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Classics MA

Year of entry 2017
Course Length 1 year full time
2 years part time
Department Classics »

If you want to expand your understanding of, or research into, classical literature and language then this programme offers you the perfect opportunity to do just that. Our Classics MA also provides postgraduates with the ideal foundation for conducting research at doctoral level.

Organised on an intercollegiate basis, this MA programme is jointly run with King’s College London and University College London to enable you to take full advantage of the teaching expertise of all three participating colleges. This tri-collegiate approach offers up an unparalleled range of modules to study: postgraduate units cover Greek and Latin literature and ancient philosophy, as well as key technical skills such as papyrology, epigraphy, and palaeography. 

Our Classics department has an excellent track record in producing publications that advance the understanding of the ancient world. A thriving and internationally recognised centre of excellence in research and teaching, the department is home to two College Research Centres - Centre for the Reception of Greece and Rome (CRGR) and the Centre for Oratory and Rhetoric (COR). Research in the department covers the whole range of Classical Studies, from Homeric Greece to the very end of the Roman Empire with particular interests in language, literature, history, ancient philosophy as well as Greek and Roman archaeology. In classical language, literature and thought we are particularly well equipped to supervise dissertations on: Homer, epic tradition, Greek drama, the ancient novel, Greek literature under the Roman Empire, ancient rhetoric and oratory, Latin epic and elegy, ancient myth, ancient philosophy (especially Neoplatonism) and classical reception. 

A global leader in Masters provision, Royal Holloway gives you the opportunity to take part in one of the most extensive programmes of research seminars and training programmes offered by any institution. During your time with us you will be under the careful supervision of our academic staff with access to not only the Royal Holloway library but also the word-class resources of: the Institute of Classical Studies, the Warburg Institute, the British Library, Senate House Library, and other specialised libraries in the School of Advanced Study. 

Core modules


This is a piece of original work of 10,000–12,000 words in the field of classical language, literature or thought, or the classical tradition. A two-hour workshop for all students in the first half of Spring Term provides key skills and guidance in developing the dissertation topic, gathering research materials, presenting work, preparing the text of the dissertation etc, and a second two-hour workshop for all students at the beginning of Summer Term checks on progress and provide space for work-in-progress presentation of the topics by the students as well as feedback. During Spring and Summer Term, dissertation supervisors arrange periodic meeting with you every two to four weeks, as needed, to discuss progress, solve issues etc. You will submit a draft of the dissertation to you supervisor by the end of Summer Term for feedback; the summer vacation is then spent making improvements, amendments, and revisions.

Research Training in Classics

The aim of this module is to acquaint you with some of the wide range of materials and methods available to classical archaeologists and to advocate their regular use in research.

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Advanced Latin A

This module consists of study of one set text in Latin, in either prose or verse, to be selected annually. The focus will be on translation, context and understanding of grammar in this text. You will also work on an independent project related to their own area of research expertise in order to refine their understanding of the issues posed by translation and interpretation in this area.

Advanced Latin B

The module will consist of study of one set text in Latin, in either prose or verse, to be selected annually. The focus will be on translation, context and understanding of grammar in this text. You will also work on an independent project related to their own area of research expertise in order to demonstrate why the Latin of a selected passage is worth examination, how discussion of it has influenced scholarship, and how direct engagement with the Latin enhances their own research.

Latin Epigraphy

This module is designed to introduce you to both the practical study and the interpretation of Latin inscriptions of all types. Classes will survey the expanding resources available for the study of Latin inscriptions, including electronic resources as well as traditional printed corpora; the production of epigraphic material from the point of view of those commissioning it and the individual craftsman; the development and the decline of ‘epigraphic habit’; and the analysis and interpretation of the texts in the broader context of the artefacts, monuments or buildings to which they were attached. You will learn how to measure and record inscriptions; how to read and interpret epigraphic texts; and how to edit and prepare epigraphic texts for publication. You will study and interpret a wide variety of examples of different types of inscriptions: official, public, private and graffiti, from Rome, Italy and the provinces. You will be encouraged to make use as much as possible of photographs and of epigraphic material in the various collections in central London.

