Classics “helps create curious, intellectually rigorous students with a rich interior world, people who have the tools to see our world as it really is because they have encountered and imaginatively experienced another that is so like, and so very unlike, our own.”

Having been lucky enough to study Latin during my own Bradfield education, I am inclined to echo the views above of The Guardian’s Chief Culture Writer and author, Charlotte Higgins, on why pupils today should study the languages of the past. Her vision of holistic study, where the benefits stretch beyond just learning the language itself, is entirely in tune with the way we approach Classics at Bradfield.


I arrived in Faulkner’s with some knowledge of Latin as I had studied a little prior to Bradfield, so I entered the classroom for my first Classics lesson and introduced myself to my classmates. On the board behind Mr Armstrong, my then teacher, was an image of a V.S.O.P. bottle. Contemplating what this had to do with the Latin tables I had learnt, my initial confusion was eased when Mr Armstrong recommended we use the acronym as a way of approaching a Latin sentence; Verb, Subject, Object, Placement.

With no brandy drunk, Bradfield brought Classics to life, opening my eyes to the fact that the world of Classical Languages was far broader than I had imagined and encouraging me to relate the ancient to the modern.

Choosing to study Latin was rooted in my enjoyment of the puzzle of translating, not because I felt any particular affinity to the Roman and Greek worlds. My experience as a pupil here completely changed the way I approached the subject and I left seeing the value in exploring the literature, history, art, theatre and archaeology of the Greeks and Romans further.

The ancient world was placed at the forefront of lessons bleeding into tasks like translating. Setting Ovid’s increasingly downbeat poetry in the context of his exile from Rome and analysing the scandalous and incestuous emperors and empresses through family trees truly enhanced the learning.




Led by the very same Mr Armstrong who taught me, the Classics Department today aims to maintain a similarly holistic focus. Comparing Classical texts to the modern world keeps lessons relevant and exciting and provides opportunities to discuss current issues from a different perspective.

Take the rhetorical devices used in Barack Obama’s inauguration speech in 2008, for instance, and think how he stood on the shoulders of Cicero and Pericles; compare Lysias’ speech defending a man who murdered his wife’s adulterous lover with modern day suspense dramas; consider whether Aeneas, the mythical hero of Virgil’s Aeneid, who left the ruins of Troy to found the city of Rome, could be considered a hero by modern standards. Classical Studies really can help us understand the significance of events both historical and modern.


This holistic approach is at the heart of Bradfield’s Classics offering throughout the curriculum. In Faulkner’s, a wider study of the ancient world incorporates studies in fate and prophecy, the role of the Ancient gods and what life in a Roman town was like for ordinary Romans alongside more traditional language teaching. GCSE pupils put their study of the language into action, delving deeper into Virgil’s poetry as well as some typically comedic Latin love poetry or sources which explore the delights and perils of travel in the Ancient World. Pupils looking for the challenge of studying Classics in the Sixth Form explore the Ancient World further, from Rome’s greatest villains to Greek Tragedy and Homer’s Iliad.

Exploring the ancient world has never been confined to the classroom here. Talks on topics ranging from the origins of the Romance languages, during which I was amazed by, amongst other things, a Linguistics professor’s ability to speak over 20 languages, to discussions of Ovid’s love poetry encouraged me to learn more about the Classics, and from different angles. The enrichment I enjoyed as a pupil continues to offer new and interesting perspectives on Ancient topics. This year we welcomed Dr. Jerry Toner who hosted a webinar on what we can learn about ordinary Romans and, when we are not in the midst of a global pandemic, a reinstated Sophocles Society, which I attended as a pupil, could provide an opportunity for current pupils to come together over a Greek-themed meal and read one of the great tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles or Euripides, or one of the comedies of Aristophanes.




The study of Classics can also benefit pupils in other subjects across the Bradfield curriculum. To start with pupils will gain a greater grasp of both grammar and vocabulary. Over 60% of English words, and over 90% of vocabulary specific to STEM subjects, have Latin roots. As pupils’ vocabulary and understanding of grammar develops, so too will their ability to understand other languages. Latin is derived from the same group of languages, Proto Indo European, as not only French, Spanish and Italian but also Russian and Arabic. Furthermore, once they become confident exploring the Ancient World through its literature and history they will learn to ask questions, to draw conclusions and to support those conclusions with evidence, both orally and in writing, skills which can be utilised across a number of subjects during and beyond their Bradfield education.

Pupils here also have access to something which few other schools in the country can offer. Returning now as a teacher I look forward to being a part of the historic Bradfield Greek Play as it graces its century-old home once more, something I sadly missed out on as a pupil due to the renovations. Following acclaimed performances of Antigone, Persae and Alcestis, plans for the next production are already afoot. I can think of few better ways for pupils to fully immerse themselves in the classical world than through theatre; performing in the centre of our very own Epidaurus-style theatre performing in the Bradfield Greek Play. All this truly blends the classical with the modern.