student competitionCalling all year 13 classics students!

The Postgate and Walbank Competition 2012 has just been announced.Two prizes worth up to £300 are up for grabs, along with a number of smaller prizes! All you need to do is write an essay relating the ancient world to modern day society and events. Entry is through your school so let your teacher know if you are interested. The details are below:

Postgate and Walbank Prize Competition 2012


This annual competition is for the best essays written by school and college students relating the ancient world to contemporary society and events.  The competition is named after two Liverpool professors, J.P. Postgate (1853-1926) and F.W. Walbank (1909-2008), outstanding scholars who were also passionate champions of the ongoing relevance of the ancient world.  It is intended both for those students able to study the ancient world and for others who have an interest in antiquity but who do not have the option of studying it.


2012 competition

The prize is aimed at students from any part of the United Kingdom who are – at the time of the deadline - entering their final year of secondary education, i.e. who have completed their AS year and are entering A2 (or their equivalent if studying for other qualifications).   


You should write an essay of no more than 2000 words which explores a contemporary question of your own choice in the light of your knowledge of the ancient world.  You may, for example, look at a news story, a political question, or a contemporary challenge.   You should look for parallels in the ancient world which shed light on the issue you have identified.  You should feel free to draw not only on the Greek and Roman worlds but also on the cultures of neighbouring civilisations (e.g. Egypt, the Near East, Iron Age Europe). 


You must choose the topic of your own essay, but examples of suitable topics might include: looking at the prospects for the European Union or the United Kingdom in the light of federalism in the Greek world; exploring the current financial crisis through the lens of the ancient idea of hybris; or examining the classical roots of a modern piece of literature, art or film


In judging the essays, the judges will reward the following: understanding of the relevant issues in the ancient and modern world; the relevance and force of parallels drawn; the quality of writing and presentation; the development of a clear argument supported by primary sources; freshness of approach.  All essays must be the sole creation and original work of the entrant.


Two main prizes will be awarded (each worth £300): the Walbank Prize, for the best essay on a historical topic; the Postgate prize for the best essay on a literary or cultural topic.  A number of smaller prizes will be awarded for essays that show exceptional qualities; certificates will also be given to other students whose essays showed particular merit. 


Eligibility: The competition is open both to those who are studying the ancient world at school or college (i.e. studying for qualifications in Classical Civilisation, Ancient History, Greek, Latin, Archaeology, Classics), and to those who have an interest in antiquity but do not have the option of studying it.  Only students studying in the United Kingdom are eligible to apply. 


To apply: All entries should be word-processed, and should be prefaced with the entrant’s cover sheet (see below).  All entries should be unstapled.  


Individual pupils should not apply directly.  One teacher should coordinate the competition in each school, and forward all entries (or a selection of the best entries) by the competition deadline to:  Postgate and Walbank Prize Competition, Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, 12-14 Abercromby Square, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7WZ. Each set of entries should be accompanied by the cover sheet (included below).  We regret that we are only able to receive postal entries. 


Judging: Entries will be assessed by a panel of judges, chaired by Professor Tom Harrison (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).  The assessment of the judges will not be subject to appeal. 



The deadline for receipt of applications for the 2012 prize is Friday Sept 21st 2012.  All entrants will be notified of the results of the competition (via their schools) by Thursday November 15th 2012.  


The University of Liverpool is a leading international centre for the study of the ancient world – from the archaeology of human evolution, through ancient Egypt and the Near East to Greek and Roman history, culture and literature, and Iron Age Europe. 


For more details of our programmes, go to


About J.P. Postgate

John Percival Postgate was Professor of Latin from 1909-1920. He is well known to this day as the editor of a number of Latin poets (including Tibullus, Propertius, Catullus, and Statius – amongst others) as well as for his passionate campaigning for the relevance of the classical past: he was the main force behind the creation of the Classical Association in 1902.  In his lecture ‘Dead languages and dead language’ (delivered on 10 December 1909, the very day F.W. Walbank was born), he argued that to speak of Latin and Greek as dead was ‘grotesque’; they were alive through their literature and history, and through the languages that sprang from them.  If students, he argued, found our subjects ‘mere grind’ the fault was with the teaching: ‘if the ‘dead’ languages are not to retire into the background, they must be taught as if they were alive’. 


About F.W. Walbank

Frank Walbank taught at Liverpool for his entire academic career; he was Professor of Latin from 1946-51 and Professor of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology from 1951 until his retirement in 1977.)  He is well-known primarily for his work on Polybius, the Greek historian of the rise of Rome, on whom he wrote a three-volume commentary.  But his published work – running from his first book published in 1933 to his last article in 2007  - ranged over much of the history and culture of the Hellenistic world and ancient history more widely.  Especially in his earlier work, he looked to the ancient world for lessons for his own day.  ‘Instead of solacing ourselves with the passing of moral judgements on those who are now long since dead’, he wrote, we should learn the lessons of history, and ‘reserve our energies for the more immediate task of helping to right what is wrong in our own civilization’.