Classics


‘Literature restores and sustains me: I would rather sit in the little seat in your library under the portrait of Aristotle than in the official chair of the consuls’

(Cicero, Letters to Atticus).

‘I will never cease from mingling the Graces with the Muses, a delightful union’

(Euripides, Heracles).

‘Eat Latin! Drink Latin!’

(Las Iguanas, Oxford).

Average number of places available each year at Exeter College: 4 in Classics; 1 in Classical Archaeology & Ancient History.

You do not need to be taking any classical language at school to be accepted here; we try to weigh candidates up on their merits and do not have a preference for those already taking Greek, or those already taking Latin.

What we are looking for:

  • An aptitude for studying literature
  • An aptitude (actual or potential) for studying languages [not necessary for Classical Archaeology and Ancient History or for Ancient and Modern History]
  • An aptitude for thinking: assessing arguments and coming up with ideas.

Courses

All courses in Classics are available at Exeter:

  • Classics (4 years)
  • Classical Archaeology and Ancient History (3 years)
  • Classics and English (3 years)
  • Classics and Modern Languages (3 or 4 years, not including the year abroad)
  • Classics and Oriental Studies (4 years)
  • Ancient and Modern History (3 years)

For an overview of the courses, please see here.

Why study Classics at Exeter?

You can’t go wrong in choosing a college for Classics at Oxford: the place is packed with leading scholars in the subject. At Exeter, most of your individual teaching will be in College for Greek and Latin literature and for the languages. We have two Fellows in Philosophy, Dr Grant and Dr Fraser. Ancient History tutors at Oxford are mostly shared between two colleges; we are fortunate to have the services of Professor Meadows (Fellow of New College) and Dr Moreno (Fellow of Magdalen).

The tutorials, usually with two—sometimes three—students and a tutor, seek to explore texts, issues, and students’ ideas on them in an atmosphere of scholarship and lively (though friendly!) debate. The language work backs up University classes with groups of four or fewer for translation, and with small group (often paired) sessions for writing and analysing Greek and Latin, and for supporting those who take languages without an A Level in them. The courses naturally call for hard work (would they be worth taking if they didn’t?); but students’ individual needs and capacities are taken into account very carefully, and no-one would ever be left to struggle in solitude. Students find Classics at Exeter a deeply enriching experience—one that leaves a permanent imprint.

Exeter has a good collection of Classics books for undergraduates, and is open 24 hours a day. All Freshers receive book tokens to help them purchase key works in the first year. Blackwell’s bookshop is opposite the back gate of the College, as is the Weston Library; the Bodleian Library is next door to us. The Classics Centre, the Sackler Library, and the Ashmolean Museum are five minutes’ walk away; so, in another direction, are the Examination Schools, where most of the Classics lectures take place (and, predictably, the exams). The College could not be more centrally located for classicists.

Graduate students in Classics are warmly welcomed to Exeter too. The close community of graduates is a great help for individual study and research, and the centrality of Exeter is a real benefit when so much is happening in the way of seminars, lectures by distinguished visitors, and other excitements; the libraries which Exeter is so near to are one of the most important reasons for taking an Oxford graduate degree in Classics. The classical resources at Oxford—and again close to Exeter—include spectacular collections of literary papyri (much the largest collection in the world), mediaeval manuscripts (the oldest complete manuscripts of Plato, Catullus, etc.), coins, vases, and other bodies of material, with experts on them to hand.

There are funds available to assist both graduates and undergraduates in work and travel. The Ronald and Margaret Wallis Travel Grant, which was funded by Classics alumnus Toby Wallis, is designed specifically for undergraduates reading Classics who wish to travel to Italy or Greece to explore the ancient world. There are resources to assist graduates with travel for research or to conferences. Amelia Jackson Studentships provide a vital opportunity for one or two graduates already at Exeter each year, and various Classics graduates have been recipients of this particularly generous award.

Some student comments:

“Exeter is a brilliant college for Classics. We have a nice number in each year (four, usually, give or take), two factors which combine to make the Classics community at Exeter tight-knit and supportive through the years. Getting to have lunch with Classicists in their third and fourth years, as well as members of our MCR during our subject family dinners is very useful, and it makes a real difference to have voices of guidance and empathy close by. In terms of Oxford colleges to study Classics at, all roads lead to Exeter.”

George Bustin, Classics second year

“I feel very privileged to study English and Classics at Exeter – tutors and students on both sides of my course and regardless of their year have created a very inclusive atmosphere. The course itself is wonderfully varied and having the opportunity to study literary greats from Aeschylus to Walcott is a real pleasure.”

Harriet Evans, Classics and English second year

Exeter’s Classics Fellows and Teaching Staff

  • Dr Barnaby Taylor, Fellow and Lecturer in Classics.
  • Professor Marc Lauxtermann, Professorial Fellow, Oxford University’s Bywater and Sotheby Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Language and Literature. Professor Lauxtermann’s interests span Greek literature from late antiquity to modern times. His research includes Byzantine poetry, not least epigram and metre.
  • Professor James Grant, Le Rossignol–Clarendon Fellow and Lecturer in Philosophy. Professor Grant’s areas of research include aesthetics, ethics, the philosophy of language, and early modern philosophy.
  • Dr Rachel Fraser, Associate Professor and Michael Cohen Fellow in Philosophy.  Dr Fraser’s work is mainly in epistemology, philosophy of language, or feminist philosophy, and she is particularly interested in intersections of the three.
  • Dr Alfonso Moreno, Lecturer in Ancient History at Exeter, and Fellow of Magdalen. Dr Moreno specialises in Greek Economic and Social History.
  • Professor Andrew Meadows, Lecturer in Ancient History, and Fellow of New College. Dr Meadows’ research interests lie in the Hellenistic period; he is one of the world’s leading experts on Greek numismatics.
  • Mr Spencer Klavan, Lecturer in Ancient Greek. Mr Klavan’s MPhil research has focused on Philodemus’ On Poems.
  • Chiara Blanco, Lecturer in Classics.
  • Dr Panayiotis Christoforou, Lecturer in Ancient History. Dr Christoforou’s work and research interests focus on Roman history in the imperial period, specifically on the reception of the Roman emperor’s power and position from the perspective of his subjects, and broadly on the social and cultural history of the Roman empire.

Careers

Classicists who have studied at Exeter as undergraduates or graduates have gone on to obtain permanent posts in Classics at numerous universities, including Oxford. Others now teach Classics in schools. But Oxford Classics degrees are very popular with employers generally, and Exeter classicists have gone on to a huge range of careers, in law, journalism, music, business management, the civil service, the police, etc.

Alumni

Notable alumni who studied Classics at Exeter include:

  • J. R. R. Tolkien (at least he did Classics Mods, and then changed to English)
  • J. P. V. D. Balsdon
  • Dr Dominic Berry
  • Professor Philomen Probert
  • Professor Luke Pitcher