OCR ANTHOLOGY for CLASSICAL GREEK GCSE 2025-2026
OCR ANTHOLOGY for CLASSICAL GREEK GCSE 2025-2026
Judith Affleck and Clive Letchford
Bloomsbury Academic, 2023 £13.29
(Editor’s note: GCE (General Certificate of Education) Advanced level examinations are taken in the final year of school in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland as a university entrance qualification. AS levels are taken a year earlier; GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) is taken at 16+ years with other subjects at the end of general education. A (Advanced) level is a specialised set of examinations in only three or four subjects. OCR is an independent organisation responsible for setting and marking public examinations.)
This is a lovely anthology, its main goal being to support GCSE Classical Greek. As the authors themselves declare in the preface it will be extremely useful as a flexible post-GCSE reader
In my opinion the anthology is perfect; short yet long enough as pressures on time are always making things difficult for Greek, when it is not occupying a full place in the school curriculum; it is quite complete as it covers from Herodotus to Euripides; it is clear and didactic, as it concentrates on the main subjects and is also very helpful to every pupil. I really would say that this is a book designed really for the students. The authors seem to be not simply excellent scholars but most of all excellent teachers.
The book opens with a short useful introduction, consisting of a historical outline helping the students to see the GCSE texts in their broad context. Immediately after some tips for translation will appear. Then a TIMELINE follows; it is incredible how the authors have pointed out the main events related to the texts they have chosen; a double page 18-19 shows a map of the Ancient Mediterranean, something extremely useful as many important places are mentioned along the texts. Pages 20-21 Discussing Literary style instead are, in my opinion, quite superfluous and I maybe would have deleted them as every playwright has his own introduction concerning choice of words, word order, sound and specific literary terms, Homer for example being so different from Xenophon.
Concerning the shape of every chapter, I must say it is perfect. Herodotus opens the list of prose Greek authors. One page (24) is enough to get informed about life and work of the historian. Later, a list of the prescribed texts is set out. Then, a more specific short commentary on each prescribed text -the story so far… is very welcome to help the student to a better understanding of the Greek texts. The selection consists of Herodotus, Histories I.190, 191; I.187; I. 196 and VI. 126-130. From pages 24-37 we find excellent extracts; the capture of Babylon 24-27, Darius disturbs the tomb of Nitocris 28-30, Babylonian wife auction 30-32 and finally Megacles’ marriage 32-37.
Xenophon follows with his Persian Expedition; the selection belongs to Book 1, chapter 8 focussing on the Battle of Cunaxa. A new section, What happens next tries to attract the students’ curiosity.
Homer opens the verse section. I felt astonished by this presentation. Difficult as he is, indeed, Homer here seems to be very easy. I never saw such a concise, didactic introduction to the epic genius. Then one will find a lovely selection of Iliad VI,370-413 and 429-502, one of the most charming scenes in the whole poem; Hector, Andromache, Astyanax and the Nurse, a tragic family portrait. This time the section What happens next is compulsory in order not simply to attract but to satisfy the students’ curiosity.
The Anthology closes with Euripides Medea 230-291and 358-09. It is enough to listen to Medea’s complaints about the difficulties women face in marriage because of their lesser status. Later on we are allowed to listen to Creon’s fears and arguments. Finally the wildest Medea one could imagine debates the best method of murdering Glauke and Creon himself. By the way there is no chance to listen to Iason’s argument anywhere in the selection.
Let me go back in detail to the shape of every chapter. On the left-hand side you will find the so-called Text pages, each of them including a brief heading at the top; it provides a useful overview. Then the test is arranged according to a colour code; words or phrases in light blue are in the nominative case; according to the authors, it should be a good starting point when translating. Words in dark blue are verbs- careful! Infinitives and participles are not included; the authors consider those are good anchor points in the sentence. The page closes with a very precise section including Names and Places, Topics and Questions in order to help the student to understand and to enjoy the text. A very short useful section related to vocabulary normally closes this left-hand page; sometimes instead it opens the right-hand next page; it is, no doubt, a perfect exercise of concision together with depth, something not easy to achieve. On the right-hand side the student will find line by line several notes concerning vocabulary and translation.
I very warmly recommend this lovely anthology to every student either at High School or at University and- last but not least- to any teacher who likes seriousness, concision, clarity together with motivation and love for the Ancient Greek Civilization.
José Luis Navarro