University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

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Ancient History

About the major

A major in Ancient History invites you into the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome, using their myths, images, inscriptions, artefacts, written history and literature as evidence. You can study the ideas, politics and cultures of the Classical world by looking at political systems, religion, law, mythology, slavery, refugees, science and late antiquity. You can read (in translation) ancient epic, drama and poetry in its social and historical contexts and appreciate the impact of these works on later ages (including modern media). You will be encouraged to ask important questions about leadership, democracy and the rule of law, human rights, religions and the role of myths, poetry and story-telling in human communities. You will be inspired to think about how and why history is written.

Our world is full of the memories and monuments of Classical Greece and Rome. Many ideas and concepts that we value were developed by communities whose similarities and differences from our own demand reflection and critique. Your major begins with 1000 level units that lay the foundation by providing key training and skills. You then progress to 2000 and 3000 level units that treat particular themes or periods in detail and develop your skills in the discipline of history. A major in Ancient History is designed to equip you to understand the historical and cultural importance of the Classical world and to evaluate its legacy.

The major opens careers in government, law, policy, teaching, curating, tourism and the media among others.

Requirements for completion

A major in Ancient History requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 18 credit points of 3000-level units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project units

A minor in Ancient History requires 36 credit points from this table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level units

First Year

At this level, students undertake two units that provide a foundation for your future studies in Ancient History. You will learn the general principles, methods of inquiry and foundational concepts of Ancient History, and working with primary evidence in the form of texts, epigraphic and numismatic material and archaeological and material culture, develop a basic proficiency in the forms of critical analysis of historical data, and problem solving through asking historical questions.

Second year

Units at this level build on the foundations of your first year. In the variety of 2000 level units on offer, you will examine complex disciplinary problems and work independently to research and analyse these problems in innovative ways. You will improve your ability to effectively and ethically communicate your knowledge, and to engage in informed and respectful disagreement. You will learn to use primary evidence effectively in the form of texts, epigraphic and numismatic material, iconography and material culture, including architecture and archaeological evidence. You will deepen your disciplinary expertise in historical and historiographical methods of inquiry and understand the principles of the ancient historian.

You will need to undertake a minimum of two units at this level to satisfy the requirements of a major or minor in Ancient History, but you are allowed to undertake more as general elective units in your degree.

Third year

Units at this level will instil in you an advanced understanding of the cultures and history of the ancient world, with a focus on the Greco-Roman world, and of the methods used by historians to study them. Demonstrating an understanding of the cultures, literatures, peoples and ideas of the ancient past, you will identify and analyse historical data, working with a wide range of primary materials form the ancient world. You will investigate the answers to historical and historiographical questions, applying the skills and knowledge of an ancient historical to issues encountered in an interdisciplinary context. You will demonstrate high-level skills in research, critical thinking and the analysis of complex historical problems, while exhibiting interpersonal and communication skills, professional ethics, cultural competence and the ability to work effectively in collaborative contexts.


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.

If you commenced your degree prior to 2018: Admission to Honours requires a major in Ancient History with an average of 70 percent or above.

If you commenced your degree in 2018: Admission to Honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Ancient History with an average of 70 percent or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing Honours.

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

Advanced coursework

The requirements for advanced coursework in Ancient History are described in the degree resolutions for the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies.

24-36 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2020.

The Bachelor of Advanced Studies fourth year Advanced Coursework option is designed to train students to examine and solve highly complex historical problems through research and critical thinking and to analyse the diverse body of evidence available for the study of the ancient world, such as literature – poetry, epic, drama, oratory, philosophical, religious, and scientific texts – as well as inscriptions, coins, papyri, artworks and architecture. Fourth year coursework enables students to recognize, analyse and apply the methodologies and approaches used in the study of the history, culture and civilization of the ancient world. Weekly seminars examine individual ‘problem cases’ drawn from current scholarship and famous scholarly debates from the 20th and 21st Centuries. Given the emphasis on current scholarly debate, topics for problem cases will be constantly updated and reviewed by the coordinator. Working directly with relevant ancient evidence, students are encouraged critically to engage with current debates. Assessment is designed to enable students to make a contribution to one or more of the debates they have studied.

Contact and further information

More information and current contact details for Academic Coordinators may be found at:

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