Many will have seen Marvell’s ‘Avengers’ films in the cinema recently, but what is the connection between these films and studying Classics? Is it the bravery and intensity of the characters? Could it be the drama and improbable situations that the characters are confronted with? Or is quest for good in a fragmented world of conflicting motivations?
Well, these definitions certainly would seem to fit, but it perhaps seems a little far-fetched, justifying the study of Classics with reference to modern popular culture. However, just as the Avengers have been reimagined on numerous occasions, so too there is no one perfect version of the Trojan War. The version we know today was a result of a variety of oral traditions mixing together in the so called ‘story-telling pool’, out of which Homer wove together his epic Iliad.
Virtually all the characters of classical literature have a connection to Troy, either being present themselves or having a prior or subsequent relationship to a participant in the war. Just as the ‘Avengers’ come together for the really big dramas, so too did many of the characters of classical literature, having featured in separate tales, join together in the Trojan War.
In the Classics curriculum at the West London Free School the Trojan War is the starting point for three fantastic units of study across Key Stage 3. Year 7 delve into the realms of Greek tragedy, reading, acting and reacting to the inglorious return of Agamemnon from Troy. Few who experienced it will forget the surprising welcome home Agamemnon received from his wife and the conflicting reasons for her actions. For Year 8 there is the chance to study Odysseus’ more fantastical journey home from Troy, meeting trials and monsters alike, eventually arriving home to find it much changed. Troy is merely the beginning for Year 9, who examine extracts from Book 2 of Virgil’s Aeneid in the original Latin with its powerful depiction of the terrors of the last moments of Troy.
Just as Troy is the starting point for classical literature, so too can Classics be the starting point for a rich, vivid, colourful and captivating study of literature, history and society. As Mary Beard said, “There is only one good reason for learning Latin, and that is that you want to read what is written in it.” And with so much fantastic material to read, it’s time to get started.