Detail of the Gigantomachy, Great Altar of Zeus, Pergamon, 2nd century BC, from an original photo by Ealdgyth, used under CC-BY-SA 3.0 license

Studying Classics & joint schools at Merton

Classics is a hugely diverse and exciting subject. It ranges impressively widely across time and space, embracing literature, history, Greek and Latin language, comparative philology, philosophy, art and archaeology. It also engages with the presence and transformation of classical antiquity across more recent eras.

Classics is a stimulating subject in its own right, but its diversity also makes it the ideal partner for various related sister subjects. If you study Classics or Classics and joint schools at Merton, you will be choosing a challenging and enjoyable degree subject which will equip you with a whole range of skills on which you will continue to draw long, long after you have graduated.

"Merton is a phenomenal place to study. Not only were the Classics teaching team deeply knowledgeable, but they also took a great interest in my personal development - fitting extra classes into their busy schedule when I struggled and supporting me as I switched from Classics to Classical Archaeology and Ancient History. They proved that one of the oldest courses can be dynamic, flexible and forward thinking and can even provide an invaluable basis for a career in an industry as young as video games."
Joshua Baldwin (2009), Lead Designer at Coldwood Interactive

Course overview

Our students at Merton will gain a rich knowledge of the field as a whole, as well as choosing to specialise in particular areas which captivate them and reflect their own interests. There are distinctive aspects of the Oxford course which facilitate this ability to specialise, including for example the tailor-made undergraduate thesis, where students formulate a topic of their own choosing and are supervised by a faculty member with expertise in the field, or the individual 'museum report' carried out by Classical Archaeology and Ancient History students.

There are different degree programmes available, depending on your individual interests within the Classical world. At Merton, we admit undergraduates to read Classics both for Course 1, where candidates have either Greek or Latin (or both) to A-level or equivalent, and Course 2, where candidates with no previous experience of Greek or Latin pick one language and begin learning it from scratch.

Joint school/other courses

In addition to single honours Classics we also admit students to read:

Classics and Modern Languages: where we welcome applicants for both the four-year and the five-year version of the degree and those wishing to partner Greek or Latin, or both, with any modern language.

Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

Ancient and Modern History: our students come from diverse backgrounds and originate both from Britain and overseas.

The teaching team
The benefits of studying Classics at Merton

Classics is a lively and substantial component of the Merton community, with 20-25 undergraduates and 10-15 graduates working on classical subjects at any one time, together with a group of fellows and lecturers all actively engaged in carrying out teaching and research on the classical world.

Professor Rhiannon Ash teaches Classical languages and literature (with particular interests in Tacitus and Roman Historiography); Dr Jonathan Prag teaches Ancient History (with particular interests in the evolution of Sicily, the Roman Republic, epigraphy, and digital humanities); Dr Evert van Emde Boas teaches Greek language and literature (with special interests in cognitive and linguistic approaches to Greek drama); Dr Ralf Bader organises Ancient Philosophy teaching and teaches a range of Modern Philosophy options including ethics, metaphysics, and political philosophy; and Professor Irene Lemos teaches Classical Archaeology and specialises in the archaeology of Early Greece, as well as running first year core classes for Classical Archaeology and Ancient History students. We also have the support of two superb college lecturers Dr Mary Whitby (Greek) and Sam Eidinow (Latin).

Students at Merton studying Classics and related degrees will be assigned an individual Director of Studies responsible for guiding their academic progress throughout their degree. Our students will experience a caring, fun, and supportive learning environment, and they will get to know their tutors well, both through the tutorials and small classes which they will share and through regular social events in college. They will also get to know the community of Merton Classics graduates, whether through working with them in the context of our graduate mentor scheme, or attending subject-based events.

We are lucky to have a dynamic and supportive 'subject family' within college, which means that undergraduates can count on plenty of help and guidance (from both their student peers and their dedicated Directors of Studies amongst the Fellows). Last but not least, the college is also able to help our students in various other ways by providing book grants, travel grants, and prizes for excellent work (whether on course or in exams), by ordering books requested by individuals for the college library, and by providing vacation residence to help those preparing for exams.

The Classics tutors at the college are always happy to answer any questions you might have, either about which is the most appropriate degree course for you, or about practical aspects of the admissions process. Please feel free to contact us by email if you have any questions. Our current students are also happy to talk to potential students and to show them around college during termtime.

Facilities and resources at Merton

The College is well placed in central Oxford for those studying Classics. The main Bodleian Library (with unparalleled open-shelf collections in classical literature) is 5 minutes' walk away, and the Examination Schools where most undergraduate lectures in classics take place are just around the corner. The Sackler Library and the Classics Faculty are about 10 minutes' walk from Merton.

The College's own library is well-stocked with all the core texts for Classics undergraduates. Internet access in the library and college accommodation (including WiFi across the College), means that the growing number of digital resources for classics are all readily accessible on-site.

The College holds special funds to support travel by undergraduates in the Classical World through the Thomas Braun Classical World Travel Fund. Undergraduates from Merton regularly attend the summer schools held at the British Schools for Archaeology in Rome and Athens, with college support. 

The undergraduates maintain a student society called The Chalcenterics, which meets at least termly for social events, as well as hosting visiting speakers.


Classics and related joint degrees equip students with a wide range of skills, including the ability to analyse complex problems and to formulate appropriate solutions, the aptitude to learn other languages quickly, the facility to use English clearly and concisely, and the capacity to think on one’s feet. Classics is a genuinely multi-disciplinary subject, and students learn to work not just with language and text, but with visual and material evidence as well (such as coins, vase-paintings, sculpture, inscriptions, archaeological remains), with the option to take papers in languages, literature, history, history of art, archaeology, philosophy, and archaeology.

As a result, our Classics graduates leave Merton to enter an extraordinary array of different careers, including teaching, the law, the film industry, drama, music, accountancy, viticulture, journalism, the army, the arts, computing and IT. Many also go on to graduate research whether in the UK or abroad, and not just in Classical subjects but in topics as diverse as environmental science and international relations. Acquiring a Classics degree equips students with the sort of transferable skills which allow them to do almost anything – a fact which is widely recognised by employers.

Video: Classics at Oxford University
Video: Classics and Modern Languages at Oxford University
Course information
Key facts
Average intake at Merton:

Four for Classics and one or two for joint schools.


For Classics, all candidates must take the Classics Admissions Test (CAT). For joint schools/related courses, see detailed University course pages.

Written work:

For Classics, two essays or commentaries, normally in areas relevant to Classics. For joint schools/related courses, see detailed University course pages.

Specific subjects:

There are several versions of the Classics course. Course I is for students who have studied Latin and/or Greek to A-level (or equivalent). Course II has no requirements for particular subjects, and is for candidates with no or lesser experience of these languages.

For joint schools/related courses, certain other subjects are essential and/or recommended.

Deferred entry:

Applications for deferred entry will be considered on their merits.