Styles of Greatness

Paper 1a - 3

Read the passages and answer the questions that follow

(Advice: look at the questions first so that you know what information you are looking for)

Ashoka the Great [304 BC-232 BC] was one of the younger sons of an Indian emperor. He was, however, obviously a very talented young man, a fine warrior and great leader. His elder brothers tried to keep him out of the limelight, but whenever there was big trouble he was needed as he was loved by the soldiers of the empire and able to win battles. After one of these he was badly injured and cared for by some Buddhist monks. Thus began Ashoka's interest in this religion. Its gentle teachings did not, however, have much effect on him at this stage as he is reported to have murdered all his brothers to ensure that he followed his father as emperor, and he proceeded once on the throne to expand his empire greatly by means of bloody battles and ruthless suppression of any who failed to obey him. He seems to have tired of killing around 250 BC and then blossomed into the great ruler who deserves our memory and respect. His laws encouraging vegetarianism, forbidding the unnecessary killing of animals, setting up universities and hospitals and founding Buddhist temples across his empire can still be read and admired carved on large stones across his lands. Ashoka was great both as an empire builder and then again as a social reformer - a rare combination indeed.

1. Explain the phrase 'keep out of the limelight'.

2. Name two things that made Ashoka a good leader.

3. What does the underlined word 'these' refer to?

4. Replace 'on the throne' with words of the same meaning.

5. Write the first three words of the sentence that tells us about Ashoka's negative side.

Alfred the Great [849- 899] was king of Wessex, a part of England, at a bad time. In the ninth century the Vikings/Danes from the north were spreading terror along the sea coasts of Europe. Law and order had almost broken down. Alfred was a good, patient leader and he managed to rebuild his kingdom, reunite the southern half of England and reorganize society so that people could live safely, farmers could work the land and markets could be held without fear. This, on its own, would hardly make him deserve the title 'the Great', but his achievements lie in many areas. He was the father of the British navy, which considering its later power, gives him a claim to fame. As so few people were educated and able to read Latin, he translated books into English for them and is a very important figure in the history of the English language. He also created England's first law code. A kind, hardworking man, he took his duties seriously and left his mark on his country.

6. What words tell us the Vikings did not attack England only?

7. Copy four positive adjectives from the passage describing Alfred.

8. 'markets could be held without fear': fear of what?

9. How do we know Alfred knew Latin?

10. Replace 'left his mark on' with words of the same meaning.

Peter the Great of Russia [1672-1725] created modern Russia. He was not satisfied with traditional Russia and made great changes in every area of life. He came to the throne when he was ten and had a dark childhood watching people being murdered all around him. He grew into a giant of a man, nearly seven-foot tall, but not very healthy and unable to control the muscles of his face. He was in love with ships and the sea and when on a long tour of Western Europe to learn about Western life, he worked in a Dutch shipyard for a few months. On his return he set about reforming Russia, building a great new capital at St Petersburg, leading a wild private life and making his country a great power. Many people disliked what he was doing, but Peter had one answer to people who would not obey: torture and death, sometimes carried out by the emperor himself. He killed even his son for disobedience. Peter changed Russia and so is 'great', but he left also a tradition of blood, cruelty and absolute power.

11. Underline the adjectives that apply to Peter according to the passage: strange, tall, popular, romantic, cruel, weak, determined.

12. What was unusual about Peter's European tour?

13. Complete the table about the writer's feeling towards the three rulers with the letters A, B & C.

Least positive

Medium positive

Most positive

14. Choose a title for each of the three passages.

Change or die

Spiritual greatness

Far eastern power

Family man

From small beginnings

Defeated at last


Page 8: 1. from public notice/away from people's attention 2. being popular and able to win battles

3. battles 4. Its gentle teachings 5. he was emperor 6. along the sea coasts of Europe 7. good, patient, kind, hardworking 8. of being attacked/robbed 9. he translated/turned into another language books from it 10. had a big effect 11. strange/tall/cruel/determined 12. emperors do not usually work in shipyards/do physical work 13. C/B/A 14. Change or die: C, Spiritual greatness: A, From small beginnings: B