Bloomsbury (2018) p/b 192pp £16.99 (ISBN 9781350010239)
This book is the OCR endorsed publication of the prescription of Cicero’s Philippic II for AS and A Level Latin for the examination years 2019-2021.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the book could quite literally not be bettered; it is an outstandingly well-designed and well-thought-out work, useful to students and teachers alike—an object lesson in how to write a guide to a set text.
The book begins with a short preface which captures the moment of the original composition by Cicero, and then gives a brief user guide which explains how the current work is set out. Two sentences stand out: ‘The commentary which follows the text aims to help students bridge the gap between GCSE and AS level Latin, and pays due attention therefore to the harder points of grammar and word order. It also explains the historical or cultural references which must be grasped along with the language.’ Quite. This is precisely what students need and is precisely what the author delivers.
The introduction offers some historical background, divided into two subsections: Events leading up to and following the Second Philippic, and the Sources relevant to the Philippics. There follows a section on Oratory, also subdivided, this time into five subsections: Types of speech and structure; Rhetorical style; Cicero and Demosthenes; Rhetorical terms (many more than most texts on Cicero, and all absolutely relevant); Clausulae. Finally, some suggestions for further reading.
Next follow two extremely helpful maps; and then the prescribed text, divided into AS and A Level sections, with the ‘usual’ indication of which part of the text you are reading in the bottom outer corner of the page.
Then come the commentary notes, a masterpiece of judgement about how much information a student needs (linguistic and historical), expressed clearly and concisely, but always in sufficient detail. The sections of Latin which are not read for the examination are given in synopsis so that the student always has a context.
And finally, a vocabulary, nicely spaced for easy reference, with words which appear on the AS vocabulary list clearly marked with an asterisk. Once again, the student’s needs take centre stage, and it isn’t just the ‘difficult’ words which appear in the list—a huge confidence-booster.
This is really an exemplary work which supports without being condescending, which talks to the students as if they are adults who share the author’s passion for the subject, and which invites them into Cicero’s world as fellow scholars.