Classical Studies

The subject Classical Studies aims to facilitate as genuine an extended encounter as is possible with classical civilisation.  

The student of Classical Studies does not study the classical languages and so is enabled to engage in a more thorough and wide-ranging exploration of the non-linguistic areas of classical civilisation. This exploration consists of the study of ancient literary, historical, dramatic and philosophical works (in translation), and also an exploration of various aspects of classical art, architecture, archaeology, sociology, mythology and legend.  

Classical Studies is available for study by pupils from Form II through to Form VI. In the junior cycle and the TY programme there are four lessons per week. At Leaving Cert. level pupils have five lessons per week in this subject. All class groups are mixed ability. The vast majority of candidates take higher level papers in state examinations and results for pupils of Classical studies in St. Columba's are consistently above national averages.  

Junior Cycle  

With Latin as a compulsory subject in Form Primary and Form I pupils receive a good grounding in the ancient world. This facilitates completion of the Junior Certificate syllabus in a two-year programme. The topics currently covered are as follows: The Wrath of Achilles, The Life and Death of Socrates, The Quest of Aeneas, Roman Theatre: Comedy and The Roman City: Pompeii.  

Senior Cycle  

Transition Year Programme  

In Form IV the flexibility afforded by the Transition Year Programme allows an examination of the classical world's relevance and influence in the present day. The History module looks at the Persian Wars, Greek tragedy and comedy are covered in Drama. In Art and Architecture we study the Parthenon and classical Greek sculpture and a comparative look is taken at the achievements of the Romans in engineering and architecture.

There is a strong emphasis on self directed learning. Assessment of work often takes the form of a presentation of findings to the class group. Research topics include Wonders of the Ancient World, other important architectural works from antiquity but from perhaps beyond the Mediterranean, key works of ancient literature and aspects of myth and legend. TY pupils also present on a work of art each which is inspired by an aspect of classical antiquity, e.g. 'Hannibal Crossing the Alps with his Elephants' by Turner or 'The Judgement of Paris' by Rubens etc. Each of the TY pupils will also complete a book report on one of the many titles in the college library's fiction section which takes as its setting or inspiration the classical world. We also look at the prevalence of classical settings in filmmaking. The final term of the TY Programme is dedicated largely to a performance project, the culmination of which is a dramatic presentation which aims to mirror aspects of ancient performance in both content and style.  

Leaving Certificate  

Classical Studies is a very popular choice at Leaving Cert. level for Columbans. The topics currently covered are as follows: Ancient Epic, Greek Drama, Alexander and The Philosopher in Society.  


Assessments are made by means of prep. (homework), class work, class tests, effort marks and term exams. In the junior cycle prep, either written or reading, is set on average three times a week. In the older forms this is more likely to be twice a week.  


Both Classical Studies classrooms have a number of book titles on open shelf which are made available to pupils on request. The college library has a vast number of titles on classical civilisation. Both classrooms are fully equipped with audio-visual equipment and the department has an extensive library of learning resources on DVD and video. Both classrooms have wireless internet and one has an interactive whiteboard.   


Excursions and trips are organised by the Classical Studies department where possible. In the past these have consisted of visits to museum exhibitions and productions of ancient Greek tragedies or plays with ancient history relevance. A biennial trip to the Bay of Naples for pupils in Form III and Transition Year takes place to compliment study of the Pompeii topic. Leaving Cert. pupils are facilitated if they wish to attend the CAI-Teachers lectures in UCD on leaving cert. topics.  

Department Meetings  

These take place two or three times a term. The purpose of meetings is to plan work schedules, to discuss new topics for teaching, to discuss pupils of concern or outstanding achievers, particularly in the light of examination results and as a general information exchange.   The Classical Studies department has not yet been inspected by the department of education inspectorate.   

Department Staff  

Mr. P. McCarthy: MA (NUI), HDipEd. Peter is department head and studied Classical Civilisation at NUI, Maynooth. He teaches Leaving Cert. Classical Studies as well as Business Studies and Music Appreciation.  

Mr. R. Swift: BA, HDipEd, Assistant Housemaster of Glen. Ronan studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Trinity College, Dublin. He teaches Junior Cert. and T.Y. Classical Studies as well as English, Latin and Drama.