Classics reading list

Student reading in the Library

For prospective students

We advise you to read the Classics page thoroughly. For preparation advice you should find the following sections particularly useful:

For offer holders

One of the things everyone is surprised by is how much reading you are expected to do as a Cambridge Classics student. Whatever college you have got a place at, you will find yourself being expected not only to get up to speed reading Greek and Latin texts on your own, but to read widely in classical literature in translation and in what modern scholars have said about it.

Your ability to take advantage of the academic possibilities Cambridge offers you will be much increased if you also do some basic orientation before you come to Cambridge. This is particularly true at King's, where we are impatient to get on with the amazing things one can dig out of Latin and Greek texts - but one can only begin digging once one has read those texts. So before you come you should get some of the most central texts under your belt, and begin to explore the sorts of things that scholars do with them.

Statue of two lovers kissing

Cupid and Psyche at the Capitoline museum

Here is a very short reading list, in three parts.

The first part lists some central classical texts. Read them in English translation, but, if you can, read the suggested parts in Greek (if you have A level or equivalent Greek) or Latin.

The second part lists some introductory works good for orientation (and as it happens with quite heavy King's connections!). The third part lists some classic works of scholarship which offer ways in to Classics which you may not have yet come across.


  • Homer Iliad (books 1–3 in Greek) - If you think this is all boys toys, start by reading Iliad 14 with its guide to seduction...
  • Sophocles Oedipus the King
  • Plato Republic (book 1 in Greek)
  • Virgil Aeneid (books 1 and 2 in Latin) - Read this after you have read the Iliad and marvel at how Virgil reworks the earlier epic in Books 7-12. Books 1-6 rework the Odyssey.
  • Tacitus Annals (book 1 in Latin)
  • Juvenal Satires (1, 3 and 6 in Latin) - about as vicious as you can get, and not at all pc. Make sure you get an unexpurgated translation.


  • S. Goldhill Love, Sex and Tragedy: how the ancient world shapes our lives (London, 2004)
  • C. Kelly The Roman Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2006)
  • C. Osborne Presocratic philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2005)
  • R. Osborne Greek History (London, 2005)
  • R. Osborne Archaic and Classical Greek Art (Oxford, 1998)


  • R. Buxton Imaginary Greece: the contexts of mythology (Cambridge, 1994)
  • J. Davidson Courtesans and Fishcakes: the consuming passions of classical Athens (London, 1997)
  • E.R. Dodds The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley, 1951)
  • D.C. Feeney Literature and Religion at Rome: cultures, contexts and beliefs (Cambridge, 1998)
  • S. Hinds Allusion and Intertext: dynamics of appropriation in Roman poetry (Cambridge, 1998)
  • G.E.R. Lloyd Magic, Reason and Experience: Studies in the origins and development of Greek science (Cambridge, 1979)
  • B.A.O. Williams Shame and Necessity (Berkeley 1993)
Ruined columns by a pool

The "Maritime Theatre" at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli

The Classics Faculty reading list for incoming students tells you the Latin / Greek texts you will be working on in your first term at Cambridge. One of the links requires a password to access the content. This is emailed to Classics offer-holders each year (please get in touch with King's Admissions Office if you have not received the password by mid July).

For more information, please consult the Faculty of Classics website.

The Classics Faculty also has a page for summer schools for offer holders.

Reading lists | For offer holders | Undergraduate study