Ancient History

Ref: C3673239

"Life is a gift of nature; but the good life is the gift of education that comes from literacy" (Diodorus Siculus, 1st century BC). Education has long been considered to be the passport to a better life but its aims and methods have always been debated. Even today access to education is a right not universally shared across the world and in modern Britain its nature is still controversial. This course will use case-studies from the ancient Greco-Roman world to see what education was like in antiquity. We shall examine evidence ranging from rhetoricians' handbooks from Rome and Greek philosophical treatises to school texts preserved in the dry sands of Egypt. The classical world, which has shaped our own culture and yet is often so alien, will help us to reflect on what progress has been made in education - and what direction it should take in the modern world. How close has education ever come to creating the vision of the WEA: "a better world - equal, democratic and just'?

Course aim

To use ancient evidence to examine the nature of education in the Greco-Roman world, and to compare and contrast classical ideas about education with modern aims and expectations.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Show understanding of who had access to education in classical antiquity
  • Show understanding of the content and style of education in classical antiquity
  • Show the ability to use the ancient evidence to explore the topic of education in classical antiquity

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member

Download full course information sheet

Ancient History


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  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
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