Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

The Classical Archaeology and Ancient History is a course designed to enable students to use both archaeological and textual materials to investigate Classical antiquity.

The teaching method is unique in providing team-taught classes in which students use multiple sources to investigate themes of interest, as well as typical Oxford tutorials. Examples of some of the questions students address include: did Homer’s poems describe a real ancient world? Was the introduction of democracy as radical a change as is usually thought? How propagandistic was the emperor Augustus? Students also have opportunities to study topics related to the Classical world, such as ancient Egypt, Islam, and the Celtic World. The syllabus does not require knowledge of either Latin or ancient Greek, although some knowledge of either may be an advantage in general terms. There is also the opportunity to begin or continue Latin or ancient Greek, or both. Students have normally studied Ancient History, Classical Civilisation, or Classics at school.

Somerville has a distinguished library in classical archaeology, and is close to the Ashmolean Museum whose collections and library (now the Sackler Library) are among the finest in the world, and both it and the Faculty’s Classics Centre are within five minutes walking distance. The Oxford course allows, for the first time, a combination of technical archaeological training with study of the historical context necessary to understand the artifacts and sites. There is also some opportunity to begin or improve Latin or ancient Greek or both. The one or two candidates admitted each year have normally studied Ancient History, Classical Civilisation or Classics at school. The syllabus does not require a knowledge of either ancient language, but some knowledge of either is an advantage in general terms.

Somerville was active in the setting up of this joint school and has a strong tradition in both subjects. Many professional archaeologists and ancient historians have been graduate students here. The college admits one to two candidates a year.

Somerville is very fortunate in having both an Ancient History tutor and a Classical Archaeology tutor in house, as well as a Research Fellow in Classical Archaeology and a Classics tutor who specialises in Greek and Roman Historiography.


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