Classics at Cambridge is the study of the Ancient Greek and Roman Civilisations, with a strong focus on learning Latin and Ancient Greek, and ranging across a timeperiod spanning over 1000 years through a variety of different approaches. Whilst learning the languages (from scratch for lots of people!), you get to try Art & Archaeology, Linguistics, and Literature, as well as History and Philosophy. It’s a fun and varied way to explore another culture and a privileged slice of history, whilst also examining the history of studying the Classics and its impact on contemporary thought and society.
We’re a relatively small subject, with around 90 undergraduates each year.
What about the Classics course at Cambridge appealed to you?
Having never had the opportunity to study any Ancient Languages before, the fact that Cambridge would teach me both as part of the course really appealed to me. I had read some literature in translation, and really wanted the opportunity to get to them in the original. I knew I liked learning about ancient civilisations, and I thought studying two in such depth would be really interesting, especially in the broad spread of approaches the Cambridge course offered. I liked the fact that I could sample things I’d never tried, like Art History, stuff I didn’t understand, like Philosophy, and stuff I’d never heard of, like Linguistics. I took quite a broad spread of subjects at Alevel, and I liked the idea that in studying Classics I would never be limited to one approach or one set of skills.
How have you found the structure of the course?
Coming to the end of my 4th year, I really like the way the course gave me the skills I needed in my earlier years to really pursue the areas I enjoy in my final year. The papers I’ve chosen this year have really sprung from the topics earlier in the course. The first few years have less optional papers; for 4year course pupils (no Latin or Greek on arrival) the first years are broadly set out for you, however each essay topic you do with your college supervisors can be guided and shaped by the aspects you find particularly interesting. I think the course gives you enough direction to broaden your horizons, so that you can make the most of the freedom in your final year to pursue your particular interests, especially in areas you might not have considered before.
What is your faculty/department like?
The Classic Faculty isn’t particularly striking from the outside, but inside it has some of my favourite places in Cambridge. The Museum of Classical Archaeology is a hidden gem, with hundreds of casts of Greek and Roman statues of all sizes, it’s amazing to wander around, to bring visitors, or just to sit and work amongst colossal naked statues... The Classics Library is a shared space between undergrads, postgraduates, and academics, so you might find yourself struggling through a first year Latin translation on the same table as Mary Beard writing her next book. Though the lecture rooms aren’t shiny and new, the atmosphere is usually quite relaxed, and lectures and language classes are a great way to interact with the other Classics students at the university in your year.
What types of work do you have to do?
The type of work you have to do usually varies on what year you’re in. In my first year most of my contact hours were taken up my translation and language classes. But despair not: I really enjoyed getting to study other parts of the Classics course such as History, Art and Archaeology and Philosophy, and you get supervised by experts in the field. The breadth of areas to be explored within Classics allows you to really engage with the material culture of the Classical world. Now in my final year I focus mainly on ancient Roman history. Before coming up to Cambridge I didn’t think I had much of a penchant for history but studying Classics has revealed areas of interest that I didn’t previously have.
In my 1st and 2nd year I usually had a weeklyessay supervision combined with language supervisions both for Latin and Greek. In final year however, you get to do a dissertation, which is great, (who wouldn’t want to produce a piece of their own writing?!) for which you get supervised by an expert in the field.
I have found that most information I have needed for my work have been accessible either at my college library (which I where I use most) or the Classics Faculty Library. Of course, if you’re brave enough there’s always the University Library!
Do you have career plans?
At the moment, I am looking to stay on for an MPhil (masters course) and hopefully try out for the real world after!
I’m also hoping to do an MPhil, and really get to grips with how myth and literature work together. After that I think I want to work with school age kids in widening access to university and promoting classics.
What about your course would you change?
Not much really, except I would probably change the faculty building! It looks very unappealing from the outside!
What has been going on at Classics?
- Recent Events -
The Museum of Classical Archaeology Exhibition
The Museum of Classical Archaeology (known as The Cast Gallery) recently put up a new exhibition, “Talking to the Gods”. It features hand drawn archaeological illustrations of Roman gold and silver votive plaques found near Cambridge.
Professor Johannes seminar
On Tuesday 1st March, Professor Johannes Haubold of the University of Durham visited Cambridge to give a seminar called ‘After Babylon: Mesopotamian and pseudoMesopotamian literature in the Roman empire’.
Oxbridge Classics Open Day
Cambridge recently hosted the Oxbridge Classics Open Day, in which hundreds of prospective students came to learn about the Classics courses available at Oxford and Cambridge. There was a variety of lectures and classes available!
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