By Lidia Kuhivchak, Classics Hub Ambassador at Lionheart Trust Schools
We were extremely excited to hear about ACE’s event at the British Museum in conjunction with ‘Troy: Myth & Reality’. As an Academy Trust that has recently introduced Classics, it is particularly helpful for our students to have access to Classics events which do not focus on Latin and Greek language. Our students currently only study Entry Level Latin and we have found that Classics study days tend to be rather heavy on the language sessions. ACE’s mission to support the study of Class Civ suits schools such as those in our Trust, where students are exposed to Classical literature only in translation. We were one of the first schools to book, and with the offer of free entry to the exhibition we had no trouble filling spaces for our A-level and GCSE students across two schools.
We started with the GCSE Classical Civilisation session, where Edith Hall took our students through the Parthenon Friezes, and was very emphatic that these would have been originally brightly coloured – a fact often neglected in GCSE study and in reproductions of the images. Second was the Theseus Kylix, looking in detail at the labyrinthine imagery, and the deeper symbolism of civilisation versus barbarism. Our students particularly enjoyed the emphasis on barbaric or animalistic characters as furry and hairy, which could be seen on the high quality images (much better than looking at a teeny image in a textbook!).
It is clear that students will benefit in their Classics exams, both at A-level and GCSE, from exposure to sources beyond the syllabus, and Edith took us through some useful comparative objects which could also be found in the museum. My favourite was the little Italian oinochoe with a Xanthias figure, which implied Greek drama was possibly performed in Oscan. It was a pleasure to see my students taking notes without prompting from us; even more happily, our GCSE students said that this taste of the A-level syllabus made them keen to take the option in Year 12 – something every Classics teacher hopes to hear!
Acknowledgement must also be made of the kind efforts of museum staff to make our students feel welcome, and to get us cost-free entry into ‘Troy: Myth & Reality’. We took an hour in the exhibition and could easily have spent more had we not had to get the coach back to Leicester. Year 13 traced the different depictions of Ascanius, linking them back to our study of the Aeneid, and Year 9 were particularly taken by the images of Achilles alternatively sulking or being violent.
Many of our students would never have the chance to go to the British Museum unless we took them, and it’s this opportunity to develop their cultural capital that makes trips like this more than worthwhile; they are essential for our students to develop into keen and knowledgeable Classicists who can rival their privately-schooled counterparts. We got so much out of the day and look forward to bringing even more students along next year.