Classical Archaeology and Ancient History | University of Oxford
Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
Detail of a statue in the Ashmolean Museum.
(Image credit: Richard Watts).

Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

The course combines study of the history, archaeology and art of the classical world. It looks at the societies and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world through their written texts, visual art and material remains, and has at its centre the two classical cultures of Greece and Rome. It is aimed at anyone interested in investigating ancient civilisations and their remains: from Greek temples and Roman amphitheatres to wall paintings and the poignant residues of everyday life. While it is primarily a historical and non-linguistic degree, ancient languages can be used and learned as part of the course.

The degree is taught through a mixture of tutorials, lectures and classes. Some cover specifically archaeological or historical approaches to ancient Mediterranean cultures, but the degree is unique in also offering courses that combine both approaches. In every year of the course there are classes led by both an archaeologist and a historian, which are designed to give an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the topics studied.

The University’s resources for this combined subject are excellent in terms of both library facilities, especially the Sackler Library, and the range and number of postholders in the two fields. The Ashmolean Museum also contains wide-ranging collections of art and artefacts from classical cultures.

CAAH careers

Some CAAH graduates go on to further study and research to become professional archaeologists and historians. Others move into different areas, including museum curation, heritage management, education, finance, advertising, publishing, the Civil Service and the law. Recent CAAH graduates include a financial adviser, a teacher and a curator. Sarah became a personal adviser. She says: ‘My degree at Oxford provided the challenging environment in which I developed the skills I later needed to successfully complete Reed’s rigorous application procedure.’

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Archaeology and Anthropology, Classics, other History courses or History of Art.

Fieldwork/international opportunities

There are two practical elements – two weeks at the end of the first year spent on an archaeological field project, and the preparation of a report in the second and third years focusing either on a particular ancient site or on an artefact or set of artefacts in a museum of your choice.

A typical week

First year:

  • lectures (four–six per week)
  • team-taught classes (one per week for the first two terms)
  • tutorials (one every one–two weeks) and/or language classes.

Second and third years:

You will take six options and produce a site or museum report. Currently, the options are chosen from:

  • integrated classes, bringing together historical and archaeological approaches to a particular period
  • core papers, which deal with central topics in Greco-Roman studies
  • further papers, which allow you either to build up concentrated expertise in some central areas and periods or to extend into earlier and later periods, and into non-classical cultures
  • Greek or Latin Language papers.

Tutorials are usually two students (possibly three) and a tutor. For the core papers the class size is usually eight or less. Where options are taught in classes, the class size will depend on the options you choose. They would usually be no more than 20 students. 

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are studying at doctorate level.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

1st year


Four courses are taken.

Core elements:

  • Aristocracy and democracy in the Greek world, 550–450 BC
  • Republic to empire: Rome, 50 BC to AD 50

Current optional elements:

  • Archaeology: Homeric archaeology and early Greece from 1550 to 700 BC; Greek vases; Greek sculpture c600– 300 BC; Roman architecture
  • History: Thucydides and the West; Aristophanes’ political comedy; Cicero and Catiline; Tacitus and Tiberius
  • Ancient Languages: Beginning Ancient Greek; Beginning Latin; Intermediate Ancient Greek; Intermediate Latin; Advanced Ancient Greek; Advanced Latin


First University examinations:Four written papers

2nd and 3rd year


Six courses are taken from a wide choice of options. These currently include:

  • Rome, Italy and the Hellenistic East, 300–100 BC
  • Imperial culture and society, cAD 50–150: Archaeology and history
  • The Greeks and the Mediterranean World, c950–500 BC
  • Greek art and archaeology, c500–300 BC
  • Cities and settlement under the Empire
  • Art under the Roman Empire, AD 14–337
  • Archaeology of the late Roman Empire, AD 284–641
  • Thucydides and the Greek world, 479–403 BC
  • Alexander the Great and his early successors
  • Roman history 146–46 BC
  • Egyptian art and architecture
  • Archaeology of Minoan Crete, 3200–1000 BC
  • Etruscan Italy, 900–300 BC
  • Science-based methods in archaeology
  • Greek and Roman coins
  • Mediterranean maritime archaeology
  • Epigraphy of the Greek and/or Roman world
  • Athenian democracy in the classical age
  • Sexuality and gender in Greece and Rome
  • Cicero: Politics and thought in the late Republic
  • Religions in the Greek and Roman world, c31 BC–AD 312
  • St Augustine and the Last Days of Rome, AD 370–430
  • Intermediate Ancient Greek or Latin
  • Advanced Ancient Greek or Latin
  • Research for a site or museum report

For more information, visit the Classical Archaeology and Ancient History website.


