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MPhil in Classics

The Cambridge MPhil in Classics is a self-contained, nine-month course designed to introduce students to the world of independent, academic research. It gives students the opportunity to do

•          high-level, focused research on a wide range of aspects of the Greek and Roman world (literature, textual criticism, ancient history, art history, archaeology, philosophy, philology, comparative linguistics)

•          under the close supervision of leading Cambridge academics

•          with the support of the Faculty's fine resources and unique timetable of specialist seminars and skills classes.

The course can be tailored to be, in effect, an MPhil in, for example, Latin prose, Ancient Philosophy, Classical Archaeology, Classical Reception, and so on.

It provides an excellent training for anyone intent on a doctorate and makes for an intellectually stimulating year in its own right.

Course Structure

Specialist seminars form the core of the Cambridge MPhil experience. All MPhil students in Classics attend a research skills seminar on key topics, intellectual and practical. Seminars are targeted to evolving student needs, starting – for example – with sessions on finding a topic, identifying a question and getting the most from one’s supervisor, through fundamental training in deploying and, if appropriate, building databases, interpreting primary sources and so on, to writing research proposals and preparing for the next career stage.

In addition to these ‘skills’ seminars, MPhil students also enrol in at least two ‘Text and Topic’ seminar-series (meeting weekly, one in Michaelmas Term, and one in Lent). These series change annually in accordance with the Faculty’s research agenda. The current topics can be found in the MPhil handbook, (link to follow). In Easter Term, all students give short presentations on their thesis topics in a designated work-in-progress seminar. Together, these seminars are a great forum for exchanging ideas, experimenting with arguments, and getting to know fellow students and Faculty.

These MPhil seminars are supplemented by optional Graduate classes in Greek and Roman Epigraphy, Greek and Roman Numismatics, Mycenaean Epigraphy, and Paleography and Textual Criticism. MPhil students are also warmly invited to attend undergraduate lecture courses in Classics (current undergraduate courses) and encouraged to take part in the Faculty’s weekly research seminars (including a graduate-run interdisciplinary seminar).

For those who need more or less intensive instruction in Greek and Latin, this is available at a variety of levels. There is also (unexamined) training available in academic German.


Most students enrolled on the Cambridge MPhil in Classics write three essays (approx. 4,000 words) and a thesis (approx. 10,000 words) over nine months. Some will substitute a language-exam or exercise (e.g. in Mycenaean epigraphy) for one of the essays. For each essay you will work one-to-one with your supervisor (a Cambridge academic with expertise related to your topic), who will guide you through your individual research. For each submitted piece of written work, you will receive a mark and detailed feedback from the Examiners.

Course requirements

Normally the minimum standard for admission as an MPhil student is a first-class or a high 2.1 degree (normally with evidence of first-class achievement) from a British university, or the equivalent (e.g. GPA of 3.7 or above) from an overseas university. The qualification need not be entirely in classical subjects, but you will need to have some proven expertise relevant to your preferred area of specialisation.

English Language: If English is not your first language, you will also need to satisfy the Faculty’s English language condition (as follows) prior to your admission being confirmed.  You must achieve the minimum requirements in the same sitting, and no more than two years before the start of your course.

  • IELTS: Overall band score of 7.5 (with not less than 7.0 in individual elements)
  • CAE (Cambridge English Advanced):  A grade (plus an assessment by our language centre)
  • CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency):  A or B grade
  • TOEFL: Overall score of 110 (with not less than 25 in individual elements)

This condition is waived if you have completed a course equivalent to a UK Bachelor's degree, running for three years or more at an English-language institution in the last two years. For full information, please refer to the University website.

Greek & Latin: We are frequently asked whether admission to the MPhil in Classics demands knowledge of Greek and Latin. The answer depends in part on the area in which you wish to specialise. While it might be feasible successfully to take the MPhil in Classical Archaeology without knowledge of the ancient languages, for example, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to tackle a literary topic without expertise in Latin and/or Greek.

Scrutiny of applications always involves careful consideration of whether a candidate's linguistic proficiency is appropriate for the topics they are intending to study; for this reason, it is helpful if you lay out in some detail in your application the extent of your knowledge of ancient (and modern) languages. At the same time we also take into account other relevant expertise, such as knowledge of philosophy other than that of the ancient world, or archaeology other than Classical Archaeology. Students who have already studied some Latin and/or Greek, but need to develop their knowledge of the languages, may pursue them further during the MPhil year.

MPhil Greek Language Paper: MPhil students who take the MPhil Greek language paper join the Faculty Intensive Greek course taken by undergraduates for the whole of  Michaelmas and Lent term. This involves 5 hours of classes a week, one each day. In addition, attendance is required at a short course at the end of September (from Tuesday to Friday of the week before the beginning of Michaelmas Full Term).

Although the Intensive Greek course is aimed at beginners, a significant amount of preparation is required in advance. Attendance at a Summer School (e.g. the JACT Greek Summer School that takes place in late July and early August) is recommended. By means of a summer school and independent study students are expected to complete the study of the ‘Text’ volume of the  JACT Reading Greek course up to and including Section 14 and complete the study of  the ‘Grammar and Exercise’ volume of Reading Greek up to and including Section 18, and to become fully acquainted with the contents of a ‘Language Pack’ which will be provided, so as to be able to perform satisfactorily in a beginning of term test on this material.

The schedule of texts during Michaelmas and Lent Term will be as follows:


Weeks 1-4: Lysias 1;

Weeks 4-6: Ps.-Xenophon, Athenaion Politeia 1–2;

Weeks 7-8: Plato, Crito 50a5–end;


Weeks 1-2: Herodotus 1. 29–46;

Weeks 3-8: Euripides, Medea (the choral odes will not form part of the body of text for examination).

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Feb 25, 2021

Archaeologists Alessandro Launaro, Senior Lecturer, and Ninetta Leone, Research Associate, have been working as members of the Cambridge MACH group to develop mathematical approaches to the classification of Roman pottery, part of the “Unveiling the Invisible” project funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

The Faculty reports with great sadness the death of John Easterling

Feb 23, 2021

A Fellow of Trinity from 1958, and Secretary of Trinity College Council for very many years, John was a University Assistant Lecturer in Classics (Ancient Philosophy) before he was appointed to the Office of University Draftsman at the Old Schools. John died on 23 February after a long illness.

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