Classics

Ancient columns and a pool

The outdoor dining room at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli

Welcome to the Classics subject page at King's! Here you will find an overview of Classics at King’s, the Cambridge Classics course, the people who teach and research in Classics at King's, plus information about applying as an undergraduate.

King's Classics stands out

A student at an ancient site

Alex (2nd year) and the Colosseum

King's is an inspirational place to study classics. King's Classics Fellows are some of the best-known Classicists in the country - and several of them were themselves King's undergraduates. King's almost always has more Classics undergraduate and graduate students than any other college. The King's Classical Society is known for its long and lively meetings. And you will find people who have studied at King's teaching in Classics departments all over the world.

Colleges do make a difference to your experience, and King's is distinctive in the way that the subject is taught and in the social and intellectual environment you will live in.

Classics student on Graduation Day

Graduation day: Asad with Simon Goldhill and Rosanna Omitowoju

King's students have 24/7 access to the College Library, which is well-stocked for Classics and also provides many pleasant places to study (see the virtual tour). The Classics Faculty is a convenient five minute walk away, on the Sidgwick site.

Many King's Classicists go on to graduate research in Classics. There are also opportunities for specialists in a range of archives, libraries and museums in the culture and heritage sector. Others go on to journalism, drama, film, law, teaching – the full range of graduate careers.

The Cambridge Classical Tripos (Tripos = course)

Ruined arch

Porta Maggiore in the Aurelian walls

The Tripos is usually a three-year course, but if you have not had a chance to learn Latin and Greek at school you can take up both languages from scratch by doing a four-year course in which the first year is devoted to learning Latin. You then join those reading the three-year course.

The three-year course starts with Part 1A in which, as well as improving your language skills in Latin and Greek (many of our students start Greek from scratch in this year), you have a chance to sample the full range of classics – literary studies, philosophy, history, art and archaeology, even linguistics.

In Part 1B, the next year, you continue with further language learning and with studies of both Greek and Latin literature. In addition, you study two out of philosophy, history, art and archaeology, and linguistics.

In the final year (Part 2) you study either a) four papers selected from a range that includes papers in all the branches of classics and also some papers that ask you to combine literary, philosophical, historical and archaeological/art-historical skills, or b) three such papers plus a dissertation based on your own independent research into a subject of your choice.

Throughout the course you attend lectures (and some classes) put on by the Faculty (= Department) and supervisions organised by the College. In those supervisions, which cover both language learning and essay writing, you go over work that you have submitted in advance with a specialist supervisor.  At King’s almost all aspects of the subject are supervised by Fellows of the College.

Student perspectives

Jack (2nd year) and Amber (3rd year) have written about their experiences of King's Classics, including the transition from school, the different stages of the course, essays and translations, supervisions and academic expectations, balancing the work with a social life, and the application process. These accounts are well worth reading to get a sense of what studying Classics at King's is really like. 

Fellows in Classics

Ingo Gildenhard

Ingo Gildenhard teaches Latin literature and language, and has further interests in Roman political culture, literary and social theory, and the classical tradition.

Simon Goldhill

Simon Goldhill teaches Greek literature and language; his research covers not only the whole range of Greek literature from Homer to Synesius but also the ways in which Greek literature has shaped the modern world. You get some idea of his range - and energy - from the way in which he followed Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity: art, opera, fiction and the proclamation of modernity, published in 2011, with Sophocles and the language of tragedy in 2012.

John Henderson

John Henderson teaches Latin literature and language; primarily a Latinist, he is also interested in all sorts of classical topics. He is best known as a wicked reader of texts and an inveterately enthusiastic supervisor.

Rosanna Omitowoju

Rosanna Omitowoju (Director of Studies for Part II) teaches Greek language and literature; she has a book on Rape and the politics of consent in classical Athens and contributed to a recent volume of translations of Greek novels. She also serves as the College's Admissions Tutor.

Robin Osborne

Robin Osborne (Director of Studies) teaches ancient history and art and archaeology; his research is known for its use of the evidence of art and material culture to address historical questions. His most recent book is The history written on the classical Greek body.

We are proud of the close personal and intellectual relationship that you build up with your supervisors over your three or four years here.

Applying to study Classics

You simply have to be an enthusiast for all things classical. There are plenty of obstacles to learning Classics, but we have all sorts of ways of overcoming them. Classicists here come from every kind of educational background.

There are no special hurdles for admission to Classics, just the normal college entrance requirements. We have students who arrive with A levels or equivalent in Greek and Latin; many have Latin and no Greek; some have neither Latin nor Greek. If you are not sure what precise course you should be applying for we are more than happy to advise and to help you fulfill your potential as classicists.

For other subject choices, please see our Subject Matters leaflet. Subjects that offer a grounding in the skills required for the course, such as languages, essay-based subjects, history, history of art and literary criticism, are particularly useful but we are happy to admit students with a science-based background as well.

The application process is explained in detail on our how to apply page which we advise you to read thoroughly. After you apply we will ask you to send some marked essay work so that we can see how you think on paper. If you are selected for interview we will explore with you texts and topics with which you are already familiar to find out what you can do with that knowledge, much as we explore what undergraduates can do with the knowledge they have just acquired in the weekly supervisions.

Classics applicants invited for interviews at King's also get interviewed at a second College so as to make it easier for us to ensure that the best candidates to the University as a whole get offered places.

The numbers admitted in Classics vary from year to year, but we rarely admit fewer than six or more than eight students each year.

If you can come to an Open Day, you will be very welcome. But if it suits you to arrange a more personal visit we are very happy to meet you and introduce you to some students, so that you can find out what it's really like to study here. So just contact the Director of Studies directly (sdg1001@cam.ac.uk) or via the Admissions Office (undergraduate.admissions@kings.cam.ac.uk).

Reading, resources and events

Further information

Student with a statue

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