Peter Thompson is the winner of a 2017 Principal’s Prize. Peter came to Somerville in 2014 to read for a degree in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History. Here, he tells us how his love of the Classical world grew at Somerville.
‘I went to a state sixth form college that was one of the few in the country to offer an A-Level in Classical Civilisation,’ he says. The A-Level has now been withdrawn, and Peter feels very strongly that its loss should not be taken lightly: ‘I seriously consider the study of the ancient and Classical worlds to be one of the most intellectually invigorating and multifariously applicable subjects around.’ At Somerville, Peter encountered ‘two superb tutors, Dr Charlotte Potts and Dr Beate Dignas who were always extremely supportive and are both fantastic academic role models. I am thrilled to be have been able to do justice to their great work by achieving the second-highest marks among the 23 people who took the degree this year. It’s a result which surprised me a little but definitely felt well-earned.’ Peter’s achievements won him a Bull & Bull Scholarship, a Mary Somerville Prize, a Hughes Finalist Award and a Principal’s Prize. Somerville’s Principal’s Prizes were awarded for the first time in 2016 and are made to those who score in the top 5% or better of their University degree cohort, and to those who gain the very best marks for a dissertation or set of papers in University examinations.
‘My time at Somerville was wonderful,’ Peter says. ‘I lived in College for my first and third years and my rooms in Vaughan and Wolfson hold very special places in my heart. The wide assemblage of architectural styles around the free, open, garden-like quad has to be one of the College’s most endearing features – you could definitely see it as symbolic of the many different kinds of people who find themselves at home here. Somerville is a great place to learn and grow, and I will miss it a lot.’
Peter’s studies have led him to a particular interest in material culture and ancient art, and this year he takes up a place at Lincoln College to read for a Master’s in Classical Archaeology. What captures Peter’s imagination especially is ‘how simultaneously close and distant this past world can feel, in its history, literature, politics and art – every object and text can be both a portal and a mirror, which is often very exciting, and occasionally totally breathtaking.’