Classics and Ancient History Essay Competition, 2022-23

The St John’s College Classics and Ancient History Essay Competition will be running for the thirteenth time during the academic year 2022/23.
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The competition is open to all students currently studying at a UK School or College, in Year 12 (Lower Sixth) or equivalent, whether or not they are currently studying a Classical or Ancient subject. Entrants will be invited to attend a Study Afternoon at St John’s College, Oxford on the 19th April 2023. We are able to cover travel expenses of all students eligible for free school meals or in care. Each student may submit one essay (only) of up to 2,000 words on any of the following four questions:

  1. Discuss the role of bad memories in ancient literature.
  2. ‘So that human achievements may not become forgotten in time’ (Herodotus). Was Greek and/or Roman historical memory primarily about nostalgia for past achievements?
  3. Did art and archaeology in the ancient world ever try to manipulate its viewers’ memories of historical events?
  4. Sometimes we have false memories. So can we ever trust what we remember?

Prizes Awarded

A £100 book token will be awarded to the best essay in each category and an additional £75 book token to the overall winner. A further £75 book token will be awarded to the best essay submitted by a pupil who has not previously studied a Classical or Ancient subject. All applicants will receive a certificate of entry.

Aims and Guidelines

The competition gives students currently studying any subjects at a UK School or College, in Year 12 or equivalent, an opportunity to write an essay on the classical world. The organizers are interested in providing an occasion for independent research, to encourage curiosity and reflection in those who have studied the ancient world before and those who have not.

The essay titles have been chosen to take account of research interests of our tutors and to encourage the widest possible approach to investigation of the ancient world.

All primary texts can be considered in translation or in the original language. Where either primary or secondary sources have been used they should be acknowledged with full references given.

All essays should:

  • Be word-processed with double-spaced lines, and saved in a PDF format.
  • Include ONLY your initials and date of birth in your header or footer (to allow anonymous marking).
  • Be no more than 2000 words in length.

To submit your essay, you should:

  • Complete a pre-submission cover form, by following this link. Please note, you will be asked to provide a name and email address for a parent or carer, and a teacher; please confirm this with them prior to submitting your form.
  • Submit your essay via email, as a PDF attachment, to Emails must include your Full name, School name and Date of Birth and contain the subject line "Classics Essay Submission [Surname]".

Both the pre-submission cover form and your email must be submitted before 4pm on Thursday 2nd March 2023.

To confirm we have received your essay, all pupils who submit an essay will receive a confirmation email shortly after the deadline. If you do not receive a confirmation email within two weeks of the deadline, please email the Access Team.

If you have any outstanding questions, please contact

Information on the Classics and Ancient History Essay Competition 2021-22, including the marker’s report, can be found by clicking here.