If you are seeking to further your undergraduate qualification, conducting research into or wanting to specialise in the history of the ancient Greek, Roman and Near Eastern worlds, then this programme offers you the perfect opportunity to do just that. Covering the historical period from Classical Athens to Christian Byzantium, we offer courses which allow you to examine many aspects of the Ancient History of Greece, Rome and the Near East. Our Ancient History MA also provides postgraduates with the ideal foundation for conducting further research at doctoral level.
Organised on an intercollegiate basis, this course 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 research that advances the understanding of the ancient world. A thriving and internationally recognised centre of excellence in research and teaching, the department is home to two Research Centres - the 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 teaching ancient history, we are particularly well equipped to supervise dissertations on the history of Greek law, Athenian political and social history, the Roman army, ancient shipping and shipsheds, ancient urbanism, and the economic, political and social history of Rome.
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 world-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.
Sources And Methods In Ancient History
This module will introduce you to the disciplines, methodologies, and problems that may be encountered when engaging in research in the area of ancient history. You will cover a range of topics from epigraphy and papyrology to general issues of method in ancient history. You will become equipped with the knowledge, skills, and bibliography that will enable you to develop a research project and pursue it successfully. You will give a presentation about your dissertation topic at an intercollegiate dissertation symposium in the summer term.
You will produce an extended piece of original work of between 10,000 and 12,000 words in the field of ancient history. You will choose a topic in consultation with staff members with appropriate expertise, and be assigned a supervisor. You will be supported through the process of gathering research materials and organising your work both through intercollegiate and departmental workshops. During Spring and Summer Term, dissertation supervisors arrange periodic meeting with you every two to four weeks, as needed, to discuss progress, solve issues and review drafts. Over the summer, you will prepare a draft of the dissertation which your supervisor will offer feedback on, allowing you to make improvements, amendments and revisions before submission in September. You will develop your skills in employing relevant research methodologies at an advanced level, engaging with existing scholarship to situate your project within context of current debate.
Built Environment in Ancient Greece
In this module you will develop an understanding of the practice of architecture and construction in the Greek world. You will look at the development of architectural orders, the role of architects,
the design process, building techniques, the sources and supply of materials, town planning, and religious, civic, domestic and funerary building types. You will consider how to interpret primary architectural data using appropriate scholarly and theoretical frameworks, and examine the archaeological significance of architectural remains and their potential in studying ancient built environments and landscapes. You will learn how to create a three-dimensional photogrammetry model.
Who Owns the Roman Past?
In this module you will develop an understanding of the political and ethical questions surrounding Roman archaeology in the modern world. You will look at the history of the discipline, the impact of modern conflict, archaeology in national and international law, museums and museum display, and the use of archaeology in historical fiction, film and TV. You will consider the issues and problems in the presentation and preservation of Roman archaeology and examine the practical and theoretical aspects encountered when attempting to answer who own the Roman past.
Understanding Pompeii and Herculaneum
This module provides you with the opportunity to engage in an-depth study of the material remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum (and the villas at Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale) and assess their special value – but also their limitations – as primary sources for archaeologists and cultural historians. You will analuse general issues of preservation, excavation, chronology, and presentation of the sites to the public as well as a range of topics relating to the specific types of evidence for which the Vesuvian sites are renowned.
The Archaeology of Water
This module aims to explore the varied roles that water played in ancient lives. During the module, you will look at the various technologies that were employed in the capture, supply and management of water in the ancient world, examining both the technological and social implications of these methods. In the first part of the module, you will investigate 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. In the second part of the module, you will explore 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.
The Archaeology of the Roman Near East
This module will take you through the major sources of archaeological evidence we have for life in the Roman Near East. In the first term, you will get the opportunity to develop your understanding and knowledge of the archaeology of the Roman Near East, including an overview of the periods prior to the Romans. Topics to be covered in this term will include Roman urbanism, rural settlement and agriculture, water supply and religion. In the second term, you will explore some of the key theories, methods and approaches related to the Roman Near East, for example different ways of looking at 'Romanization' as well as theories and practices related to material culture. In addition, you will engage with themes related to who owns the past and how that past is presented in different settings and for different audiences.
City of Athens
The urban centre of ancient Athens was a modest town from antiquity until the nineteenth century when it became the capital of the newly independent state. The city has grown phenomenally over the last two centuries and the preservation of the archaeological remains is varied. The course will combine classroom teaching with an excursion to Athens where the relationship between the modern city and the primary material at the archaeological parks and museums can be studied at first hand. The lectures and seminars will provide a methodological and chronological framework for studying the material remains of the ancient city. Several themes will run through the course and they include, for example, the following: How are the religious and burial customs reflected in the archaeological record of Athens? What types of manifestations did the administration and politics of the polis have in architecture? How did the city prepare for war? What was the urban environment like?
