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Supporting the Faculty

Why Classics?

If you ask Classicists why they do what they do, they will tell you that the extraordinary cultural and intellectual achievements of the Greeks and the Romans are central to our modern world. They will observe that many of the debates we still have, the terms we still use – on liberty, political rights, philosophy, democracy or dictatorship – go back to foundations laid in Greece and Rome. They will point out that how we communicate through art and literature, the very language we use, the ways in which we classify problems, think about politics and international relations, and conceive ethical issues – all these and more are in debt to Classical Antiquity.

All of that is true, for sure. But it is not what makes Classicists tick, at least not at Cambridge. What gets Classicists out of bed in the morning is that Classics is hard intellectual work. Greek and Latin are wonderfully expressive languages enabling the formulation of sophisticated ideas that English struggles to communicate, and getting a grip on them is both challenging and rewarding. Greek and Roman art developed and deployed so rich a visual language that we are still trying to understand its aesthetics and politics. And the presence of rich written records only makes the material traces studied by Greek and Roman archaeologists more difficult, not easier, to read.

Why Cambridge

It is because we admit that Classics is hard that Cambridge is the best place in the world to study it – at any level. Both the RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) of 2008 and its successor, the REF (Research Excellence Framework) of 2014, put Cambridge at the top of UK Classical departments, with more ‘world-leading’ work – work that is ‘outstandingly novel’, ‘instrumental in developing new thinking’, ‘a primary point of reference – than anywhere else. From our undergraduates to our Professors, Cambridge Classicists are known for going after the big questions, while rigorously pursuing the scholarly details. That is why, for the last 50 years and more, so many of the best known Classicists have been from Cambridge – from Moses Finley, Pat Easterling and Geoffrey Lloyd, to Paul Cartledge, Mary Beard and Simon Goldhill.

Cambridge is committed to taking the excitement and challenge of studying Classics out into the world. The Cambridge Latin Course has revolutionised how Latin is taught in schools and the range of students to whom Latin is accessible. The ‘Green and Yellow’ Greek and Latin Classics series and Ingo Gildenhard’s Open Access on-line commentaries have turned reading school and university examination texts into an exciting interpretative adventure. And all that before you get to the library of acclaimed books penned by the Faculty, the blogs, podcasts, videos and radio and television programmes accessible to anyone prepared to switch on.

Why now?

We live in a world that prefers ‘hard’ sciences (STEM) over ‘soft’ arts subjects, a world that tends to ignore the past in a relentless pursuit of future advantage that leaves art, history, literature and philosophy for leisure time. But we will never get the direction of travel right if we do not get the questions right, never count the right quantities if we cannot distinguish qualities, never understand the present if we do not understand the past. The past of Greece and Rome is – we know this – a past hard to understand, but also one which shaped the modern world, and that makes it crucial that we provide future generations with the chance to learn about it for themselves.

Classics is an ever-expanding field of intellectual engagement. Cambridge Classicists have been actively exploring, and critiquing, the part that the subject has played in forming western culture, closely comparing the thought of ancient Greece and of ancient China, deepening their analysis of how exactly democratic government was delivered in antiquity, and exploring the part that engagement with their neighbours played in shaping Greek and Roman thought and action. 

Classics is for everyone who is up for the challenge. Cambridge has for many years been welcoming to the subject those who once were felt excluded. The new generations of classicists come from ever more diverse geographical, ethnic and educational backgrounds. From their earliest schooldays children are inspired by visiting our Museum of Classical Archaeology experiencing there the ancient world in three dimensions for the very first time.

Why you?

If Cambridge is to lead Classics into the future, advocating and promoting the discipline in a changing world it needs your help.

In particular we need: 

  • to increase our funded positions for teaching and research to address the ever-expanding range of questions we need to pursue;
  • to increase the number of funded places for MPhil and PhD postgraduate students to expose more of the ablest young intellects to Classics’ mind-expanding challenges;
  • to grow our outreach programme to better support teaching of Classics in schools, and to draw in those who have never had a chance to study the subject
  • to build and curate its exceptional resources, including its library, archive and museum.


Top of our current needs are:

  • An endowed University lectureship, held jointly with Newnham College. This new post will give the Faculty a chance to expand the range of its coverage, and Newnham the guarantee that its great Classical tradition is upheld. College teaching is central to Cambridge education, and Newnham continues at the forefront of ensuring that there are equal opportunities for women at every level, offering a supportive and sensitive environment for those from non-traditional backgrounds.

  • Studentships at MPhil and PhD level, so that we can offer more of the brightest Classicists from all over the world the training that will enable them to follow past generations of Cambridge Classics postgraduate students into positions in the best Classics departments worldwide. Every year we ‘lose’ excellent applicants from home and overseas because they cannot secure funding to be able to join us. Whatever their background or circumstances, we want to make sure that the best students in the world have the chance to study at Cambridge.

  • A permanent Access and Outreach Officer. A succession of young academics have done excellent work across UK schools and sixth-form colleges, but they cannot manage the demand on their own. Building links with schools attracted into Classics by the Cambridge Schools Classics Project, and getting through to schools that do not offer classical subjects in the sixth form, demands expert coordination.

  • A permanent Archivist. The great work done by successive Curators and Directors of the Museum of Classical Archaeology has enormously raised its profile and attracted to the Faculty new gifts. These have enriched the archive, particularly in relation to Aegean Prehistory (and the work of Laurence Professor Alan Wace) and the decipherment of Linear B (our own John Chadwick was the collaborator of Michael Ventris in that ground-breaking work). Generous donors have enabled a short-term Archivist appointment, but to look after our material and make it fully available to both students and the wider public we must make a permanent part-time appointment.

Want to know more?

The very best way for you to appreciate what we are doing and what we are trying to do is to come to see us. We welcome anyone who is interested in helping us to come to meet us and see us in action. Simply get in touch with Daisy Ayre () CUDAR Senior Associate Director for the School of Arts and Humanities or contact Robin Osborne (), the Chair of the Faculty Board of Classics, directly and he will be very happy to meet you and arrange for you to meet his Classics colleagues and Classics undergraduate and graduate students.

It is easy to make an online donation via the University's Online Giving site. You may choose to give a gift to the Faculty in general or to make a specific donation to the Faculty's Greek Lexicon Project.


Upcoming events

Illustrating Ancient History: Bringing the Past to the Present

Nov 03, 2020

Cast Gallery, Museum of Classical Archaeology, Sidgwick Avenue, CB3 9DA

Upcoming events

RSS Feed Latest news

Spring 2021 Sather Series to include Mary Beard and MM McCabe

Jan 22, 2021

This year’s annual series of Sather Lectures will be delivered virtually by four previous Sather Professors, including Mary Beard, Professor of Classics and Fellow of Newnham College and MM McCabe, Professor of Ancient Philosophy Emerita, King's College London, and Honorary Fellow of Jesus College.

Access & Outreach coordinator

Jan 18, 2021

Details of how to apply for this post are now available online. Closing date 11 February 2021.

Inscriptions of Roman Cyrenaica

Jan 13, 2021

An online corpus of more than 2,000 inscriptions in Greek and Latin of the Roman period from Cyrenaica (eastern Libya), of which Joyce Reynolds is the Principal Author has been published to mark her 102nd birthday.

Dr. Neil Hopkinson

Jan 08, 2021

The Faculty reports with great sadness the death of Dr. Neil Hopkinson (1957–2021).

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