Final University examinations:
Six written papers; one site or museum report

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.) 

A classical language, Classical Civilisation or Ancient History can be helpful to students in completing this course, although they are not required for admission.

We expect you to have taken and passed the practical component in any chosen science subjects.

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support


A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man


Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

At the end of the first year, CAAH students are required to undertake fieldwork. Fieldwork projects recently attended by CAAH students include:  

  • Dorchester Field School (University of Oxford/Oxford Archaeology), Oxfordshire
  • Sangro Valley Project, Abruzzo, Italy
  • Apolline Project, near Naples, Italy
  • Tarquinia, Lazio, Italy
  • Halaesa, Sicily, Italy
  • Sanisera Field School, Menorca, Spain
  • Thouria, Kalamata, Greece 

You can choose an alternative location if you wish, subject to the approval of the CAAH standing committee. The cost of participating in fieldwork may be anything from £500 to £2,500, depending on your choice of fieldwork project. All CAAH students starting in 2019 will receive a fieldwork grant of up to £1,000 from the faculty.

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written test

You do not need to take a written test as part of an application for this course.

Written work

As part of your application you will be required to submit by 10 November 2018 two recent marked essays written as part of your school or college course.

See further guidance on the submission of written work.

What are tutors looking for?

Tutors are looking for intellectual potential, the specific visual, textual and reasoning abilities required for this course and, of course, serious interest in and commitment to both classical archaeology and ancient history.

Tutors will consider all the available information – past and predicted examination results, the personal statement, academic reference, submitted written work and interviews – to assess your potential to benefit from the course, to be a good tutorial student, and to attain good results in examinations. The weight given to the different criteria will vary according to your individual background and circumstances.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Classics website.

Suggested reading

There is no reading list for students applying for Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, as we encourage students to engage with whatever they find interesting about the ancient world. If you are interested in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, this will include the historical and archaeological evidence through which we learn about that world. As well as visiting your local museum, or other museums, you may wish to explore some websites which have excellent links to historical and archaeological materials, such as the British Museum or Oxford’s own Ashmolean Museum, or the BBC Radio 4 archives, for example for the programme ‘In Our Time’, covering material from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

There are also many social media sites which you can join such as Classics Confidential, Classics Outreach and Classics International.


Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford.


'It’s a completely exciting world of military history, of economy, of politics. You find it laid out in floor plans, and archaeology and texts.'


First job after graduating

I worked as a location research officer for a holiday home advertising company

Current job

I'm a freelance copywriter, spending my days writing website pages, blog posts, brochures, press releases and anything else my clients need me to write for them.

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

Studying at Oxford gives you the ability to deal with a big workload and juggle multiple tight deadlines. This has been so useful for my work, because I have numerous projects on the go at any given time. The research aspect of my degree has also proved useful for a career that requires me to become expert on a diverse array of topics in a short space of time. Of course, impeccable English is also paramount in my line of work, and all those Oxford essays certainly helped hone those skills.

What was the most important thing your time at Oxford taught you?

It gave me the confidence that I can achieve anything I set out to achieve.

When I was at Oxford, I signed up to lots of societies, including the Oxford University Gliding Club. Gliding - and flying in general - has gone on to become a very big part of my life (I even met my husband through it), so I'm grateful I had the opportunity to get into this exciting sport during my time at Oxford.

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.

Oxford’s tutorial system

Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.

A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.

Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.

The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.

More information about tutorials

The benefits of the college system

  • Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
  • Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
  • Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.

It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college

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