Classics and Joint Schools

Classics, the study of the Greek and Roman worlds, is one of the most popular and vibrant subjects taken by students at Wadham.

  • Classics

    Athena overlooking Plato.
    Photo by Sébastien Bertrand via Wikimedia Commons

Classics at Wadham

Wadham is one of the colleges most committed to Classics. We typically have three teaching fellows, and about 32 undergraduates taking the range of classical courses. In addition there are usually around 6 to 8 graduates. The College has funds dedicated to classical study, e.g. by supporting attendance at Summer Schools and providing Greek and Latin dictionaries; and we admit students for all the undergraduate courses involving Classics or Ancient History. There is an excellent tradition of integration across courses and years, promoted through joint classes as well as regular social and academic events through the year. The college also has a distinctive commitment to outreach; our students are regularly involved in teaching Latin in local schools through the Iris project, and we host the East London Classics Summer School.

The Faculty of Classics is housed in a splendid new centre on St Giles, five minutes’ walk from the college, and close to the Sackler Library and the Ashmolean Museum. Even closer to Wadham is the Bodleian Library.

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The Classics Course

The traditional 4-year course ('Mods', and 'Greats' or 'Literae Humaniores') is one of the most widely respected degree courses in the world, and perhaps the most famous in Classics. It remains rigorous; but it is also extremely flexible, allowing students to take up to 5 of their 8 final papers in Ancient History, Greek and Latin Literature, or Philosophy (including modern Philosophy), and up to 2 in Philology and Archaeology. Moreover, versions of the course are open not only to those with only one classical language at A-Level (Mods IB if it is Latin, IC if it is Greek), but also to those who have not had the opportunity to study either language at A-Level (Mods IIA for those who choose to concentrate on Latin, IIB for Greek). Candidates for courses IB, IC and II will be expected to have acquired before they start some knowledge of the language they will be learning intensively for Mods. In some cases this will be at GCSE level, but it might also be such as can be gained at one of a number of summer schools.

Joint Schools

There are also several joint schools, for all of which we have students either on course or due to come up. In particular we hope in most years to make two offers for Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, which requires closely interrelated study of the history and material remains of the ancient world. Ancient and Modern History provides the chance to study both the ancient and the modern world, and can, but need not, involve use of the classical languages. Classics & Modern Languages combines the study of a modern language and literature with Latin or Greek or both. Classics & English involves distinctive ‘Link’ papers, which pursue genres such as Epic and Tragedy from their origins to the present day. Wadham has also had a stream of students taking Classics with Oriental Studies: the languages most commonly studied with Classics are Sanskrit, Arabic and Egyptian, but others are possible.

A student's perspective

The Tutors

Amongst the current tutors Stephen Heyworth concentrates on Latin literature, and particularly on the Augustan poets: his Oxford Classical Text of Propertius was published in 2007. His major current projects are an investigation of the manuscripts of Ovid’s Fasti, which will lead to an edition of the whole poem, and a commentary on book 3. Peter Thonemann teaches Greek and Roman history; he is particularly interested in ancient social and economic history, with a focus on the Greek-speaking East, from the Aegean to Afghanistan and from Homer to Muhammad; as a student of Greek epigraphy (inscriptions on stone) he continues a strong Wadham tradition. Philosophy tuition is overseen by Alexander Paseau, whose main focus is on logic and the philosophy of mathematics, and Tom Sinclair, who works on political and moral philosophy, especially questions of justice and the legitimacy of states. James Morwood, a retired fellow who still teaches for the college, is one of the authors of the Oxford Latin Course; he has also translated Euripides for the World’s Classics series, and composed Latin and Greek grammars and dictionaries. He and Stephen Heyworth have collaborated on commentaries on Propertius 3, and (currently) on Aeneid 3.

Careers

A good number of our graduates take postgraduate courses (not necessarily in Classics), and go on to research or teaching. A pleasing proportion hold academic posts in Classics Departments in various countries. The majority follow non-academic careers: in recent years these have included law, publishing, merchant banking, the civil service, oil, films, journalism, IT, charities and museums. This broad range is evidence that the calibre of the course and the value of a good degree in it continue to be recognised by employers of all kinds.

Admissions

Applicants are expected to submit written work in advance, and (if applying for a linguistic course) to sit a language test. The interviews themselves are devoted above all to discussing academic strengths and interests. Most candidates aim to come to Oxford in the year following their application. Some, however, wish to defer their entry for a year, and we are keen to have applications from those who do so wish and who have a plan of activity for the year. Full information about all the courses, and about application procedure, selection criteria, and a great deal else, is available on the undergraduate admissions pages of the ‘Classics at Oxford’ website.

If you have any queries, please contact the tutors, preferably by email.