University of Sydney Handbooks - 2017 Archive

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Ancient History

Ancient History is taught by the Department of Classics and Ancient History within the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).

About the major

A major in Ancient History invites you to discover the civilisations of ancient Greece and Rome, using their myths, images, inscriptions, artefacts, written history and literature as evidence. You can study topics as diverse as political systems, religion, law, mythology and the world of late antiquity. We offer opportunities to read (in translation) ancient epic, drama and love poetry against their social and historical setting and to trace how narratives have been interpreted and reinvented by later ages, including Hollywood.

The major progresses from foundation units in your junior year to senior-intermediate units treating specific topics in depth, then senior-advanced units offering training in disciplinary method or an opportunity to focus on a key period or theme. Our aim is that, on attaining your major you will be able to frame and answer historical questions and be a free-thinking, independent historian of the Classical past.

The world is full of monuments and memories of Classical Greece and Rome. A major in Ancient History equips you to meet them in their ancient and modern setting and to understand their historical and cultural importance both then and now.

A major in Ancient History will also help you to further develop key skills, including the ability to synthesise large amounts of data into a coherent and persuasive argument as well as to communicate effectively both orally and through the written word.

Pathway through the major

A major in Ancient History requires 36 senior credit points including at least 24 credit points from core units of study of which six must be at 3000 level.

The units of study for the major can be found in the Table A unit of study table for Ancient History. The table shows units of study on offer in the current handbook year. You may find information regarding a full list of units of study available to the major on the departmental website.

Junior units of study (1000 level)

If you intend on completing a major in Ancient History you should complete 12 junior credit points in Ancient History in your first year to gain an understanding of three different approaches – historiographic, archaeological and literary – to the cultures and histories of ancient Greece and Rome.

Other pathways to an Ancient History major are possible. Because of its close disciplinary affinity, we welcome students who have completed 12 junior credit points of History as well as those who have combined one junior unit in Ancient History with a junior unit from History, Philosophy, Archaeology, Latin or Ancient Greek.

Senior units of study (2000 and 3000 level)

Senior-intermediate (2000 level) units introduce a series of topics that are more closely focused in area and usually entail a particular disciplinary approach. In any year, you can choose to specialise in a field (ancient Greece or Rome), a discipline (eg history or literary criticism) or a chronological period. Some units invite thematic comparison between cultures and periods, others require you to consider the impact of the ancient world on subsequent historical situations. All senior-intermediate Ancient History units require you to consider issues in their historical context and how that context might have changed over time. Some units are highly appropriate for those intending to teach Ancient History to HSC level.

At 2000 level students can follow chronological pathways which provide the grand narrative of Classical History; they can pursue an interest in ancient literature through genre models; or they can study the interplay between the past and the present through units that look at the reception of the classical world.

Senior-advanced (3000 level) units entail a close study of either the idea and discipline of history or a seminal period or theme in Ancient History. They will require you to think independently about a set topic and to explore the problems and issues it raises.


Qualifying for honours
If you are considering an honours year in Ancient History, it is best to seek early advice on all the pathways open to you and the skills you will need to do your best. Our formal prerequisites are a major in Ancient History with an average of 70 percent or above including ANHS3635 (or equivalent) and an additional 12 credit points (or equivalent) of Ancient Greek or Latin.

The honours coordinator can advise you on acceptable equivalents to our standard requirements.

Ancient History at honours level requires you to have learned at least the basics of the ancient language most relevant to your thesis topic. Normally students are expected to have successfully completed two semesters of Latin or Ancient Greek.

Note that you can still pick up your ancient language as senior units via the units in Reading Greek (GRKA2620 and 2621) or Reading Latin (LATN2620 and 2621).

Undertaking honours
An extra year of Ancient History allows students to specialise in a particular field and to write a major piece of research. The honours year can be the culmination of your study of Ancient History or a pathway to further research in our postgraduate program. It develops worthwhile transferable skills of analysis and critical argumentation. Our program consists of two seminars and a thesis of 20,000 words on a topic decided by you in consultation with your supervisor.

Full details of the program, its prerequisites and its relationship to other majors taught by the department may be found on the department's website at

Contact/further information

Enquiries should be directed in the first instance to the school office, phone +61 2 9351 2862. Further information about units of study may be sought from coordinators. For their names, phone numbers and office numbers, see: