Classics – Latin, Greek and Ancient History

Here at Glenalmond we pride ourselves on our strong Classical heritage, and daily we all doff our caps to William Gladstone’s statue on the way to Chapel, himself a notable Classical scholar as author of over 30 books on Homer. All pupils are introduced to Latin and the Classics in Second and Third Forms, and a large number further their classical studies at GCSE, A Level and beyond.


Second Form

For most pupils, this is their first exposure to Latin and the ancient world. We currently use the very accessible, and very fun, So You Really Want to Learn Latin Prep book to introduce the language, and by the end of the year, pupils are roughly at Common Entrance Level 1 standard. We also spend a good deal of time learning about different aspects of the classical world, exploring history, culture and mythology in various ways. Pupils also learn a little Greek which adds a further interesting dimension to their appreciation of classical, and their own, languages.

Third Form

All pupils do some Latin in the Third Form. This varies between complete beginners and experienced linguists; all pupils develop their knowledge of the language and of the ancient world in a variety of ways which are designed to be fun, challenging and interesting. We use a combination of Cambridge Latin Course and So You Really Want to Learn Latin books to develop language, and a variety of other resources for introducing other background material.

Fourth form

All pupils follow the OCR GCSE course. There are four papers comprising two on language and two on literature. In the Fourth Form, we spend the first two terms focusing on sharpening up linguistic knowledge with regular grammar and vocabulary tests as well as focused translation exercises, and towards the end of the year we introduce the first of the literary texts. In the current syllabus, we are reading some letters by the Younger Pliny, most notably his famous and powerful first-hand account of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. Our literary studies introduce the skill of stylistic analysis and also explore historical and social contexts of the letters.

Fifth Form

All pupils follow the OCR GCSE course. By this stage, pupils will have a good understanding of the requirements of the language papers at GCSE, and we continue working on improving linguistic confidence and knowledge throughout the year. The literature we study this year is for the Verse paper, and is a selection taken from Virgil’s Aeneid and Horace Odes and Satires. In studying literature, we read the texts closely, learning about stylistic analysis as much as the background and content of the poems.

Lower Sixth

We follow the OCR AS Latin course in the Lower 6th, for which the examination comprises two papers: language and literature. The language paper takes pupils from GCSE and extends their knowledge to the next level. Through the year, we work on consolidating vocabulary and grammar as well as practising the language with focused translation of sentences and longer unseen passages. The literature is divided into two: prose and verse. For both texts we explore content, literary and historical context, and stylistic analysis in detail. In the current syllabus pupils are studying Cicero’s De Imperio, his speech in support of Pompey for the prose, and the mesmerizingly chilling account from Ovid’s Metamorphoses of Pentheus’ punishment for refusing to acknowledge the god Bacchus.

Upper Sixth

We follow the OCR A2 Latin course in the Upper 6th. There are two papers: Prose and Verse. Each paper tests unseen translation of either a passage of Livy or a passage of Ovid; the other half of the paper tests pupils’ knowledge of a set text. The prose this year is Tacitus Annals Book 14, and the verse is Virgil Aeneid 4. The texts are studied in their historical, literary and social contexts, and further develop the pupils’ skills in literary criticism and essay writing. The language sections test unseen translation as well as comprehension questions on content and language.


Fourth and Fifth Form

For GCSE we follow the OCR Greek course. Pupils study for Greek GCSE outside the timetable at times which are convenient to them. Class sizes are small but focused and well-motivated (typically between 6 and 10 pupils offer Greek GCSE), and this environment is challenging but rewarding. As for Latin, there are four papers, two language and two literature. The book we use is designed for Greek to be studied in this way, and introduces language through brilliant stories which often lead to lively class debates!

Lower Sixth

Pupils follow the OCR AS Greek course. Like in Latin, there are two papers, language and literature, and we approach the course in a similar way, focusing on grammar, vocabulary and syntax in our unseen translation, and reading literary texts with content, context and style as our focus. The prose text this year is a speech by the Athenian orator Lysias, and the verse is an extract from Book 22 of Homer’s Iliad, the death of Hector.

Upper Sixth

Pupils follow the OCR A2 Greek course. The format is the same as for Latin: a prose paper and a verse paper. We work on linguistic knowledge intensively by translating sentence into and out of Greek as well as analysing and translating longer passages. For the literature, pupils work on commentary and essay writing and read some wonderful texts. This year, the verse text is Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, which Aristotle described as the best of all Greek tragedies, and the prose is a section from Plato’s Protagoras, in which we grapple with such ideas as justice, education, laws and how society fits together.


Lower Sixth

Pupils follow the OCR AS Ancient History course. There are two papers for this course: Greek History and Roman History. We explore the culture of ancient Sparta in the Greek paper, and the Principate of Rome’s first emperor Augustus (especially relevant in this, the bimillennium of his death). The papers require knowledge and understanding of a range of primary sources and we explore the topics by looking at literature and archaeology in all their various forms.

Upper Sixth

Pupils follow the OCR A2 Ancient History course. In the two papers we explore two topics: “Conflict in Greece (460-403BC)”, covering the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, and “The Use and Abuse of Power” by successive Roman emperors, good, bad, sane or mad. Over this course, pupils work on their essay technique as well as their critical understanding of the different literary and archaeological primary sources, and we make frequent links with today’s world.


We enjoy a rich and varied number of trips and visits. These include our showpiece trip to Rome, Pompeii and Paestum the jewel of Campania, which we run every two years for approximately 30 pupils. We also visit Hadrian’s Wall in the summer term, as well as attending talks more locally at schools and universities. Glenalmond also hosts the annual SCIS Classics conference when teachers of Classical subjects from all over Scotland come for a day of talks and discussions.


George Pounder is an OG, leaving Glenalmond to study Classics at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. From Oxford, he spent a year in the Royal Marines before becoming a teacher. He taught for two years at Ardvreck School in Crieff, then did a PGCE at Jordanhill in Glasgow. He spent two years at Rugby School teaching Classics and as an Assistant Housemaster before returning to Glenalmond, where he spent 6 years as Housemaster of Matheson’s before his translation to Head of Classics in 2013.