Classics (and Joint Honours)

Classics is the study of the ancient Greek and Roman world in all its breadth and fascinating detail, ranging across literature, history, language, philosophy, art and archaeology, as well as the influence and transformations of classical antiquity in more recent times.

You will be able to explore a culture in the round and will be able to specialise in areas that intrigue you. These may include famous figures like Homer, Plato or Augustus and you can choose less familiar topics like the history of the Greek language, Latin literature under Nero, lyric poetry or Roman wall-painting. You will learn (or continue to study) at least one of Latin and Greek and will be supported to reach a level where you can read a wide range of ancient literature in the original. The Oxford Classics course offers both a thorough grounding and unrivalled choice.

In a typical year we admit eight students across the various Classics-related courses, the majority of them for single-honours Classics, but we are flexible. You will be taught in College for most of your chosen options, and always by experts in the particular field.

The College Library (which recently has been completely renovated as well as expanded) maintains an unusually strong classical section, and all incoming students are offered copies of the Oxford Latin Dictionary and the Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon on loan for the duration of their studies. The College has generous book and travel grant schemes, and Classics students have often used the latter to help fund trips to ancient sites.

Employers highly value the Classics degree. Magdalen Classicists have gone on to a wide variety of careers, such as law, school-teaching, finance, media, the creative arts and indeed academia.

Magdalen teaches almost all the Classics-related courses: Classics (referred to as ‘Literae Humaniores’), Classics & English, Classics & Modern Languages, Classics with Oriental Studies, Classical Archaeology & Ancient History, Ancient & Modern History.

The Classics Faculty plans to introduce a new curriculum for the first part of the Classics course from October 2025. There will be a single course with distinct language streams for one or both languages depending on your experience at school. We welcome applications from candidates with no previous knowledge of Latin or Greek (as well as from those who have studied it before), though it’s important that you are enthusiastic about learning an ancient language as this will form a large part of your study. The degree takes four years. You can read more about the structure of the Classics course on the Classics Faculty website. The study of the Greek and Latin literature and language here is supervised by Professor Laura Swift, whose particular interests are Greek tragedy and lyric. Dr Antony Smith, an expert in Seneca, teaches Greek and Latin language. Our Fellow in Ancient History is Dr Alfonso Moreno, whose special interest is Greek economic history.

Philosophy is supervised by Professor Paul Elbourne. Classics students work particularly closely with Dr Ralph Walker, whose teaching specialisms include ancient philosophy (Plato and Aristotle).

Entry requirements

Test

All applicants must sit the Classics Admissions Test (CAT).

Written work

Two essays, normally in areas relevant to Classics.

Specific subjects

From 2025 there will be no requirements for particular subjects. After admission, there will be distinct language streams for students who have studied Latin and/or Greek to A Level.

Deferred entry

Applications for deferred entry for the Classics course may be considered, although not for the Classics and English or Classics and Modern Languages joint degrees.