Sixth form entrance examination 2009 classical civilisation


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(Time: 1 hour)
Instructions to candidates:

  • Answer both questions.

  • Answer on lined paper.

Question 1

Princess Nausicaa gives Odysseus directions

Go into the city yourself and ask for the palace of my father, the great-hearted Alcinous. It is quite easy to recognize: any little child could show it to you. For the houses of the rest are not built in anything like the style of the palace of King Alcinous my father.

Directly you have passed through the courtyard and into the buildings, walk quickly through the great hall till you reach my mother, who sits in the firelight by the hearth, spinning yarn dyed with sea-purple – a marvellous sight – with her chair against a pillar and her ladies sitting behind. My father’s throne is close to hers, and there he sits drinking wine like a god. Slip past him and clasp my mother’s knees if you wish to see the day of your homecoming and rejoice, however far away it is. For if she is sympathetic to you, you may confidently expect to see your friends again, to reach your own fine house and your native land.’ (HOMER Odyssey 6. 296-316)

a) What can we deduce from this passage about the sort of people and the sort of society which Homer is writing about?

(10 marks)

b) What does Nausicaa think of her parents, on the evidence of this passage?

(5 marks)

c) Choose any four phrases in the above passage which strike you as effective in telling the story and making the picture vivid. Explain your choice of phrases in each case.

(10 marks)

Question 2

The Roman emperor Nero is planning to murder his mother Agrippina in a boating accident but it all ends in failure.

As she arrived, Nero met her at the shore. After welcoming her with outstretched hands and embraces he conducted here to Bauli, a mansion on the bay between Cape Misenum and the waters of Baiae. Some ships were standing there. One, more sumptuous than the rest, was evidently another compliment to his mother, who had formerly been accustomed to travel in warships manned by the imperial navy. Then she was invited out to dinner. The crime was to take place on the ship under the cover of darkness....

Nero received her kindly and gave her the place of honour next to himself. The party went on for a long time. They talked about various things: Nero was boyish and intimate – or confidentially serious. When she left he saw her off, gazing into her eyes and clinging to her. This may have been a final act of pretence – or perhaps even Nero’s brutal heart was affected by the last sight of his mother, going to her death.

But heaven seemed determined to reveal the crime. For it was a quiet, star-lit night and the sea was calm. The ship began to go on its way. Agrippina was attended by two of her friends. One of them, Crepereius Gallus, stood near the tiller. The other, Acerronia, leant over the feet of her reclining mistress, happily talking about Nero’s remorseful behaviour and his mother’s re-established influence. Then came the signal. Under the pressure of heavy lead weights, the roof fell in. Crepereius was crushed and died instantly. Agrippina and Acerronia were saved by the raised sides of their couch, which happened to be strong enough to resist the pressure. Moreover, the ship held together. (Tacitus Annals 14. 3)

a) What do you think is the attitude of the writer towards Nero? What aspects of the above passage reveal his feelings?

(10 marks)

b) In the light of your answer to (a) would you say that Tacitus is fair or is he biased?

(5 marks)

c) How does Tacitus make his account of the boating accident lifelike and credible?

(10 marks)


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