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Part IA


Your work over these first two terms will be preparatory for the Part 1A examination.

There are two main aims of the Part IA, or first year of the Part I course: to extend and improve your knowledge of the ancient languages, and to get you started on your main areas of enquiry.  An integrated programme of Faculty lectures and classes on a varied selection from core Greek and Latin authors (Target Texts) is supported by classes and supervisions organised by Colleges.  Combined with this are introductory lectures and college supervisions and classes which focus on Literature and Language, Philosophy, History, Art and Archaeology, Philology and Linguistics.  You will get a general overview of the Ancient World, find out which aspects especially appeal to you, and discover which kinds of work are most rewarding.  What follows explains something of the way in which your work on the languages will develop and also feed into your study of other aspects of the Ancient World over the two years of Part I.


Important notice: time of examination

It is important to note a difference between the Classics Part IA course and Part IB and Part II, and indeed most courses in Cambridge: Classics Part IA undergraduates take their examinations in the first week of the Easter (Summer) Term rather than in late May or June.  The teaching in the remainder of the Easter Term will then be preparatory for Part 1B, which will be taken by you in 2022.

Please note that the IA course runs for all three terms of this academical year (2020-21); examination results will not be available until after the end of Easter Full Term.


The ancient languages

There are many possible answers to the question ‘Why learn Latin and Greek?’, but in the context of Classics at Cambridge, learning to read a range of different types of Greek and Latin is central to a programme which aims to explore and interrogate classical culture as a whole.  The connections between, on the one hand, the way a language works and the ways in which native speakers and writers express themselves and, on the other, the intellectual and cultural patterns which inform a particular society are complex and far from easy to reduce to a simple list, but direct access to these connections is both a necessary and exciting part of the study of any aspect of Classical Antiquity.

One of the overarching aims of Parts IA and IB of the Classical Tripos is to foster a ‘feel’ for how Greek and Latin work, what they are ‘like’, so that translation and reading are not merely a process of mapping dictionary entries on to a text, but rather an experience of thought and expression within another culture.  Language learning provides a common core which gives coherence and shape to everyone’s experience of Classics.

Because preparedness and ability in language lie at the core of your work, language is the dominant focus of the Part IA examination.  There are ‘Language and texts’ papers in Greek and Latin, testing confidence in handling Greek and Latin texts by presenting two passages which have not been prepared (so-called ‘unseens’), as well as two passages from the Target Texts (see the list under the section headed ‘Schedule of texts’), from which you have to choose one on which to offer a critical discussion.  You also have the option of doing composition from English into Greek and/or Latin in Papers 6 and 7.  Some undergraduates will have had experience of this prior to Cambridge, but others start it here; all who take this option say that it helps greatly with their command of the languages.

These papers are designed to support various broader aims.  The skills you develop at Cambridge should give you the confidence to read Greek and Latin independently, outside any set syllabus.  Within the Part I course linguistic confidence will enable you to get the most, not only out of the Literature and Philology options, but also out of the study of Ancient Philosophy and History; to limit your experience of Greek and Latin texts ‘in the original’ to the particular groups you choose for Papers 5 and 6 in Part IB would be to limit your ability to pursue philosophical, historical and cultural problems: plenty of literary texts (to say nothing of inscriptions and papyri) have no accessible English translation.  Part IA and IB are importantly about learning how to learn about the ancient world and acquiring some of the main skills which will enable you to put that knowledge to best effect.


Teaching and learning

The teaching for language papers falls broadly into five kinds:

  1. the Part IA Intensive Greek classes in reading and grammar;
  2. the various support classes in both Greek and Latin, which are available for Part IA and IB, and which are open to all;
  3. the Part IA Target Text lectures, several of which are concerned with questions of meaning and style;
  4. College ‘language’ supervisions;
  5. Faculty and College Prose and Verse Composition teaching.

As far as College teaching is concerned, there are various approaches possible, and every undergraduate will experience a variety of kinds of teaching during Part I.  Such flexibility allows tailoring to the needs of individuals and small groups within Colleges; and there is scope for the special provision of particular forms of instruction where appropriate.

For example, the supervisor may simply present you with a piece of Greek or Latin and then take part in an active collaboration to ascertain the sense. This exercise is designed not only so that the supervisor can see undergraduates’ processes of comprehension at work and help to refine them, but more importantly so that you can see together how the language works, how words have ‘meaning’, and how writers either close down or open up potential meanings.  Alternatively, the supervisor may ask you to produce a written translation of certain passages before the supervision, or to read a longer text from which s/he will choose a particular passage for the supervision.

Whichever structure is used, it is axiomatic that ‘translation’ and interpretation are twin aspects of the same activity of sense-making.  To ask ‘What is at stake in translating a word as X rather than Y?’ always takes us straight to the heart of ancient culture, and the more you know about the cultural context of ancient literature, the more rewarding you will find the exercise of translation.


Structure of the Part IA Examination

The Part IA Examination consists of seven papers. Each candidate must take three papers from 1–5:

  • either Paper 1 (Greek language and texts) or (for candidates who had little or no Greek at entrance) Paper 2A (Alternative Greek language and texts - Option A) or (for candidates who had GCSE in Greek or equivalent at entrance) Paper 2B (Alternative Greek language and texts - Option B)
  • either Paper 3 (Latin language and texts) or (for candidates who had only a limited knowledge of Latin at entrance) Paper 4 (Alternative Latin language and texts)
  • Paper 5 (Classical Questions)

In addition, candidates may take either or both of:

  • Paper 6 (Greek Prose and Verse Composition)
  • Paper 7 (Latin Prose and Verse Composition)


Schedules of texts

Learning and teaching are organised around the following schedules of texts (the Target Texts):

  • For candidates taking Paper 1: Lysias 1; Ps.-Xenophon, Athenaion Politeia; Plato, Crito; Herodotus 1.1–94; Euripides Medea.
  • For candidates taking Paper 2A: Lysias 1; Ps.-Xenophon, Athenaion Politeia (to be read in English translation); Plato, Crito 50a5–end (43a-50a5 to be read in English translation); Herodotus 1. 29–46 (1-28 and 47-94 to be read in English Translation); Euripides, Medea (the choral odes will not form part of the body of text for examination).
  • For candidates (with GSCE or equivalent) taking Paper 2B: Lysias 1; Ps.-Xenophon, Athenaion Politeia 1-2 (3 to be read in English translation); Plato, Crito 50a5-end (43a-50a5 to be read in English translation); Herodotus 1. 29-46 (1-28 and 47-94 to be read in English translation); Euripides, Medea (the choral odes will not form part of the body of text for examination).
  • For candidates taking Paper 3: Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1; Cicero, Pro Caelio; Augustus, Res Gestae (to be studied with its Greek translation), Sallust, Catiline; Lucretius 3. 830–1094, 4. 1037–1287.
  • For candidates taking Paper 4: Res Gestae (read during Prelims year), Ovid, Ars Amatoria Pro Caelio 1-6, 30-42, 56-67; Sallust BC 1-25, 36-40, 50-61, Lucretius 3.830-1094. Epic: Aeneid 4, Catullus 64, Ovid Met 8.1-546 (Aeneid 1 in translation).

Towards the end of your Part IA year (after your examinations, but before you leave for the Long Vacation) you will need to think about and decide upon your literature options for next year. You should seek advice from your Director of Studies, and consult the ‘Greek and Latin literature (Papers 5 and 6)’ section under ‘Part IB Courses’.

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