City of Rome
In this module you will develop an understanding of the sources and modern analytical methods which can be used to study the City of Rome. You will look at the topography of ancient Rome and consider its relevance to Roman political, social and cultural history.
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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of a broad range of philological issues associated with selected books of Homer's Iliad. You will read significant sections from selected books in the original Greek and examine key issues such as literary criticism, philosophy, anthropology and the study of oral traditions pertaining to the Iliad.
In this module you will develop an understanding of a broad range of philological issues associated with selected books of Homer's Odyssey. You will read significant sections from selected books in the original Greek and examine aspects of higher criticism, including literary, philosophical and anthropological approaches and discussions of general critical theory pertinent to the study of the Odyssey.
Tacitus on Being Roman: Defining Identity
In this module you will develop an understanding of Roman identity and the ways in which Tacitus seeks to define what it means to be Roman under the early Principate. You will read selected excerpts from Tacitus' Agricola, Historiae and Annales, considering the key features of Tacitus' literary technique and examine the relationship between literary form and content.
Tacitus on Being Roman: Experiencing Identity
In this module you will develop an understanding of Roman identity and the ways in which Tacitus seeks to represent the experience of being Roman under the early Principate. You will look at key features of Tacitus' literary technique, considering the relationships between literary form and content in Tacitus Agricola, Historiae and Annales.
- Places, Artifacts and Images, Digital Approaches
- Digital Classics: Linking Written and Material Culture
Beginners' Ancient Greek for Research
In this module you will develop an understanding of the basic grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of Attic Greek. You will become proficient in reading unseen simple passages of Greek without assistance and gain confidence in handling Ancient Greek texts in their original form.
Intermediate Ancient Greek for Research
In this module you will further develop your understanding of the Ancient Greek language to the point where you are able to read substantial texts. You will carry out grammatical exercises, including some translation from English into Greek, as well as preparing to translate passages from Greek to English. As your confidence increases, you will increasingly focus on the translation and interpretation of texts.
- Tacitus and Nero
- Latin Epigraphy
- Medieval Latin Literature
- Skills for Medievalists: Palaeography
- Introduction to Greek Epigraphy
- Alexandria and the Poetry of Callimachus
- Archaic and Classical Painting
- One God, One Sea: Byzantium and Islam, 600-800
- Classical Frontiers: Northern Black Sea in Antiquity
- Science and Empire
- Late Antique Magic
- Roman Mosaics: Making and Meaning
- Living in Byzantium I: Material Culture and Built Environment in Late Antiquity
- Exhibiting Classical Antiquities
- Alexander's Afterlife
- Queer Connections: Male-Male Desire and the Classical Past
- Ancient Rome on Film: From Pre-Cinema to the 1950s
- Cicero: Rhetoric and Politics
- Ancient Philosophy and Literature
- Greek Papyrology
- Lived Ancient Religion in Hellenistic Greece
- Hellenistic Encounters with Egypt
- Change and Continuity in the Ancient Near East
- The Mediterranean World in the Iron Age
- Ancient Italy in the Mediterranean
- Making and Meaning in Ancient Greek Art
- Making and Meaning in Ancient Roman Art
- The Transformation of the Roman Mediterranean
Teaching & assessment
Assessment is primarily carried out by coursework and the dissertation, although some examinations may be used particularly in language acquisition classes.
Full-year units will normally be completed by the end of the second term with coursework usually due in June. Some half-year units taught in the autumn term may have coursework deadlines in January.
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.
Successful applicants will usually have the following qualities:
- A broad appreciation of the civilizations and historical framework of the ancient world
- A keen interest in primary sources and the different interpretations that have been put on them
- The ability to synthesise judgements from multiple viewpoints.
Candidates with relevant professional qualifications and work experience in an associated area will also be considered.
International & EU requirements
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway (apart from some language courses) is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here. For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, we offer a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students (PDIS), a one-year full-time programme that will prepare you for postgraduate study in the UK. For more information please see here.
Your future career
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 courses, 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.
Fees & funding
Home and EU students tuition fee per year*: £7200
International students tuition fee per year**: £14900
Other essential costs***: Should you decide to take modules which are delivered in Central London then travel will be required.
* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee, usually equivalent to approximately half the full-time fee. Please email email@example.com for further information on part-time fees. All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees and our terms and 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, have not been included.