Last night, five budding young Classicists spoke in front of a large audience of family, friends, LSA CA members and guests as they bid to be crowned the Classics Competition Champion 2017!
We were joined by Mr Mike Walton, headmaster of AKS, who welcomed everyone to the second annual Classics Competition; Mrs Barbara Finney, the allied associations officer for the national Classical Association who co-sponsored the event; and Ms Katherine Backler, a fellow of All Souls College Oxford, who judged the students and offered excellent feedback. Our thanks to them all for their generous support. The students each received a personally written letter of congratulations from our President Dr Michael Scott which celebrated their achievement in winning the round of heats in their respective school or college.
Ethan Lees of Blackpool Sixth Form College began the competition with a fine account of the life and rule of Akenhaten – the ‘heretic pharaoh’. Ethan’s confident and polished presentation showed how Akenhaten received a bad press from his subjects because Egyptian domination diminished under his reign, but it also highlighted how he heralded an artistic revolution and was responsible for the construction of the great city Amura. Ethan engaged sensitively with a range of sources and evidence, and told us how we could find out more about this fascinating figure.
Isaac Hill of Kirkham Grammar School then talked about Julius Caesar and drew a lot of pertinent comparisons between the Roman statesman and contemporary politicians. I particularly liked his brainteaser – what links Mick Jagger, Margaret Thatcher, Ivanka Trump and David Cameron? Well, Caesar, of course! There was a mature structure to his presentation, which was very clearly projected, and he did very well at engaging the audience throughout his talk.
We were impressed with the presenting skills of all the finalists and this was especially true in the case of the youngest student, William Edwards, the year 7 contestant from AKS, who began by inviting us to close our eyes. We obeyed, and he asked us to imagine standing on the Alps in the deep snow in just a tunic and a pair of sandals, and thus to realise how cold Hannibal’s men must have been when they marched towards Rome! William told us lots about this great Carthaginian leader and argued strongly that he was a supremely talented, brave general and perhaps the greatest strategist the world has ever seen.
Charlotte Bennett of King George V College in Southport then introduced us to the fascinating Syrian queen Zenobia – a feisty character who is sadly underrepresented in our study of the ancient world. She controlled a vast, multicultural kingdom and Charlotte showed us how important and interesting she is considering the current political climate and affairs of the middle Eastern. Katherine particularly praised Charlotte’s personable and humorous style and is excited to see how she will develop as a speaker over the next few years!
Our fifth finalist was Harvey Phythian of Runshaw College in Leyland who shared with us an incredible amount of information and analysis about the Cynic philosopher Diogenes. Harvey was a lively, engaging and reassuring speaker from the offset and he maintained his focus and sense of humour throughout his talk, which explained Diogenes’ self-image, his ideas, his unique insight into the nature of personhood and the value of simple living, and gave many anecdotes that help us understand the man who promulgated his own philosophy from a pithos.
Whilst Katherine was making her decision, the winner of the AKS Junior School Classics Competition which I had the pleasure of judging in the morning – Jonah Crouch – gave us his presentation on Psyche. Jonah gave a brilliant, dramatic performance, capturing Psyche’s struggles to tame her husband Eros and to complete a series of near-impossible tasks, and proved himself a very worthy winner.
Katherine then gave very valuable feedback to all the students, before selecting Harvey as her winner not least because he had talked so confidently without reading or hesitation, but because he also made it very clear why he believes that Diogenes is his most fascinating personality from the ancient world!
Congratulations to everyone who took part, both in school and in the Final – you should be very proud of yourselves! A particular well done to Harvey and his teacher Francesca for retaining the Classics Competition trophy on behalf of Runshaw College. We are really excited for what the next year brings and are glad to see so many young people enthused and taking part – roll on 2018!