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What is Classics?

Classics at Cambridge involves the study of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and their continuing influence on the modern day. The subject has a broad scope: it encompasses the history, culture, archaeology, art, philosophy, literature and linguistics of classical antiquity. In your final year, you also have the opportunity to branch out into related subjects, such as Modern Greek and Babylonian.

The University's Faculty of Classics is housed in a spacious, modern building that is only a five-minute walk away from Corpus.

The Classics course (or ‘Tripos’) is either a three-year or four-year degree, depending on which subjects you have studied at school. You don’t need to have studied Latin (or Greek) at school to study Classics at Cambridge; you simply need to be passionate about the ancient world.

Classics at Corpus

Corpus is a special place to study Classics. What sets us apart is our vibrant Classics community, the wide range of our Fellows’ expertise, and the wealth of resources available to our students.


An online Classics discussion group with Fellows and students

At any one time, we usually have around 10-15 Classics students in Corpus, with 2-4 undergraduates per year alongside a number of postgraduates. We form a tight-knit community, with many occasions to mix both socially and intellectually:

  • Social events: we have at least one big social event each term, bringing together the whole community. These include tea and drinks, an annual dinner, a tour of the Parker library, and a post-exam celebration in the summer.
  • College Classics Seminar: During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also set up a College Classics seminar on Zoom to keep in touch and maintain a sense of community and collaboration while we all work apart. Undergraduates have the opportunity to discuss aspects of the ancient world alongside postgraduates and Fellows in a friendly and relaxed environment.

Watch our 2021 Classics Masterclass with Dr Jo Willmott


Range of Expertise

Fellow in Classics Jo Willmott

Corpus is home to a number of experienced Classicists whose combined expertise covers four of the subject’s subdisciplines:

Such a wide range is rare among Cambridge colleges. It means that most teaching at Corpus can be done ‘in house’, so Fellows get to know each student well and can tailor their teaching to best suit each individual’s needs. We are also fortunate to draw on the expertise of two praeceptors (supervisors): Ms Katharine Radice, an experienced teacher of Latin and Greek who has published a number of school commentaries on Latin texts; and Mr Ed Milliband, an expert in Latin language and literature.

Dr Jo Willmott and Dr Tom Nelson are Corpus’ Directors of Studies for Classics. They will meet with you regularly and always be available for guidance and advice on your studies. They’ll help you choose options which best suit your interests throughout the course.


Classics Fellow Tom Nelson

Thanks to a significant benefaction from a former Fellow (Perceval Maitland Laurence), the College can provide substantial support to its Classics students:

  • Dictionaries: All undergraduate classicists are loaned a copy of Liddell & Scott Greek Lexicon and the Oxford Latin Dictionary for their own private use throughout their studies.
  • Library: The College library has a particularly well-stocked and up-to-date Classics collection. It is also able to buy new books on request.
  • Travel funds: 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.

Corpus also boasts a unique collection of rare books and old manuscripts in its Parker Library. These include many important Classical texts. Corpus Classicists can enjoy a special behind-the-scenes tour of the collection, as well as opportunities to study the original manuscripts as part of their studies.


A number of prizes are also available to Corpus Classicists thanks to the generosity of Old Members: the Moule and Fanshawe prizes are awarded to Part I students for accomplished language work; the Griffiths Roman Prize rewards excellence in the field of Roman studies. Our students enjoy the opportunity to work towards these prizes, and the financial boost they offer.

After Corpus

Corpus Classicists go on to a wide range of good jobs, including:

  • Accountancy
  • Banking and corporate finance
  • Civil service
  • Journalism
  • Law
  • Management consultancy
  • Media
  • Teaching

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 greatly value a degree in Classics as a clear indication of a good all-round education, strong linguistic ability and a high degree of intellectual sophistication.

Application & Admissions

Requirements: No specific A-Level subject or IB Higher Level is required for the four-year course, although applicants will need to demonstrate a strong linguistic aptitude, e.g. through high grades in a foreign language at GCSE/A-Level. For the three-year course, A-Level or IB Latin (or Greek if Latin was not an option) is an essential requirement. Further information can be found on the University website. Applicants selected for interview will sit a college registered written assessment. 

Offer: The majority of our undergraduates receive pre-A-Level conditional offers. Our standard offer is A*AA or for IB 41-42. Those without Greek and/or Latin are asked by the Faculty to attend a two-week summer school before their first term at Cambridge.

Interview: Applicants will usually have two academic interviews at Corpus and a third with Fellows from another college. All Classics applicants who are invited to interview are required to take an at-interview assessment; you can view an example paper to see what the format is like.

Useful Resources

There is no required reading for Classics applicants, but if you’d like to do some further reading about the Classical world, we recommend the following online resources:

We also recommend the following books for further general reading:

  • Literature: W. Allan, Classical Literature: A Very Short Introduction (2014); T. Whitmarsh, Ancient Greek Literature (2004); S. Braund, Latin Literature (2001).
  • Philosophy: J. Warren, Presocratics (2007); J. Cooper (ed.), Plato: the complete works (1997).
  • History: C. Kelly, The Roman Empire: A Very Short Introduction (2006); P. Cartledge, The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others (2nd edn. 2002); M. Beard & M. Crawford, Rome in the late Republic (1999).
  • Art and Archaeology: A. Schnapp, The Discovery of the Past (1996); R. Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art (1998).
  • Linguistics:  G. Deutscher, The Unfolding of Language (2005); S. Pinker, The Language Instinct (1994).