New to Classics or Ancient History
If you have not formally studied Classics or Ancient History before, it is particularly important to do some preliminary reading. Before you start the course, you need to get a general idea of how everything fits in – a basic timescale, some idea of the major historical events and personalities, and some geographical orientation (a Classical atlas will be useful here). You need also to get a clear idea of what you are most interested in, so that you can make well-informed course choices when you get here. See below, sections C, D and E.
Broaden your knowledge
If you have done A-levels or have other qualifications in classical subjects, you may already know quite a lot about particular areas, but it is also important (a) to be aware of how it all fits into the broader picture, and (b) to fill in the gaps by finding out about areas you have not studied, if only as a means of finding out whether or not you are likely to find them attractive to work on later. You should aim to read at least one book from the lists below in an area which you have not studied before. See below, sections C, D and E.
Latin and Greek
If you are coming here to do a single honours degree in Classical Studies, Ancient History, or Classical Archaeology, you may decide to take up an optional course in Latin or Greek language in the first year. This will normally be a Latin course, unless you already have a Latin qualification. If you can start preparing for this now, it will be far less daunting when you arrive. See below, section A.
If you have done Latin before and would like to try Greek, get an elementary book on ancient Greek and at least familiarise yourself with the Greek alphabet. The modern Greek alphabet is the same as the ancient, so if you have any Greek friends, persuade them to teach you the alphabet. If you already know some modern Greek, bear in mind that professional classicists pronounce ancient Greek in a way – or in several different ways – that may be unfamiliar to you. See below, section B.
If you have done A-levels in Latin or Greek, the chances are that you will have concentrated mostly on close study of literary texts. Now is the time to expand into other areas of classical studies – history, art and archaeology, philosophy. As well as discovering other potential areas of interest, you will find (if you do this properly) that your understanding of the texts themselves is much enhanced. It goes without saying that you ought to keep your eye in with the languages as well. See below, sections A – E.
Key classical texts
If you haven’t read them already, it is a good idea to read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid in translation before you arrive. These are famous texts which are valuable to all students of classical antiquity including ancient historians and archaeologists, and some knowledge of them will be presupposed in the first-year courses. Recommended translations:
- Homer Iliad: R. Lattimore (Chicago 1961); R. Fitzgerald (Oxford 1984)
- Homer Odyssey: W. Shewring (Oxford 1980); R. Fitzgerald (Harper & Row 1975)
- Virgil Aeneid: D. West, Virgil: The Aeneid, a New Prose Translation (Penguin 1990), or: C. Day Lewis, The Eclogues, Georgics and Aeneid of Virgil (Oxford 1966)
Books to consider buying
Standard reference books can be expensive, but may well be a good investment. One of the things every student needs to do is to cultivate a research mentality. It makes it easier to do this if you have some reference materials at hand. Recommended reference books are:
• The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd or 3rd edition (Oxford University Press, 2nd edition 1970, 3rd edition ed. A. Spawforth and S. Hornblower, 1996)
• The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (ed. M. Howatson and I. Chilvers, Oxford University Press)
Primary texts by Greek and Roman authors (usually in translation) are important as they will form the basis of much of your work both in literature and in history. However, available translations vary enormously in quality with some being simply useless for serious academic study, while others may be more accurate but less readable. When you arrive here, reading lists for particular courses will tell you which translations are recommended, and which are to be avoided.
Do I need to buy books?
In general, you will not be asked to buy a book for a course
unless it is really essential. We are well aware that books are expensive.
Nobody can buy all the books they read. At Royal Holloway we are lucky enough
to have two well-stocked libraries as well as easy access to
central London facilities.
In general, before buying a book, consider
carefully if it is a book you are going to refer to constantly, or if it is a
piece of great literature (e.g. the Iliad, the Odyssey, Herodotus, Sophocles’
Oedipus plays, Plato’s Republic, Virgil’s Aeneid, Horace’s Odes) that will
become part of your life. If this is the case, it may well be worth buying it.
If it is a book you
are going to read through once, or consult occasionally, you may as well use it
in the library. Plan library visits in advance, so as to avoid the frustration
that inevitably ensues if you need a book in a hurry and someone else has it
out and bear in mind that books can also be ordered through your local public
library at home.
With regards to essential course texts, don’t worry at this stage - you can obtain these once you have started at Royal Holloway. Once you start the course, your tutors will tell you what books are required for your specific courses.
Books from the preliminary reading list can be bought from bookshops in many towns and cities across the UK and you can also buy books online.
Below is a list of the best bookshops for Classics in London and the South-East, as well as recommended online bookshops:
Blackwell’s Oxford branch 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3BQ tel. 01865 792792; fax 01865 794143 Online http://www.blackwell.co.uk/bookshops/
Blackwell’s London branch 100 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0JG tel. 0207 292 5100
Foyles 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB tel. 0207 437 5660
The Hellenic Book Service 91 Fortess Road, Kentish Town, London NW5 1AG tel. 0207 267 9499, fax 0207 267 9498
Unsworths Booksellers 101 Euston Road., London NW1 2RA Tel. 0207 383 5507
82 Gower Street, London WC1E 6EQ tel. 0207 636 1577, fax 0207 580 7680
Unworth's online bookshop www.unsworths.com
Outside the London area, any branch ofBlackwell's or Waterstones will be able to order new books for you and may keep a fair selection of classics paperbacks (e.g. Penguin Classics or World's Classics) in stock (especially if they are near a university with a Classics department).
Secondhand bookshops sometimes have a Classics section, and although these may contain little except old school editions of Latin and Greek texts, bargains are occasionally to be found.