• Ana Martin

How to get started with Virgil for GCSE

Virgil’s Aeneid is a great choice for the verse option of both OCR GCSE and iGCSE papers. By reading Virgil, you get to learn about the development of literary Latin and the politics of the shift from Republic to Empire: all of this while discovering one of the foundational stories of later literary history.

For 2021, these are the set texts:

iGCSE prescribed text for paper 2: Verse Virgil, Aeneid Book 6, lines 264–416 (di, quibus imperium est animarum ... limo glaucaque exponit in ulva Click here for the Latin iGCSE specification, past papers and other relevant materials

OCR GCSE prescribed text for the Verse Literature B: Oxford Classical Text Virgil, Aeneid, 2.506–558, 705–740, 768–794 Click here for the Latin OCR GCSE specification, past papers and other relevant materials

Introducing Virgil for GCSE

Before getting started with the original Latin, you will want to have a general idea of the author and his time. You could start with theses short online resources:

In Our Time: the Aeneid

Short intro video from TedEd

To learn more about the Aeneid, you could also take this free introductory course online. These Open University courses are rigorous, very engaging and you can even earn a certificate!

Working on the set text

Once you are ready for the course itself, these are the books you are going to need:

- An appealing translation of the Aeneid: there are plenty of free available translation online ( in Poetry in Translation or through Perseus), but I recommend the Penguin edition which comes as well with a useful introduction

- A good edition of the Latin text. I recommend using the Bristol texts, which come with handy notes for translation as well as a useful vocabulary section and help with scansion and style. For iGCSE Latin working on Book 6, this is the link; for those working on Book 2, here is the link.

Aeneas receiving new armour, weapons from Venus. Aeneid book 8. Aeneas' new armour.
"Aeneas receiving new armour from Venus" Nicolas Poussin, 1630 Rouen Musée des Beaux Arts." by jean louis mazieres is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In order to work with the texts online, you might find it useful to use a version of the Latin which is hyperlinked to a dictionary. Perseus is my go-to tool for this: you can work with the notes and translation side by side, and by clicking on the words you can access the relevant dictionary entries. Please BE AWARE that the parsing is automatically generated and, whereas it will provide you with some clues, it is not the final word.

Here are some additional resources online that you might find useful:

In Our Time: the Augustan Age

Natalie Haynes on Virgil (for fun once all work done):

Would you like to take a look at some free resources to learn Latin? You can access some of my resources here.

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