Congratulations to this year's winners!

A Roman buildingThe St John’s Classics and Ancient History Essay Competition celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2020, with over 800 students having taken part over the past 10 years. The competition is open to all UK students currently studying in Year 12 or equivalent, whether or not they are studying a Classical or Ancient subject, and gives students of any subjects an opportunity to write an essay on the classical world. The organisers 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. 

A £100 book token is awarded to the best entry in each category, and an additional £75 book token is presented to the overall winner, while all participants receive a certificate of entry. 

For this year’s competition, entrants were asked to tackle one of the following questions: 

  1. Do heroes in ancient literature learn through suffering? 
  2. In what ways did the power of oratory shape ancient politics? 
  3. ‘Ancient philosophers who proposed radical theories had unrealistic expectations about what they might achieve’. Do you agree? 
  4. Who was Greek and Roman state-commissioned art for? 

A view of Roman ruinsWe had almost 70 entries from all over the UK, answering questions across the four disciplines of literature, ancient history, art, and philosophy. This year’s markers said, ‘we were, as always, immensely impressed by the quality of the essays, the range of the students’ interests and experiences, and their enthusiasm for the ancient world’. 

The range of questions reflects the range of subjects on offer in the Oxford Classics course, and the range of expertise of our tutors. This year, the questions were set and the essays marked by Dr Emma Greensmith (Fellow in Classical Literature), Dr Georgy Kantor (Fellow in Ancient History), Dr Alison Pollard (Lecturer in Classical Archaeology), and Dr David Lee (Lecturer in Philosophy). 

Ten awards and commendations have been presented this year. Many congratulations to this year’s overall winner, Lyra from Gosforth Academy in Newcastle, who wrote a brilliant essay in response to the literature question. 

Congratulations to all of the winners of this year’s awards and commendations!

Literature winner: Lyra (Gosforth Academy, Newcastle)

Literature Commendations: Olivia (Beaumont School, Hertfordshire) and Max (Harrow School, Harrow)

History winner: Patrick (Harrow School, Harrow)

History Commendation: Charles (Oldham Hulme Grammar School, Lancashire)

Philosophy Winner: Andrew (Christ’s Hospital, West Sussex)

Philosophy Commendation: Eva (Pimlico Academy, Pimlico)

Art Winner: Matthew (Pimlico Academy, Pimlico)

Art Commendations: Polly (Hereford Cathedral School, Hereford) and Anya (Nonsuch High School for Girls, Surrey)

All of the competition entrants were invited to visit St John’s for a Study Afternoon, which this year was due to take place on Thursday 23 April. Sadly, this had to be cancelled due to Coronavirus, but we wish all of this year's competition participants the very best with their future studies.

You can read the full markers' report here.