Triple triumph for Classics student in Australasian Society for Classical Studies prizes

4 February 2013

Thomas Wilson
"Translation is like a game, or a puzzle, to me," said Thomas Wilson, who has won three highly prestigious Classics awards.

For the second year running, the Department of Classics and Ancient History has enjoyed a clean sweep of undergraduate prizes awarded by the Australasian Society for Classical Studies (ASCS). But for the first time ever, a single student - Thomas Wilson - has won all three of the prestigious awards.

Thomas, who has just completed his third year studying Classics and Ancient History, was awarded first place for three separate awards: the Australian Essay Competition Prize, the Greek Translation Prize and the Latin Translation Prize.

The ASCS Australian Essay Competition Prize requires undergraduate students from across Australia to submit a 2000 to 3000 word essay on any aspect of Classical Studies, including the languages, history, thought and archaeology of the Ancient World. Many of the previous recipients of the award have had their winning essays published and have gone on to establish successful academic careers.

Thomas' winning entry, based on Aristophanes' use of tragedy to assert comedy's superiority as a genre, was initially composed as an essay for the course 'Comedy in the Ancient World'.

"I've always been interested in the way ancient authors crafted their relationships with other authors and texts, so the broad topic was a natural one for me to choose for the essay," Thomas said.

The Greek and Latin Translation Prize saw entrants from Australia and New Zealand universities undertake a 45-minute unseen test translating a passage of Greek and Latin literature. Thomas relished this challenge as a chance to "confront the fundamental differences of thought that exist in different cultures and underlie their literature".

"Translation is like a game, or a puzzle, to me; it forces me to be creative and ruthlessly logical at the same time," Thomas said.

Unsurprisingly, the talented student hopes to continue to explore his passion for the Classics, with plans to commence postgraduate study on ancient drama. Thomas pointed to the dedication of academic staff and the intimate classroom environment as contributing factors to his recent academic achievement.

"The Department of Classics and Ancient History is small enough that the academic staff are able to engage with students on a very individual level. Most of my classes are small enough that every lecture is a discussion involving everyone in the room," he said.

Dr Robert Cowan, Thomas' former lecturer, said his accomplishments stand testament to both the robust standard of teaching within the faculty and a resurgent interest in the Classics more broadly.

"Thomas' success and those of his predecessors in previous years reflect the continuing strength of Latin, Greek and Ancient History at the University of Sydney," he said. "Classical languages remain popular subjects to study at University level, both with those like Thomas who have studied them at school, and with those picking them up as undergraduates. 50 students started Greek last year and 100 Latin."

This success caps off a stellar run for the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI) at the annual awards, with students from the Departments of Classics and Ancient History and Archaeology also taking out all three prizes in 2011.

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