Greek Law and Lawcourts

Our main evidence for the Athenian democracy in the fourth century are the speeches composed for delivery in court. At the same time, the speeches also offer a unique insight into Athenian social relations and social values through the stories told by individual litigants to their audiences consisting of large number of ordinary citizens who were serving as judges. This module offers an opportunity to study the ways in which the lives of the inhabitants of late fifth and fourth century Athens – citizens, resident aliens, and slaves – were regulated by the city's laws, and equally important how this normative framework could manipulated and sometimes even subverted by members of the community. The module will also offer an introduction to classical Athenian rhetoric, and the seminars will focus on the rhetorical strategies adopted by Athenian litigants in a wide variety of contexts. A broad range of Athenian lawcourt speeches in translation will be complemented by the study of texts (also in translation) by Plato, Xenophon and Aristophanes.

Who Owns the Roman Past? 

This module will address the political and ethical questions surrounding Roman archaeology in the modern world. You will look at the discipline and its practices through a range of historical, theoretical and practical lenses. Topics for consideration will include: the history of the discipline; the impact of modern conflict; archaeology in national and international law; museums and museum display; the use of archaeology in historical fiction, film and TV. Throughout the module, you will be invited to think deeply about the material at hand and to view these thorny debates from a variety of angles, so that by the end of the course you have developed a fully-rounded picture of the issues, preparing them for how a modern archaeologist might handle these in the world.

The Archaeology of Water

This module aims to explore the varied roles that water played in ancient lives, looking at the various technologies that were employed in the capture, supply and management of water, examining both the technological and social implications of these methods. You will start by investigating the key technologies (e.g. aqueducts, dams, reservoirs, bathhouses) in both rural and urban settings via a series of in-depth case studies of particular sites and regions, before exploring the social meanings behind these technological choices, drawing on material from Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies, and setting them within the wider context of debates on the ancient economy and supposed technological stagnation in the ancient world.

Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework, examinations and a dissertation.

Taught modules will normally be completed by the end of the second term, with the dissertation occupying the summer.

The Research Training in Classics module is not assessed, but attendance is compulsory.

Part time students will take two taught modules in their first year, and a third taught module plus dissertation in their second year. Each of these elements will normally be examined in the year in which it is taken.

Entry criteria:

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1) or equivalent.

Candidates with relevant professional qualifications and work experience in an associated area will also be considered.

English language requirements:

IELTS score of 6.5 with 7.0 in writing and no sub-score below 5.5 for non-native English speaking applicants.

If you require Royal Holloway to sponsor you study in the UK, your IELTS must be a UK government-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT).

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.

A successful applicant will usually have the following qualities:

  • An openness to new themes and current interpretations of the classics
  • An ability to relate disparate areas of study and work with different frameworks
  • Previous experience of learning either Greek or Latin for at least one year at undergraduate level.

Graduates of classical degrees have much to offer potential employers having developed a range of transferable skills, both practical and theoretical, whilst studying with us. With up to 90% of our most recent graduates now working or in further study, according to the Complete University Guide 2015, it’s true to say our graduates are highly employable.

In recent years, PhD graduates, many of whom have progressed from our MA programmes, have taken up academic positions at Oxford, Bristol and Roehampton Universities. Outside of academia, our graduates have embarked on teaching careers in the UK and overseas, undertaken archaeological and museum work and pursued careers in journalism, finance, politics and the arts. 

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £7,000

Overseas students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £14,500

Other essential costs**:  None, but should a student decide to take courses in London, travel may be required

Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

*The tuition fees given above apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis.  Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee and information is available from the Royal Holloway Student Fees Office on All fees are likely to rise annually in line with inflation but no more than 5 per cent per year.

For further information, please see Royal Holloway’s Terms & Conditions.

** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

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