Classics Camp!

“I learnt which aspects of classics I find enjoyable and which I find challenging which is important for future studies and I have met great people who I would never have met otherwise due to distance so it really is worth it.”

Scene: Repton School, Derbyshire. Time: July 2016. Over 80 students and tutors gather from across the country. Why? To share their love for classics and learn all about the culture and civilisations of the ancient Mediterranean!

This year’s JSST  Classical Civilisation and Ancient History Summer School covered a great range of topics from the philosophy of Socrates and comedies of Aristophanes, to the life and times of Cicero and Alexander the Great. There were also classes offered on The Minoans and Mycenaeans, Sparta and Athens, Mythology, Historiography, and the chance to learn Ancient Greek from scratch, as well as talks by university tutors. Four local students were given the chance to attend the Summer School thanks to the generosity of LSA CA members and visitors who have donated and bought raffle tickets at our lectures over the course of the year.

For more information, check out our Bursaries page. Read the report below by one student, Leah Buckel from Runshaw College, Leyland, to find out what it’s really like to go to Classics Camp!

“My first impression of the summer school was that it was busier than expected – that was probably due to the fact I arrived at the same time as the coach from Derby train station but it still surprised me. To me, classics has always been an area with limited interest amongst my peers but arriving at the summer school and immediately being in a crowd of other young classicists did surprise me and also made me realise that for this week I really would be amongst like-minded individuals.

My last impression of the summer school was that it was actually exactly what I had expected but somehow more. I had expected to find myself among like-minded individuals and to gain the opportunity to study more specific areas of classics outside of my A-level curriculum but I had not realised how valuable and interesting the experience would be.

My day in the summer school was very long and very tiring but very interesting. Each morning was an early start with breakfast at 7.45 and my first class at 8.30. Each class was one hour long so by 10.30 I had attended my first sessions which were ‘Athens and Sparta’ and ‘Beginners Greek’ – followed by a 20 minute break before my next two sessions of ‘Alexander the Great’ and ‘Greek Tragedy’. After lunch I had my final session which was ‘Socrates and the beginnings of philosophy.’ Now there was another teaching session however it was my free period of the day which was immediately followed by free time until teatime at 6pm.

After tea was what I found to be, surprisingly, my favourite time of the summer school – rehearsals for the production of a Greek tragedy – ours being Andromache by Euripides. Each year the students would be given a choice – to take part in either a tragedy or comedy play – and I chose the tragedy as the quick pitch given to us by the tragedy director Stephe on the first evening convinced me that it would be more enjoyable than the comedy and more interesting as I found tragedy more thrilling than comedy. My role in the chorus called for dedication and teamwork as well as serious intellectual engagement as the text of Andromache is little-known and so very challenging to engage with for a play which we put on after three rehearsals. I did not expect this to be my favourite aspect as I do not enjoy partaking in drama or theatre but the teamwork aspect of the chorus that was inherent to a Greek tragedy changed my view on this and I enjoyed the experience far more than I ever expected to.


Leah (r), fellow bursary-holder Leon (l) and crew getting ready for a tragic performance

As for the most challenging aspect I think would be my philosophy classes – I chose this option as I was simply curious as to where philosophy began and how Socrates with his fame fit into the philosophical world. This was actually a very challenging session as it made me realise that philosophy was a whole other way of thinking that was completely different to how I think and view the world and so engaging with the texts and sessions was difficult at times but very enlightening as I learnt that philosophical thinking is very much a skill and not one inherent to me. In my classes exploring ‘Athens and Sparta’ the main focus was on small-group analysis of primary texts including the Athenian Constitution, Plutarch’s Lycurgus and extracts from Herodotus and Thucydides. This was very interesting as it allowed exploration of the ethical complexities of making judgements about earlier societies’ social and cultural practices which is very much what classics is about and is something I enjoyed immensely. Also in studying beginners’ Greek I found it surprisingly easy to pick up conversational language and I enjoyed producing translated sentences as I find it interesting to look at language structures and how it differs from both modern day speech and English as a whole.

Being at the summer school has motivated me to look more at Greek drama as the rehearsals for the tragedy led me to become interested in Greek drama as a whole. Also I have found myself more interested in the social and cultural practices of ancient Greece and how ethical and complex it would be to make judgements on their ancient society with my modern experience of life. This may have been because both the rehearsal and the session that focused the most on this were led by Dr Stephe Harrop who I found very interesting to work from but I believe that being at the summer school has given me more of a niche area of classics that I wish to focus on in my future studies.


“The friends that I made I will probably keep for life”

The memories I will take away from the summer school are probably not specifically the teaching sessions but the atmosphere that surrounded them. The sessions themselves were small, no more than 15 per class, so it was a very close environment that was both serious and light at the same time. Each person there was there voluntarily and it reflected on the atmosphere that was created and I found it easy to enjoy myself and to feel comfortable amongst peers that actually do want to be there and gain a great experience. The friends that I made I will probably keep for life simply because to meet at a summer school shows dedication to a shared favourite interest and that in itself is very cheesy but accurate.

It is said a lot when pitching a summer school to students but it really is an experience of a lifetime to attend Repton and is very much worth applying for a bursary if you are in need of one to gain such experience but I do highly recommend it.”

Thanks Leah – we are so glad you enjoyed your time at Repton!