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Course content

This is a specialist programme geared towards preparing you 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 full-time (two years part-time).

Course Structure

You will take modules to a total of 180 or 190 credits. The structure of the course is as follows:

  • Core research training module (30 credits)
  • Language module in an ancient or modern language relevant to research in the area of Classics (20-40 credits)
  • Core module in Ancient Philosophy (30 credits)
  • 15,000-word Dissertation (60 credits)
  • Optional modules (20-30 credits).

MA modules are 30 credits; you may substitute two 20-credit undergraduate modules for one MA module. You may also take up to 40 credits of modules offered by other Departments (subject to approval).

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

Core Modules

  • Classical Research Methods and Resources
  • Language module in an ancient or modern language relevant to research in the area of Classics
  • Core module in Ancient Philosophy (in 2016-17, options were Aristotle’s Systems or Plutarch the Philosopher)
  • Dissertation.

Optional Modules

Optional modules are offered according to the current research interests of members of staff. In recent years, optional modules available in the Department have included:

  • Akkadian
  • Ancient Philosophers on Necessity, Fate and Free Will
  • Ancient Philosophers on Origins
  • Animals in Graeco-Roman Antiquity
  • Forms After Plato
  • Greek Text Seminar on Homeric Epic
  • Greek Sacred Regulations
  • Latin Love Elegy
  • Latin Text Seminar on Roman Epic
  • Life and Death on Roman Sarcophagi
  • Monumental Architecture of the Roman East
  • Religious Life in The Roman Near East
  • Rewriting Empire: Eusebius of Caesarea and the First Christian History
  • The Classical Tradition: Art, Literature, Thought
  • The Queen of the Desert: Rise and Decline of Palmyra’s Civilization
  • The Roman Republic: Debates and Approaches.

Course Learning and Teaching

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 your first degree and enable you 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 your 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. Three or four further elective modules deal with particular specialised subjects. You must choose one module involving work with a relevant foreign language (ancient or modern: beginners modules in each language and specialised text seminars for those who have already studied Greek and Latin are offered every year), 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 (often no more than five or six 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 5 hours of supervisory contact with an expert in their field of interest. 

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.


Visit the Ancient Philosophy - MA page on the Durham University website for more details!

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