Department of ClassicsUniversity of Cincinnati
Department of Classics

What is Ancient History?
How do we go about it at UC?
Reading and writing
Requirements and courses
Admission and Fellowships
Faculty and other resources

What is Ancient History?

Ancient History is about interpretation. The past comes to us as fragments. Do they add up to a whole? Can we keep track of changes? Can we explain them?

Ancient History at UC means the history of Mediterranean societies and their neighbors, from the Iron Age to Late Antiquity. In addition to Greece (from the Dark Age to Byzantium) and Rome (from village to empire), we cover Egypt, Syria/Palestine, and other areas, especially when they have come under Greek and Roman rule.

Ancient History as interpretation of the past requires a number of skills that allow ancient historians to isolate and interpret the fragments of the past. To put them back together, they also need to be able to ask the right questions. How does an economy work? What keeps a society together? Why is change inevitable? The best way to approach these questions is through themes, such as food, religion, politics, warfare, Hellenization, and Romanization. 

How do we go about it at UC?

At UC we make sure Ancient History students acquire the basic source-oriented skills:


UC is one of the world's leading papyrological centers. We edit the journal published by the American Society of Papyrologists and have started a new project on ancient Alexandria. A recent seminar was devoted to the epigraphy of Keos, a Greek island previously explored by UC archaeologists.

At UC we try to combine a skill-oriented approach by focusing on specific areas. It always helps to think with a map (or a GIS). Thus, one can study food production and consumption in Egypt through papyri; religion in Italy through Latin literature; politics in Greece through Greek literature; the Roman army in Britain through Latin inscriptions; Hellenization in Syria and Palestine through Greek inscriptions; Romanization in North Africa through archaeology; etc.

Reading and writing

Ancient historians need to be able to read secondary literature in a variety of modern languages, especially French and German. At UC PhD students are required to demonstrate a reading knowledge of these two languages. Depending on their area of research, they may also need to acquire a reading knowledge of Italian or Spanish.

Ancient historians also need to know how to write, to show how the fragments add up to a whole and to explain changes over time. An important goal of the MA thesis at UC is to develop essential writing skills.

Writing is an important, but not the only, form of communication. Ancient historians need to be able to present their ideas to their peers and to teach others how to become ancient historians. At UC PhD students are encouraged to give formal presentations on selected aspects of their research specialization. Advanced students are given the opportunity to teach as part of their graduate training. This can be a language course in Latin and Greek or an undergraduate lecture course.

For the comprehensive examination, Ancient History PhD students need to read a certain amount of Greek and Latin literature in the original and in translation. This is covered in part in course work, in part by independent reading with the help of a reading list. In addition, they need to cover secondary literature on certain periods, areas, themes and skills.

Requirements and courses

Our MA students normally need two years of study to complete the requirements for the MA degree (45 credit hours minimum and either a thesis or a comprehensive examination based on courses taken). In their second year, they can, if they wish, apply for admission to the PhD program, but only if they have passed one of the two modern language examinations.

A typical list of courses taken by MA students over a two-year period includes five upper level ancient history courses including one seminar, six upper level philology courses including one seminar, and one upper level archaeology course.

Our PhD students normally need three to four years of study to complete all requirements for the PhD degree as listed below except the dissertation.

A typical list of courses taken by PhD students over a three-year period includes nine upper level ancient history courses including five seminars, nine upper level philology courses including one seminar, and three upper level archaeology courses. In addition, PhD students must spend two semesters on an ancient author of their choice and on a special topic, preferably in the area of one of the four skills listed above (archaeology, literature, epigraphy, and papyrology).

Formal requirements for the PhD in Ancient History:

1. Sight examinations in Greek or Latin poetry and prose
2. Sight examinations in French and German scholarly prose
3. Comprehensive examinations in Greek History, Roman History, Greek and Latin Literature, and Archaeology (written), and in Ancient History (oral)
4. Dissertation

Admission and fellowship

Students interested in applying for admission to the graduate program in Ancient History should contact the Graduate Advisor for Philology and History, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Applicants are strongly encouraged to arrange to visit the department.

We offer fellowships (with tiers between $20,000 to $22,000 per year) for up to seven years for PhD students entering with a relevant BA degree or up to six years for students entering with a relevant MA degree. An additional stipend of $2,000 is available for an approved summer project.

Our financial support also covers participation in fieldwork or other summer programs, and qualified PhD students can spend up to a year of study abroad, if appropriate.

To be considered for entry with a fellowship in the fall of each year, an application must be complete by January 15. For application guidelines click here.

In making our decision we consider the following factors:

1. statement of purpose
2. extent of knowledge of Greek and Latin
3. knowledge of modern languages, especially French and German
4. letters of recommendations from teachers
5. undergraduate Grade Point Average
6. samples of written work

All candidates for admission are required to take the Graduate Record Examination and submit their scores with their application.

Faculty and other resources

In addition to faculty in archaeology and philology, the following historians are associated with the Department of Classics at UC:

Marion Kruse, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Classics.
Peter van Minnen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient History. Papyrology, Graeco-Roman Egypt, Early Christianity, and Late Antiquity.
Michael M. Sage, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Classics. Roman imperial history, patristics, ancient warfare.
Ari Finkelstein, PhD, Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies

Other resources for ancient historians include the Burnam Classical Library at UC with over 270,000 volumes and the Klau Library at Hebrew Union College with over 420,000 volumes, especially strong in Religious and Near Eastern Studies. The American office of L'Année Philologique is housed in the Department of Classics, as is the office of the American Society of Papyrologists.