Ancient History + Classics postgrad - what's it like?

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WokSz
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Hi guys,

So, I'm still looking at what course to do a Masters in and my mind keeps coming back to Ancient History (a childhood passion). I wanted to know what it was like studying it at University and I'd be very interested to hear opinions of the people who didn't do History at Undergraduate (such as myself).

Thanks!
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ellie.rew
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(Original post by WokSz)
Hi guys,

So, I'm still looking at what course to do a Masters in and my mind keeps coming back to Ancient History (a childhood passion). I wanted to know what it was like studying it at University and I'd be very interested to hear opinions of the people who didn't do History at Undergraduate (such as myself).

Thanks!
My understanding is that most courses wouldn't expect a history background, but rather and Ancient History/Classical Civ/Classics background, although it is likely that many would be willing to take on students with a general humanities degree. What exactly is your undergrad qualification?

As for what it's like, I have a History background and know a few people in Classics/Late Antique studies, and Masters courses generally consist of lots of language work (especially if you don't have any Latin/Greek to begin with, which I assume you don't), supplemented with technical classses supporting the language work (epigraphy, numismatics, papyrology), one or two optional modules and a dissertation. There will often be exams, particularly language ones, along with essays and dissertations as part of the assessment. In short, you can expect to spend upwards of 50% of your time on accusatives of respect and deponant verbs, with a little bit of ancient history on the side.
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WokSz
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(Original post by ellie.rew)
My understanding is that most courses wouldn't expect a history background, but rather and Ancient History/Classical Civ/Classics background, although it is likely that many would be willing to take on students with a general humanities degree. What exactly is your undergrad qualification?

As for what it's like, I have a History background and know a few people in Classics/Late Antique studies, and Masters courses generally consist of lots of language work (especially if you don't have any Latin/Greek to begin with, which I assume you don't), supplemented with technical classses supporting the language work (epigraphy, numismatics, papyrology), one or two optional modules and a dissertation. There will often be exams, particularly language ones, along with essays and dissertations as part of the assessment. In short, you can expect to spend upwards of 50% of your time on accusatives of respect and deponant verbs, with a little bit of ancient history on the side.
Thank you for your answers. I find this quite odd, as the course is supposed to be about the Historical aspect and not so much the language. Do you know why this is the case and of any universities where the history aspect is more important than the language?
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ellie.rew
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(Original post by WokSz)
Thank you for your answers. I find this quite odd, as the course is supposed to be about the Historical aspect and not so much the language. Do you know why this is the case and of any universities where the history aspect is more important than the language?
The reason is that most Masters courses focus on preparing students for doctoral study, in which being able to read the primary sources in the original is a bare minimum requirement. As for courses which focus more on history (in translation) and less on language, I don't really know (as I said I'm not an ancient historian or a classicist), but I woudn't imagine there are many, unless you already have the language skills, in which case they'd let you spend more time on the history. Have a look around though, but it could well be that a 2nd undergrad could provide more of the sort of content you're looking for.
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Klix88
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(Original post by WokSz)
Thank you for your answers. I find this quite odd, as the course is supposed to be about the Historical aspect and not so much the language. Do you know why this is the case and of any universities where the history aspect is more important than the language?
As Ellie suggests, "Ancient History" and "Classics" are two different things. Ancient History courses focus more on the study of the historical/cultural aspects and may offer language and linguistic optional modules. "Classics" is traditionally a study of classical languages, which is where the course will be focussed, probably with elements of history and culture.

As an example, look at the structure of the KCL Ancient History MA:
http://www.kcl.ac.uk/prospectus/grad...tory/structure

Most modules are optional and you could study for the entire year without touching on languages if you wanted to (although they do offer beginners' Latin or ancient Greek if you want to give them a try). The "Details" page describes it as "advanced study of the history of the Greek, Roman and Near Eastern worlds" with no mention of languages. Original texts would be expected to be read in translation rather than their original language.

By contrast, the KCL Classics MA has a near-identical list of optional modules, but the "Details" page specifies that "This programme offers advanced study of the classical world, with special reference to Greek and Latin language and literature"
https://www.kcl.ac.uk/prospectus/gra...assics/details

If your interest is focussed on history and culture rather than language, then you probably need to focus your course search on Ancient History or Classical Civilisation type Masters degrees.

But do shop around. Some course titles can be very specific and might not come up on generic searches, for example Nottingham's Visual Culture of Classical Antiquity MA. There are some fascinating courses out there, but some aren't that easy to find with a quick search!
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ellie.rew
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(Original post by Klix88)
As Ellie suggests, "Ancient History" and "Classics" are two different things. Ancient History courses focus more on the study of the historical/cultural aspects and may offer language and linguistic optional modules. "Classics" is traditionally a study of classical languages, which is where the course will be focussed, probably with elements of history and culture.

As an example, look at the structure of the KCL Ancient History MA:
http://www.kcl.ac.uk/prospectus/grad...tory/structure

Most modules are optional and you could study for the entire year without touching on languages if you wanted to (although they do offer beginners' Latin or ancient Greek if you want to give them a try). The "Details" page describes it as "advanced study of the history of the Greek, Roman and Near Eastern worlds" with no mention of languages. Original texts would be expected to be read in translation rather than their original language.

By contrast, the KCL Classics MA has a near-identical list of optional modules, but the "Details" page specifies that "This programme offers advanced study of the classical world, with special reference to Greek and Latin language and literature"
https://www.kcl.ac.uk/prospectus/gra...assics/details

If your interest is focussed on history and culture rather than language, then you probably need to focus your course search on Ancient History or Classical Civilisation type Masters degrees.

But do shop around. Some course titles can be very specific and might not come up on generic searches, for example Nottingham's Visual Culture of Classical Antiquity MA. There are some fascinating courses out there, but some aren't that easy to find with a quick search!
I had no idea there were Masters which completely avoided the language element, but there obviously are if you shop around! Be aware though, even though language learning is not compulsory, the entry requirements state that experience learning relevant ancient languages is "highly desirable" and that without Latin/Greek (depending on your specialty) you will be in a minority and will be limited in the optional modules, essay topics and dissertation topics you can focus on. Learning ancient languages is very hard, especially in one year, but if you're serious about studying classical history to a high level, it is worth it.
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Klix88
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(Original post by ellie.rew)
I had no idea there were Masters which completely avoided the language element, but there obviously are if you shop around! Be aware though, even though language learning is not compulsory, the entry requirements state that experience learning relevant ancient languages is "highly desirable" and that without Latin/Greek (depending on your specialty) you will be in a minority and will be limited in the optional modules, essay topics and dissertation topics you can focus on. Learning ancient languages is very hard, especially in one year, but if you're serious about studying classical history to a high level, it is worth it.
I suspect it has a lot to do with the culture and history of the subject at invidual unis. When I was at Oxford back in the mists of the early 80s, you needed A Level Greek and Latin (or be able to mug them up to A Level standard in the first term) in order to study Archaeology, never mind Classics. Pretty sure they've eased up on that these days, or the department would be next to empty.

Plus so few schools now teach Latin and Greek, that it's a bit limiting to insist on a language when you're looking at Ancient History-type courses. I think survival has probably made it necessary for many unis to introduce more flexibility outside the pure Classics courses.
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WokSz
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Thank you both! I will look into both options. Your help has been great!
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