Department of ClassicsUniversity of Cincinnati
Department of Classics

What is Ancient History?

Ancient History is about interpretation. The distant past comes to us as fragments, and ancient historians recontextualize those fragments into a coherent understanding of the ancient world.

Ancient History is about interpretation. The distant past comes to us as fragments, and ancient historians recontextualize those fragments into a coherent understanding of the ancient world.Ancient History at UC is the history of Mediterranean societies and their neighbors, from the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity.

Interpretation of the distant past requires skills that allow ancient historians to proceed in a rigorous and responsible manner. To bring the ancient world back to life also requires familiarity with questions about human societies, including the limits of human agency and the sources of historical change.

How do we go about it at UC?

At UC we make sure Ancient History students acquire the basic skills required to handle the different sources. These are:

Archaeology
Coins
Inscriptions
Papyri
Literature

UC is one of the world's leading papyrological centers. We edit the journal of the American Society of Papyrologists and have started a project on ancient Alexandria. In our seminars we often combine a skill-oriented approach with a focus on specific areas. Thus, recent seminars have been devoted to Greek papyri from Alexandria, Greek inscriptions from Keos (a Greek island previously explored by UC archaeologists), and Latin inscriptions from Latium Vetus. Other seminars have been devoted to a specific topic, e.g. Greek and Latin historiography, a specific period, e.g. Late Antiquity, or a specific region, e.g. Roman North Africa.

Reading, writing, and more

At UC PhD students are required to develop and demonstrate a reading knowledge of two modern languages other than English.

Ancient historians also need to know how to write. They need to improve their ability to sort, analyze, and synthesize a range of evidence in cogent and engaging English. An important goal of the MA thesis at UC is to develop essential writing skills.

In addition to writing, 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 regularly give formal presentations on aspects of their research. Advanced students teach a variety of undergraduate courses (introductory courses in Latin and Greek and lecture courses) as part of their graduate training.

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 by course work, in part by independent reading with the help of a reading list

Recent PhD dissertations

Recent PhD dissertations on Plutarch, the transition from the Republic (or the Hellenistic period) to the early Roman Empire (using coins, iconography, literature, or papyri), and on poetry or urban history in Late Antiquity have resulted in tenure-track positions at Bucknell University, the University of Houston, Hanover College, Colorado Mesa University, Monash University (Australia), Brooklyn College, and the University of Otago (New Zealand). Ongoing dissertation topics include a cultural history of the centurion and the Roman Republic in two imperial Greek authors.

Requirements and courses

MA students normally need two years of study to complete the requirements for the MA degree (30 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.MA students normally need two years of study to complete the requirements for the MA degree (30 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 three upper-level Ancient History courses, one of which is a seminar, six upper-level Philology courses, and one upper-level Archaeology course.

Our PhD students normally need three to four years of study to complete all coursework and other requirements before they can proceed to the dissertation.

A typical list of courses taken by PhD students over a three-year period includes six upper-level Ancient History courses, four of which are seminars, ten upper-level Philology courses including one seminar, and two upper-level Archaeology courses. In addition, PhD students must complete two semester-long independent studies, one on a special topic of their choice and one on a special skill, such as epigraphy, papyrology, or numismatics.A typical list of courses taken by PhD students over a three-year period includes six upper-level Ancient History courses, four of which are seminars, ten upper-level Philology courses including one seminar, and two upper-level Archaeology courses. In addition, PhD students must complete two semester-long independent studies, one on a special topic of their choice and one on a special skill, such as epigraphy, papyrology, or numismatics.The formal requirements for the PhD in Ancient History are:

1. Two sight examinations in Greek and Latin
2. Two sight examinations in two modern scholarly languages other than English
3. Comprehensive examinations in Greek History, Roman History, Greek and Latin Literature, and Archaeology (written), and in Ancient History (oral)
4. A 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 based on progression through the program and ranging from $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 every summer 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, listed in order of importance:

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

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 ancient historians are associated with the Department of Classics at UC:

Marion Kruse, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Classics. Late Antiquity, Greek and Latin historiography.
Peter van Minnen, Ph.D., Professor of Classics. Papyrology, Greek and Latin epigraphy, Early Christianity, 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. Early Judaism, Late Antiquity.

Other resources for ancient historians include the Burnam Classical Library at UC with almost 300,000 volumes and the Klau Library at Hebrew Union College with almost twice as many, especially strong in Religious and Near Eastern Studies. The Department of Classics hosts an annual lecture in memory of Getzel M. Cohen (1942-2015), a former faculty member in Ancient History.