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Department of Classics and Ancient History

MA in Ancient Philosophy


Ancient philosophy has a long and distinguished history at Durham, and is currently one of the research strengths of our Department. 

Our Ancient Philosophy MA is a specialist programme geared towards preparing students for higher research in ancient philosophy - partly through direct research training, and partly through modules taught by experts in their field in small-group seminars. The programme lasts for one year (two years part time), and consists of the elements below.

Classical Research Methods and Resources

This module (often known as CRMR) forms the backbone to the programme, and runs throughout the year (one hour per week). In the early stages, it introduces you to the physical tools of research, including libraries and computers and all that they can do to help; but is substantially focussed on introducing you to theories and methodologies of dealing with a wide range of ancient material. The module offers direct support to your dissertation work, helping you to develop a reflective, well thought out research plan.


The dissertation is an independent piece of research, conducted under expert supervision, on a topic of your choice within the field of ancient philosophy. You are also required to take it as a module. It will be up to 12,000 - 15,000 words long, and is submitted at the end of the programme, in September.


You are required to do one language module as part of the MA. You might take up Latin or Greek if you haven't some grounding in them already: we run special Masters-level courses for beginners in these languages. Or you might take courses to improve the skills in these languages that you already have. Alternatively, you may substitute any other available language, modern or ancient. In most areas of Classical research a lot of the most important literature you will need to read is in French, German, or Italian, for example. We can offer Akkadian in the Classics Department; Egyptian and Hebrew are among other ancient languages taught at Durham.

Core Module

You must take one module from a specified range in the area of ancient philosophy. For 2014/15, the options are:

Elective Module

Members of the Department offer modules in their own research areas, and you are able to choose any one of these (in addition to CRMR, the Dissertation module, the one compulsory language module, and the one complusory core module in Ancient Philosophy). Modules are generally run as intensive small-group seminars, meeting for 2 hours every fortnight throughout the year. It is possible to substitute two undergraduate modules under this heading (for example if you wish to take up a new subject altogether), or to take a module offered by another Department in Durham.

Q8K707 Ancient Philosophy MA

code Q8K707
Degree MA
Year of Entry 2015
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 year (full-time) or 2 years (part-time)
Location Durham City
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 1670


This is a specialist programme geared towards preparing students for higher research in ancient philosophy - partly through direct research training, and partly through modules taught by experts in their field in small-group seminars. Durham has a longstanding tradition of international excellence in the field of ancient philosophy, with several recent doctoral students having gone on to take up academic positions in the UK and abroad. The programme lasts for one year (two years part-time), and centres around a core module on a topic in ancient philosophy.

Other key elements of the course include a core research training module, a 15,000 word dissertation, and one elective module, which is offered in the areas of current research interests of members of staff.

Course Structure

For information on the structure of the course, please view our website.

Core Modules

  • Dissertation
  • Classical Research Methods and Resources
  • Compulsory language module (Latin for research/Ancient Greek for research/another ancient language/modern language)
  • Forms After Plato or Ancient Philosophers on Origins or Ancient Philosophers On Necessity, Fate and Free Will. 

Optional Modules

  • Forms After Plato
  • Latin Text Seminar
  • Greek Text Seminar
  • Akkadian
  • Latin Love Elegy
  • Religious Life in The Roman Near East
  • Monumental Architecture of The Roman East
  • Vitruvius, On Architecture: The First Treatise On Architecture, Its Significance and Legacy
  • Greek Sacred Regulations
  • Ancient Philosophers On Necessity, Fate and Free Will
  • The Classical Tradition: Art, Literature, Thought
  • Comparative Approaches to Homeric Epic
  • Greek Text Seminar On Homeric Epic
  • Latin Text Seminar On Roman Epic
  • Life and Death On Roman Sarcophagi
  • Juvenal's Satires in Context
  • Ancient Philosophers On Origins
  • Animals in Graeco-roman Antiquity
  • The Queen of The Desert: Rise and Decline of Palmyra's Civilization
  • The Roman Republic: Debates and Approaches.

Not all modules will be offered every year, and new modules (both elective and core) are added regularly.

The MA in Ancient Philosophy is principally conceived as a research training programme which aims to build on the skills in independent learning acquired in the course of the student’s first degree and enable them to undertake fully independent research at a higher level. Contact time with tutors for taught modules is typically a total of 5 hours per week (rising to 7 for someone beginning Latin or ancient Greek at this level), with an emphasis on small group teaching, and a structure that maximises the value of this time, and best encourages and focuses the student’s own independent study and preparation. On average, around 2 hours a week of other relevant academic contact (research seminars, dissertation supervision) is also available.

At the heart of the course is a module focused on the range of research methods and resources available to someone working in the field of Classics. This is run as a weekly class, with a mixture of lectures and student-led discussions. Four further elective modules deal with particular specialised subjects. Students must choose one module involving work with a relevant foreign language (ancient or modern), and one dealing directly with research on ancient philosophy. All those offered will form part of the current research activity of the tutor taking the module. Numbers for each module are typically very small (there are rarely more than five in a class). Typically, classes are two hours long and held fortnightly, and discussion is based on student presentations. (Modules for those beginning ancient Latin or Greek are typically more heavily subscribed, but their classes also meet more often: 3 hours per week.) All students write a 15,000-word dissertation, for which they receive an additional five hours of supervisory contact with an expert in their field of interest. Provision of a ‘second supervisor’ is made to ensure that help is always on hand – especially in the crucial final stages of the work during the Summer.

All staff teaching on the MA are available for consultation by students, and advertise office hours when their presence can be guaranteed. The MA Director acts as academic adviser to MA students, and is available as an additional point of contact, especially for matters concerning academic progress. MA students are strongly encouraged to attend the Department’s two research seminar series. Although not a formal (assessed) part of the MA, we aim to instil the message that engagement with these seminars across a range of subjects is part of the students’ development as researchers and ought to be viewed as essential to their programme. In addition, MA students are welcomed to attend and present at the ‘Junior Work-in-Progress’ seminar series organised by the PhD students in the Department. Finally, the student-run Classics Society regularly organises guest speakers – often very high-profile scholars from outside Durham.

Subjects required, level and graded

A good second class honours degree in a relevant subject (typically 2:1 honours) or international equivalent (e.g. USA 3.3 g.p.a.; Greek 6.5 / Lian Kalos).

Since all postgraduate degrees are meant to build on your undergraduate work, we ask for a previous degree in a 'relevant' subject. For the MA programme in Ancient Philosophy you must have studied this field at the highest level of your undergraduate course.

English Language requirements

IELTS of 7.0 (no component under 6.5) or equivalent.

Requirements and Admissions

The University accepts the following alternative English language tests and scores.

Information relevant to your country


Fees shown are for one year. Total fee will depend on the length of your programme. All fees are subject to annual increases. For more information please visit the Tuition Fees page

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