Classics at Cambridge isn’t just studied as a period in the past, it also looks at how classical culture, language and philosophy have affected the history of Western civilisation right up to the present day. The Faculty of Classics is one of the most dynamic of its kind, with an exceptional reputation for teaching and research. Our course encompasses the history, culture, archaeology, art, philosophy and linguistics of classical antiquity and the study of original texts and artefacts. You can either specialise in a particular field or retain the breadth with which the course starts.
The Classics 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 or 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 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.
Fellows in Classics
King's is an inspirational place to study Classics, and 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. 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. The Classics Faculty is a convenient five minute walk away, on the Sidgwick site.
King's Classics Fellows are some of the best-known Classicists in the country - and several of them were themselves King's undergraduates. We are proud of the close personal and intellectual relationship that you build up with your supervisors over your three or four years here.
Fellows at King's in Classics:
Applying for Classics at King's
The numbers admitted in Classics at King's vary from year to year, but we rarely admit fewer than six or more than eight students each year. Although there are plenty of obstacles to learning Classics, we have all sorts of ways of overcoming them, and Classicists here come from every kind of educational background. You simply have to be an enthusiast for all things classical!
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 fulfil your potential as classicists.
Subjects that offer a grounding in the skills required for the course, such as languages, classical civilisation, english (language or literature), history, history of art and literary criticism, are particularly useful, but we are happy to admit students with a science-based backgrounds as well.
Although there are no pre-interview assessments for Classics, students who are invited for interview are also asked to take an at-interview written assessment, which will last one hour. You do not need to register for the written assessment as it will be organised automatically by the College if you are invited for interview.
After you apply we will ask you to send one marked essay so that we can see how you think on paper.
If you are invited for interview at King's, these will take place in early December. 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.
Qasim has written about his experiences of studying 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. His accounts is well worth reading to get a sense of what studying Classics at King's is really like.
Reading, Resources and Events
There is no required reading for Classics applicants but the Director of Studies has provided advice and reading suggestions which you will find useful. We also recommend you explore the Greeks, the Romans & Us (the Cambridge Classics website for prospective students - linked below). If you visit Cambridge, you might like to go to the Museum of Classical Archaeology (there's a highlights pack which may help).
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 so that you can find out what it's really like to study here. Do just contact the Admissions Office. Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, the Oxbridge Classics Open Day, Classics Taster Day, Sixth Form Study Days, and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.