Classics Essay Competitions

9 May 2022

We are so proud of Hebe (Year 12) who has recently won not one, but two, essay competitions focused on Classics and Ancient History.

The first competition Hebe entered was the ‘Classics and Ancient History essay competition’, run by St John’s, Oxford. To enter, she submitted an essay answering the question, ‘No (wo)man is an island.’ How self-sufficient are characters in ancient literature?

We caught up with Hebe to find out what motivated her to enter this competition and how she approached the task –

“I entered this competition to showcase my knowledge of ancient literature (you don’t get to A-level Latin and Greek without reading a lot of it!) in an academic setting. This meant researching the concept of self-sufficiency (turns out it’s quite a complex topic, with several different meanings) and considering all kinds of genres and characters. I made a long list and whittled it down to the ones I thought were most interesting. I decided – after much deliberation – to structure my essay by genre, starting with epic, then tragedy, then comedy. This allowed me to explore differences in character traits between genres while discussing some of the most well-known characters from different works, such as Odysseus or Medea. I concluded that most characters in ancient literature are impressively self-sufficient, across genres, with comedy supplying some of the best examples of self-sufficient characters.”

All entrants to the competition were then invited to attend a Subject Exploration afternoon to have a look around the college and attend two academic sessions relating to whichever category they had entered. Hebe attended on Friday 29th April and attended sessions focused on constitutional debates in ancient literature (with a focus on the Persian constitutional debate in Herodotus) and on the significance of single words in ancient epics.

The second competition Hebe entered was run by the Classical Association and entrants were able to pick one of four options for their essay. Hebe chose option 4 – ‘Ancient historians, whatever else they may have aimed to do, always set out to entertain their readers.’ Discuss with reference to any one Greek or Roman historian.

From Hebe –

“I decided to write about Herodotus, the ‘Father of History,’ because he is most often associated with storytelling, and it gave me an excuse to revisit some of the frankly outlandish stories that he tells. To do this, I had to re-read the whole of Herodotus’ Histories because I couldn’t remember much from my first reading – which was a bit of a problem since I left all this until the last minute and had a matter of days until the deadline. Despite the time pressure, I managed to re-read it all, taking notes of examples I could use along the way. Then, I put together an essay discussing Herodotus’ use of myth, travel-writing and history, and the entertainment value of each of these elements, backed up with multiple examples. I concluded that all aspects of Herodotus’ work were designed to entertain, drawing on the epic works that preceded him – and that he must have been successful, since we are still reading his work two and a half thousand years later!”

We would like to offer our congratulations to Hebe on her exceptional success in these two competitions. We are delighted for you!

A final word from Hebe –

“I’m delighted and proud to have had such success in these competitions. I think that the essays I submitted have been some of the best pieces of work I have written so far and am overjoyed to have them validated by such prestigious institutions as St John’s College and the Classical Association. “

Considering OHS?

Please review the key admission dates and deadlines, to ensure you don’t miss out on applying for a place. If you have further questions, contact our friendly Admissions team who are happy to help.

Key Dates Contact Us