What is Classics?

Classics is the study of the languages, literature, history, philosophy, art and archaeology of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.  The University’s Faculty of Classics is housed in a spacious, modern building that is only a five-minute walk away from Corpus.

Many students take the Intensive Greek course, designed for those with less than A-Level Greek (or no Greek at all) upon entry. An applicant with neither Greek nor Latin at A-Level will take the four-year course.

In Parts IA and IB of the Classical Tripos, undergraduates are taught Greek and Latin language and literature along with two of the following options: Ancient History, Philosophy, Classical Art & Archaeology, and Philology & Linguistics. In their final year – Part II of the Classical Tripos – undergraduates may take papers from a very wide range of subjects concerning the Ancient World.

Classics at Corpus

At any one time, the College normally has up to ten undergraduates reading Classics.  Our students come from a wide variety of schools and backgrounds.

The College has two Fellows who are Directors of Studies in Classics: Dr Christopher Kelly, an ancient historian with particular research interests in the Roman Empire, especially the rise of Christianity and late antiquity; and Dr Jo Willmott, a linguist who specialises in moods and the constructions in which they are found throughout the history of Greek.  Dr James Warren, Director of Studies in Philosophy, specialises in ancient philosophy and Dr. James McNamara, a member of Fitzwilliam College, offers additional teaching and Directs Studies for the Part II Classicists.

Willmott Dr Jo Willmott (Fellow – Linguistics and Philology) The topic of my research is the Greek language. Through the close semantic and pragmatic analysis of texts, I investigate questions connected to issues of mood and modality, primarily in ancient Greek. You may find further details of my current projects here, as well as articles and hand-outs available for download.
Kelly Prof Christopher Kelly
(Fellow – Ancient History)
Prof Christopher Kelly is a classicist and historian with a wide range of interests in the ancient world: these include government and power, its use and abuse, the society and culture of the Roman Empire from Augustus to Justinian, the rise of Christianity, and Edward Gibbon & the Grand Tour.
Warren Dr James Warren
(Fellow – Ancient Philosophy)
Dr Warren teaches for various papers in the Philosophy and Classics Triposes. His research interests include Presocratic philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, and Hellenistic philosophy.


Dr James McNamara
Dr McNamara has a particular interest in classical Latin prose, especially the works of Cornelius Tacitus. He teaches some of the Part II papers for Corpus.

The classical languages and their literature undoubtedly form the core of teaching at the College.  All students receive tuition for prose or verse composition in Part I.  There is also a number of College prizes for translation and prose composition.

In addition, the College supports those who wish to gain first-hand experience of the Classical World on an archaeological dig, or simply by visiting the Mediterranean.


At the beginning of this century, Corpus was the fortunate recipient of a significant benefaction from one of its former Fellows, Perceval Maitland Laurence.  Under the terms of his bequest, the income was to be applied for the benefit of classical studies at the College.  The money from this fund allows the College to benefit substantially those undergraduates who read Classics.  All undergraduate classicists are loaned by the College – for their own private use – a copy of Liddell & Scott Greek Lexicon and of the Oxford Latin Dictionary.  The fund also allows Corpus to maintain a particularly good Classics collection in the College library.

This year the College celebrates a new benefaction from one of its Old Members.  Michael Griffiths, who read classics in the 1950s, has established a generous prize to encourage and reward excellence in the field of Roman studies.

After Corpus

Corpus Classicists go on to a wide range of good jobs in law, banking and corporate finance, accountancy, teaching, the civil service, management consultancy, the media, and journalism.  A steady number stay on at Corpus to pursue their research interests further by working towards a higher degree (MPhil or PhD), or by pursuing a teaching qualification (PGCE).  All find that employers are very interested in Classicists, and that they value a degree in Classics greatly as a clear indication of a good all-round education, strong linguistic ability and a high degree of intellectual sophistication.

Application & Admissions

The majority of our undergraduates receive pre-A-Level conditional offers.  Our standard offer is A*AA.  Offers are also made on the basis of other appropriate qualifications, such as the International Baccalaureate, Scottish Advanced Highers or the German Abitur.  A-Level Latin, or equivalent, is an essential requirement for the three-year course.

An applicant for the four-year course will need to demonstrate a strong linguistic aptitude, for example, through high grades at GCSE/AS/A-Level in a foreign language.  Further information can be found on the Faculty website.

Those without Greek and/or Latin are asked to attend a two-week summer school before their first term at Cambridge.

Applicants will be asked to submit, in advance of their interview, photocopies of their two best essays on classical subjects, already marked with comments.  Immediately prior to the interview, there will also be a short translation exercise.

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