News story from Ashville College

1960s swords-and-sandals epics inspire Cambridge classicist to become published author

A well-respected teacher at Harrogate independent school Ashville College has had the first of a trilogy of books set in Ancient Greece published.

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1st December 2021 — Inspired by his childhood love of Ray Harryhausen films such as ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ and ‘Clash of the Titans’, alongside Hollywood epics such as ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Ben Hur’, Mark Knowles, Head of Classics at Ashville, wrote ‘Argo’, which is described as “an action-filled reimagining of the famous Greek myth, Jason and the Golden Fleece."

He has been commissioned by London-based publisher, Head of Zeus, for the other titles in the three-part series. The second instalment, ‘The Breaking Tide’, is due out in November 2022 and is also based on myth, whilst the final book, ‘Sea of the Dead’, is based more on historical events - the collapse of the Bronze Age in Greece at the hands of the infamous naval raiders, the Sea Peoples, and the start of the Dark Age.

Mr Knowles, who took degrees in Classics and Management Studies at Downing College, Cambridge, has been Head of Classics at Ashville since he joined in 2015, following a ten-year career with the Metropolitan Police Service. He leads the Latin GCSE and A Level curriculum at the College, and spearheaded the launch of the new Classical Civilisation GCSE and A Level in 2021, which has attracted healthy numbers of pupils.

He said: “There has been a surge in interest in this subject, largely due to the popularity of the many movies, books, and even computer games based on ancient civilisations. ‘The Hunger Games’, for example, was partly inspired by Roman history.

“Classical Civilisation is attractive to pupils because you don’t need to know any ancient languages; you don’t need to have studied the Romans and Greeks since primary school. All you need is a keen interest in the ancient world and its cultures. It’s also becoming increasingly attractive to universities and employers, opening doors to a range of careers, from business to law, and particularly those that specifically require historical skills and knowledge.”

“Interest in the Classics can be sparked by anything. I grew up on a diet of Ray Harryhausen and Charlton Heston films, and was drawn by the adventure and special effects. I remember movies like Sinbad so vividly, despite being very young. They inspired a lifelong passion and career.

“I’m thrilled that ‘Argo’ is out there. I wish I could say I can now take it easy, but with my next book due with the publishers in January, it’s going to be a very busy Christmas!”

Rhiannon Wilkinson, Head of Ashville College, said: “At Ashville, it is wonderful to celebrate the achievements, whether personal or professional, of our staff. An able classicist, Mark is also a popular and well-respected member of the Ashville community among colleagues and pupils alike. I was delighted to learn about Mark’s success as an author. He has teamed his love of learning classics and childhood love of sword-and-sandals epics to accomplish something remarkable. We wish him every success with his books and would encourage you to read them!”

For more information about Ashville College, please visit or call 01423 566358.

Ashville College (Coed 3-18) is a day and boarding school in Yorkshire.

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