Ancient History

Doctor of Philosophy in Ancient History

Prerequisites. A bachelor's degree in Classics or in History, combined with substantial study of Greek and Latin, represents the best preparation for the study of Ancient History, which is here understood to mean Greek history (from the Mycenaean period to Roman times) and Roman history (from the beginnings to late antiquity) within their broad regional contexts. Students applying to study Ancient History in the Department of the Classics must have competence in both Greek and Latin sufficient to take departmental courses numbered above 100 ("upper-level courses") in one of these languages (the "major language"), and above the beginning level in the other (the "minor language"). However, they will be tested equally in both Greek and Latin, normally by the beginning of the third year (see General Examinations). Those wishing to study Ancient History at Harvard with less emphasis on languages and texts, and more on other fields of history such as Medieval or Byzantine, should note that the Department of History also offers Ancient History as a field in its PhD program.

Some preparation in German and either French or Italian is also advised before admission to the program. In addition, entering students should also have taken the equivalent of two one-term introductory surveys in Greek history and in Roman history.

Academic Residence. Minimum of two years of full-time study (a combination of 16 courses, 301s or units of 303). Students are not normally permitted to take more than two courses numbered 301 before sitting for their General Examinations, and only after taking Greek 201 (for a 301 in Greek) and Latin 201 (for a 301 in Latin), or equivalent.

Program of Study. Such as to foster knowledge of Greek and Roman history and historiography, in association with fields such as philology (in the broad sense), archaeology, epigraphy, and numismatics. Exemptions from specific courses required below may be granted in particular cases on the basis of work already completed elsewhere.

  1. Theoretical and/or methodological approaches: a) Classic 350, and b) one appropriate course in theoretical and/or methodological approaches to history, normally to be chosen from those offered by the Department of History, to be completed by the time the prospectus is approved.
  2. Ancient History and Historiography: Four courses, of which one shall be in Greek and one in Roman; at least one Greek course and one Roman course shall be a graduate seminar or an ancient history 301. One course may be in non-Classical ancient history. These four courses shall ordinarily be taken in the first two years of graduate study.
  3. Languages and Literatures: Two courses on the ancient history reading list, one in Greek and one in Latin. Other Greek and Latin courses as may be recommended by the graduate committee so as to ensure a high level of competence, to be taken before the General Examinations.
  4. Archaeology: One course, to be passed before the Special Examinations.
  5. Epigraphy, Numismatics: Two courses, to be passed before the Special Examinations.

Modern Languages. Two examinations involving translation (with the aid of dictionaries) from German and either French or Italian. This requirement must be fulfilled before the Special Examinations are taken. Tests are normally administered in October and April.

Pedagogy. Students take a practicum course (Classic 360) in the craft of teaching, normally in their third year. Strategies will be applicable to courses taught in translation as well as language courses.

Study Abroad. Students are required to spend a summer or a semester in an academic program such as the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (for which they should apply for the Charles Eliot Norton Fellowship), the American Academy in Rome, or other programs (including archaeological excavations) which provide the opportunity of working closely with ancient material culture. This period of study should be completed before taking the degree, and preferably before the student commences work on the dissertation.

General Examinations.

All students will, normally by the end of April of their second year, take examinations consisting of three parts as follows:

  1. Identifications examination, of two hours. Examinees will be asked to provide short identifications of some of the major places, people, and events of Greek and Roman history.
  2. Essay examination, of three hours. Examinees will be asked to compose three essays, one on a topic of Greek history, one on a topic of Roman history, and one on a thematic or comparative topic.
  3. Oral examination, of one hour. This examination will be based on general knowledge of Greek and Roman history. The examining committee will consist of one faculty member chiefly responsible for Greek history, one chiefly responsible for Roman history, and an additional one to moderate the proceedings and to intervene at his or her discretion.

Each of these examinations may be repeated only once in the event of failure.

All students will, normally by mid-September of their third year, take a language examination, of three hours. This examination will contain Greek and Latin passages for translation taken from the list of ancient authors on a reading list. This examination may be repeated only once in the event of failure.

The language translation examination will be based on a reading list. Students are also urged to read widely in translation from authors and works not included on the list.

Special Examinations. All students will, normally by the end of their third year, take Special Examinations as follows:

One oral examination of two hours. The exam will cover three areas for questioning, one on a specific topic selected from within one of the seven fields listed below, the other two covering two entire fields more generally (one Greek and one Roman, and both different from the field within which the specific topic has been selected).

Greek history

  1. Minoan and Mycenaean Greece;
  2. Dark Age and Archaic Greece;
  3. Classical Greece;
  4. The Hellenistic World.

Roman history

  1. Early Rome and the Roman Republic;
  2. The Roman Empire;
  3. Late Antiquity.

In preparation for these examinations students will normally take three year-long courses (numbered 302) with members of the department in the two terms prior to their taking the examinations. The departmental members will be responsible for setting and grading the examinations in the relevant fields. At least one of the examination fields selected by the student must be in Greek history, and one in Roman history. With the permission of the graduate committee, which will confer with those members of the department teaching ancient history before giving such permission, students may elect topical rather than chronological fields (e.g., women in antiquity, Roman religion, etc.) for examination. Such permission will be granted only if the three chosen fields ensure sufficiently broad coverage of Greek and Roman history.

Dissertation Regulations. See the Dissertation Regulations page.