University of Sydney Handbooks - 2020 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

The Ancient History major and minor requirements are listed in the Ancient History unit of study table.

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 from 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.


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 may be found on the Department of Classics and Ancient History website.

Honours admission requirements
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 after 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.
- Prior to commencing honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts or other bachelor degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major.

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 Learn to Read Ancient Greek 1 and GRKA2621 Learn to Read Ancient Greek 2) or Reading Latin (LATN2620 Learn to Read Latin 1 and LATN2621Learn to Read Latin 2).

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Ancient History honours units of study page.

Advanced coursework

How do the perspectives you bring from your studies in History, Philosophy, Gender and Cultural Studies, Archaeology and Ancient History uniquely frame and explain a contemporary issue? The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in the
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI) will enhance the skills and capabilities students have acquired over the course of majors undertaken within the School’s diverse departments.

Students will learn how to apply research training from SOPHI’s unique disciplines, develop an interdisciplinary capacity with methodology, pose problems and consider their solutions in scenarios sourced from History, Philosophy, Archaeology, Ancient History, or Gender and Cultural Studies. Emphasis is placed on developing the ability to apply methods of philosophical, historical, cultural, gender or archaeological inquiry to contemporary problem-solving and to communicate findings to non-academic and culturally diverse audiences via emerging digital media.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Ancient History advanced coursework units of study page.

Contact and further information

More information and current contact details for Academic Coordinators may be found at the Department of Classics and Ancient History website. The Department of Classics and Ancient History is administered by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).