The MA (Hons) in Ancient History explores the history of Greece and Rome, and that of neighbouring peoples such as the Persians and Carthaginians. Students study the period from the beginning of Greek writing and urbanism in eighth century BCE through to the collapse of the western Roman empire in the fifth century CE. Geographically, the subject is centred on the Mediterranean world, which at times extends from the Persian Gulf to the Clyde and from the Crimea to the Sahara.
Thematically, the course deals not only with political and military history, but also with topics such as gender and sexuality, slavery, colonization, religion, cultural contacts between peoples, and the ecology and economy of the ancient Mediterranean. Students will also study the nature of ancient evidence and the way that the Greeks and Romans represented the past and reinvented it to meet their changing needs.
If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Ancient History MA (Hons) page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.
These grades are the overall standards required to consider you for entry. Find out more about Standard, Minimum and Gateway entry requirements using academic entry explained and see which entry requirements you need to look at using the entry requirements indicator.
Standard entry grades: AAAB
Minimum entry grades: AABB
Gateway entry grades: BBBB
Standard entry grades: AAA
Minimum entry grades: ABB
Standard entry grades: 36 (HL 6,6,5)
Minimum entry grades: 36 (HL 6,5,5)
We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes, please see our entry requirements for more information.
For degrees combining more than one subject, the subject with the higher entry requirements determines the grades you need. You will also need to meet any further subject specific entry requirements as outlined on their pages.
If English is not your first language you will need an overall IELTS score of 7.0, with a minimum score of 6.5 in each component (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking), or an equivalent English language qualification.
St Andrews students must meet with their Adviser of Studies at the beginning of Semester 1 in September to complete advising – a compulsory part of the matriculation process. After module choices have been decided, a timetable will be allocated indicating the dates and times of classes.
The School of Classics at St Andrews has an international reputation for the diversity of teaching programmes offered. The School has expertise in history and archaeology from the archaic Greek period to Late Antiquity. It also has expertise in literature from the Greek classical and imperial periods to the Later Roman Empire, including the Greek literature of the Roman Empire, and later engagement with the Classics from the Renaissance to the modern day.
The University of St Andrews as a whole was voted top in the UK for student academic experience in The National Student Survey 2019 as 95% of St Andrews final year students gave the University top marks for the quality of the learning and teaching experience.
The University has secured a TEF Gold Award for the quality of teaching and the undergraduate experience.
The MA (Hons) in Ancient History is a four-year course run by the School of Classics. In the first year, no previous experience of ancient history or classical languages is required; any student is eligible to take Ancient History. The history of the ancient Greek world is traced from the eighth century BCE to the time of Alexander the Great, and the history of Rome is studied from its beginnings to the reign of the Emperor Augustus. Modules introduce political, social and archaeological aspects of civilisations that contributed much to later European culture.
Alongside Ancient History, in the first year of your studies, you will be required to study an additional two subjects. In the second year you will usually carry on at least one of these subjects, sometimes two. Find out more about how academic years are organised.
In your second year you will undertake advanced study of the social, economic, administrative and religious history of the Roman Empire from Augustus to Constantine. You will also study the history of human settlement in the Mediterranean throughout classical antiquity. The rise and fall of classical civilisation are examined, with particular emphasis on archaeological evidence and the theories and interpretative models that modern historians have brought to bear on antiquity. These modules bridge the gap to Honours through focused assessment methods, including deeper analysis and practical tutorials using the University’s archaeological collections.
At Honours-level, you will be able to branch out and study a wide range of topics in Ancient History that cover key aspects of the social, economic, political and cultural history of the Greek and Roman world, from archaic Greece to the end of the Roman empire. All of the School’s Honours modules are inspired by the research expertise of the members of staff who teach them, and expose you to the latest debates and developments in the discipline. They cover a wide range of genres and themes, such as slavery, religion, gender, warfare and imperialism.
The University of St Andrews operates on a flexible modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. More information on the structure of the modules system can be found on the flexible degree structure web page.
Students will take the following compulsory first-year modules:
The Greeks in a Wider World: surveys Greek history from the origins of the Greek city-states in the Archaic period (ca. 800 BCE), through the heyday of Athens’ empire and democracy in the fifth century and the struggle for supremacy among the Greek cities in the fourth, to Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian Empire. Alongside political and military history, the module tackles topics such as religious belief, sexuality, and Greek interactions with other peoples of the ancient Mediterranean world.
Rome and the Mediterranean: traces Rome’s trajectory from a small settlement in central Italy to the centre of a Mediterranean empire. The module examines a wide range of topics, including politics, the family, religion, slavery, poverty and the economy. It exposes the links between the growth of Rome’s power abroad and the transformation and eventual collapse of its Republican government at home and the rise of the first emperor, Augustus.
Second-year compulsory modules in Ancient History are:
The Roman Empire: explores the complex history of the Roman Empire from Augustus to Late Antiquity, an empire which, for the first and last time, united the whole Mediterranean and its diverse hinterlands. The history and archaeology of the empire are studied through the themes such as power, society, cultures, soldiers, cities, economies, and religions. How did an ever-changing imperial monarchy oversee a relatively stable, slave-owning domain? What powers of coercion and persuasion did Rome exert? How was Rome and its empire culturally transformed over the centuries?
Mediterranean Communities: examines the history and archaeology of human settlement in the Mediterranean world throughout the whole of classical antiquity. In the course of the first millennium BCE and the first half of the first millennium CE (ca. 1000 BCE to 500 CE), the Mediterranean was transformed from a world of tiny peasant and tribal communities to a world of complexly connected cities, states and empires. This module brings together themes of ecology, economy, urbanism, networks and the state to ask big questions about how and why classical civilisation emerged when and where it did.
