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Latin
scriptrixLatin was the language not only of the Romans, but of much literature and other writing until the sixteenth century. Without Latin no one can properly study the evidence for European history up to that time.

Ancient Greek
Greek is the oldest European language still spoken for which records survive. Many modern genres (e.g. tragedy, comedy, history, lyric) were founded by the Greeks.

Ancient culture
We offer a high-powered training in Latin and Greek language to make them gateways to the whole of the ancient world. So much in ancient culture stimulates thought about matters which are acutely relevant today. Here are some examples.

  • Are there divine forces that control the universe? Are they just? What if they are positively malevolent towards humanity? What then can humans hope to achieve?
    These are just some of the questions that arise from the study of Greek tragedy.
  • Will we be remembered after we have died? Is it worth making sacrifices in life to ensure that our name lives on after us?
    These are some of the key issues in Homer's magnificent epic, the Iliad.
  • Can imperialism be justified? Are the sacrifices of a few worth while for the greater good of the many?
    These are two of the questions one might ask after reading Vergil's Aeneid.
  • Is there a fixed objective standard of goodness and justice?
    The great Greek philosopher Plato thought so. Or do we simply define goodness and justice as it suits us?
  • How should democracy function? How should local government relate to central government?
    Where better to start studying these important questions than with the Greeks, who first introduced democracy ('rule by the people'), and the Romans, who managed to govern their empire only because of the help of local authorities.

Don’t imagine that the world of the Greeks and the Romans occupied only a very restricted space and time-span. The Romans came to dominate the whole of western Europe. And a well-trained classicist is able to read Greek literature written between 700 BC and AD 600 - that's 1,300 years, longer than from today to Alfred the Great!

The Classical Tradition

And Classicists don’t just study and teach the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean. What makes Classics special is in no small part the classical tradition – how Greco-Roman antiquity has continued to remain a significant point of reference and departure throughout the centuries, from late antiquity to the present day – in virtually every cultural sphere, including art and architecture, language and literature, and politics and thought.

Latest news

John Donaldson

27 September 2022

The Museum of Classical Archaeology is very sad to report the death on 21 September 2022 of its former Assistant Curator, John Donaldson. John worked in the Museum from 1988 until his retirement in in March 2013. Indeed, the Museum looks the way it does in large part because of John, who was as happy painting bases as he...

Joyce Reynolds FBA (1918–2022)

12 September 2022

The Faculty of Classics is deeply saddened by the news of the death of Joyce Reynolds FBA. She was Reader Emerita in Roman Historical Epigraphy, Fellow of the British Academy, and Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, where she was Director of Studies in Classics from 1951 to 1979. She was awarded the Gold Medal of the...

BBC Radio 4 - Reflections on Majesty, Mary Beard

12 September 2022

Mary Beard is one of ten writers and scholars invited by the BBC to reflect on their experience of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Follow the link below to listen: Listen here

Visual Interactions in Early Writing Systems (VIEWS) awarded ERC grant

16 March 2022

Philippa Steele, Senior Research Associate at the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge, has been awarded a grant of 2 million euros by the European Research Council (ERC) to investigate the visual properties of pre-modern writing. The five-year project, Visual Interactions in Early Writing Systems (VIEWS), will...