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History GCSE pupils swap classroom at Morpeth School for the real thing—in Athens!

PUBLISHED: 14:02 29 April 2015 | UPDATED: 14:09 29 April 2015

Year 11 swap Bethnal Green classroom for the Parthenon

Year 11 swap Bethnal Green classroom for the Parthenon

Tom Smith

Students in Ancient History take their GCSE subject very seriously in east London.

Walking among the anicent ruins of AthensWalking among the anicent ruins of Athens

They even swapped their classroom at Bethnal Green’s Morpeth Secondary studying ancient Greek civilisation for the original—the Parthenon in Athens itself.

A party of 22 sixth-formers returned at Easter from a second school trip to the Ancient World organised by Head of History Tom Smith.

“This was for our new GCSE course in Ancient History to extend our brightest historians academically,” Tom explains. “They can choose this either before or after Modern World History.

“It was a great trip which enabled them to explore the ancient sites they study in class.”

History GCSE students from Bethnal Green's Morpeth Secondary at Parthenon in AthensHistory GCSE students from Bethnal Green's Morpeth Secondary at Parthenon in Athens

They spent the first day touring classical Athens which included the slopes of the Acropolis up to the Parthenon, built to celebrate the Athenian victory over the Persians in 460BC.

The students also had a session with an archaeologist from the Acropolis Museum on how the mysteries of the ancient past can be unlocked from frescoes, friezes and pottery.

What interested them most was the Parthenon’s mix of the practical and the mythical, built as the city’s treasury and symbol of imperial pride as well as being the site of the great dual between Poseidon and Athena for its patronage. Athena won, of course, as Athens is her city.

Athena’s victory is symbolised by the olive tree that sprang forth at her summoning—and no school trip would be complete without a group photo by her tree!

The students toured Roman Athens on the second day to see the city’s ‘second flowering’ under Rome’s control, with Hadrian’s library and the Temple of Olympian Zeus revealing the importance Athens still held in the Ancient World.

The youngsters were taken on the third day some 26 miles out of the city to Marathon, the site of the battle in which the Athenians scored a crushing victory over the Persians in just over an hour in 490BC.

Phillapedes ran the 26 miles back to Athens to report the good news—but then dropped dead from exhaustion. A 26-mile race became a flagship event in the ancient Olympic Games to honour Phillapedes and the 192 Athenians who perished in battle. The Marathon race was revived in 1896 at the first modern Olympics held in Athens.

The students are now applying their contextual knowledge acquired in Athens to their GCSE in Ancient History that they are taking at Bethnal Green this summer.


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