required.

Taken by all Mods candidates

You sit either one or two unprepared translation exams, depending on which classical language(s) you have studied.

Taken by all Mods candidates

You sit either one or two language papers, depending on which classical language(s) you have studied. Each paper involves questions on accidence, syntax and style based on a selection of passages from the set texts, as well as translation of a passage of English into Greek/Latin prose.

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