Students can replace one or both of these modules with second-year Classical Studies modules in order to adapt the programme to suit their interests. Second-year modules in Classical Studies are:
Culture and Thought in the Late Roman Republic: studies the art and literature of Rome in the Late Republic (first century BCE). Key literary texts, such as the passionate poetry of Catullus and the stylish rhetoric of Cicero, are set against the broader backdrop of Roman political, cultural and social life in this turbulent period of civil war and dictatorship.
Early Greek Poetry and Philosophy: surveys the very origins of Western civilisation in the archaic and early classical Greek world. The module studies the diversity of early Greek thought through the poetry and philosophy of the period, and explores themes of conflict, justice, love and the relationship between mortals and gods.
Ancient History students must take the core module Approaches to Ancient History in their third year. In addition, you will choose from a variety of advanced options, including modules from a wide range of periods that showcase different historical approaches. You will also have access to modules from the Ancient History & Archaeology and Classical Studies programmes, which will give you an even wider choice of social, cultural and historical topics to explore.
Here is a sample of Honours modules which have been offered in previous years:
Eight Scenes from the Life of Alexander the Great
Floods, famines, plagues and volcanoes: Roman adaptation to the environment
Persia and the Greeks
Religious Communities in the Late Antique World
The Culture of Roman Imperialism
The Supremacy of Greece: Athens, Sparta and Thebes 479-362 BCE.
In fourth year, students also undertake a 10,000-word dissertation on a topic of their choice. This independent project enables you to develop key research skills which are desired by both prospective employers and by graduate schools offering postgraduate degrees.
The compulsory modules listed here must be taken in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. For Honours-level, students choose from a range of Honours modules, some of which are listed above. A full list of all modules available for the current academic year can be found in the module catalogue.
Teaching at sub-honours level is delivered primarily through lectures (70 to 120 students) and small group tutorials (8 to 12 students). Tutorials are an opportunity for students to discuss and develop their thinking in a small and friendly atmosphere, guided by an expert tutor.
At Honours level, all teaching is delivered through seminars (10 to 20 students), with a strong emphasis on students’ own contributions in informal class discussion and in group or individual presentations.
In addition to lectures and tutorials, students are expected to undertake substantial independent, but guided, work outside of the classroom. Typically, this will involve:
reading ancient source material in translation
reading journal articles and books
working on individual projects
undertaking research in the library
preparing coursework assignments and presentations
preparing for examinations.
You will be taught by an experienced teaching team with expertise and knowledge of Ancient History. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of seminars and workshops under the supervision of the module co-ordinator.
In addition to your studies in the School of Classics, optional academic support is available through practical study skills courses and workshops hosted within the University.
The University’s student services team can help students with additional needs resulting from disabilities, long term medical conditions or learning disabilities. More information can be found on the students with disabilities webpage.
Most modules in Ancient History are assessed by 50% coursework and 50% examination. However, some modules are assessed solely or mainly on coursework, and others include practical assessment. Coursework can include:
Examinations are held at the end of each semester during a dedicated exam diet with revision time provided beforehand.
The School aims to provide feedback on assessments and coursework within three weeks to help you improve on future assessments.
Undergraduates at the University of St Andrews must achieve at least 7.0 on the St Andrews 20-point grade scale to pass a module. To gain access to Honours-level modules, students must achieve the relevant requisites as specified in the policy on entry to Honours and in the relevant programme requirements. Please note that some Schools offer qualified entry to Honours, and this will be clearly specified in the programme requirements. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please visit the common reporting scale webpage.
Visit St Andrews
If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join us at a visiting day to explore the town, find out about our courses and meet current students.
The optional Honours module 'In the Footsteps of the Ancients', which is not offered every year, includes a compulsory field trip in Greece. Students must pay for accommodation, travel within Greece, and entry permits. They must also pay for travel and health insurance, the flights to and from Greece, and meals other than breakfast. Some financial help may be available.
In taking a joint degree, you are required to take core modules in all of your subjects. Find out more about joint degrees.
Ancient History students at St Andrews have traditionally progressed into a very wide range of careers on graduating. Some continue their academic careers via a postgraduate training degree to doctoral study either in St Andrews or at another university. Other students have progressed to postgraduate qualifications in teaching, museum studies or archaeology.
Recent Ancient History graduates have moved into careers including:
A degree in Ancient History will provide you with transferable skills that will equip you for a future career in many sectors. These skills include:
understanding a range of viewpoints and critical approaches
exercising reflection and critical judgment
gathering, memorising, organising and deploying information
oral and written expression.
The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.
Ancient History students may participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the Study Abroad site.
From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students participate in a range of traditions, notably, the red academic gown and the academic family, where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. These traditions and the choice of over 150 sports clubs and student societies to choose from ensures a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.
Students of Ancient History may be interested in joining The Bacchae Society is the student society for everyone with an interest in all things classical.
The School of Classics is housed in Swallowgate, an attractive building which overlooks the sea and is close to the University Library and St Salvator’s Quadrangle. Students will attend tutorials, seminars, and individual meetings with tutors in this building, while lectures are usually held in St Salvator’s.
The Swallowgate building also houses the School of Classics’ class library. The class library contains books that supplement the extensive holdings in the main Library and closely support the School’s undergraduate programmes. It is a lovely additional study space for students in the School.
The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As University buildings are located throughout the town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh makes it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland.
“I chose Ancient History as St Andrews offers a broad range of classes taught around the research interests of the lecturers, so going into the class you know that it is a topic being actively researched and contributed to by the people teaching you.”
George (Texas, USA)
School of Classics University of St Andrews Swallowgate Butts Wynd St Andrews KY16 9AL
As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online (PDF, 72 KB).