Program in Ancient History
Program in Ancient History
The University of Virginia offers a Ph.D. in history with a specialization in Ancient (Greek and Roman) History.
The particular emphasis of this program is on studying the history of classical antiquity as history, attentive to the methods and interests of the wider historical profession. What happened? Why? How did people live? What motivated them? How did ancient institutions work? Ancient authors and their language are closely studied, but as sources to answer such questions, not as the ends of analysis in themselves. Those whose primary interest is in understanding the method of ancient historical authors (historiography rather than history stricto sensu) should apply to the Department of Classics rather than to History (http://www.virginia.edu/classics/gradadmit.html).
Although candidates will be expected to show a high degree of accomplishment in the classical languages, the program prepares them in particular for employment in departments of History.
The program of courses in the graduate program in European history is strenuous, and History students have little time to take classes to improve their knowledge of the ancient languages (rarely more than one per semester). At the same time, the Classics Department MA-level translation examinations, which candidates must take, are very rigorous. As a result, to be admissible to the History Department to specialize in Ancient History an applicant will usually need to show a minimum of three years of university-level Latin or Greek and two years of the other ancient language. More preparation is even better.
Candidates for admission to the department wishing to specialize in Ancient History are asked to provide (in addition to the other documents required for admission) an analysis of their Greek and Latin preparation on a separate sheet, listing the university-level classes they have taken, their instructors, what authors and what works they read in those classes, and how much of them. It is useful too to offer one or more letters of recommendation speaking to their accomplishment in the ancient languages (candidates are not limited to three letters of recommendation).
As a public university, the University of Virginia is in a position to fund only a fraction of the students who wish to pursue graduate study. Moreover, applicants to study ancient history must compete for funds with applicants in US history, in which UVA is one of the most selective programs in the United States. As it works in practice, to be competitive for funding, an applicant usually needs to display an admirable undergraduate GPA (far more As than Bs) and a combined GRE score above 1300.
Requirements (which, for Ancient and Medieval History, differ from the History Ph.D. Requirements):
Ancient and Medieval History make particular demands upon students at the graduate level, especially in the need to master multiple research languages (ancient, medieval, and modern) and to acquire technically demanding ancillary skills (which might include archaeology, codicology, epigraphy, numismatics, palaeography, and papyrology) in addition to their core training as historians. The professional practice of these fields of History demands interdisciplinary competencies, and so the graduate training we offer is commensurately interdisciplinary. As a consequence, the PhD requirements for Ancient and Medieval History are distinct from those of other fields in which the Corcoran Department of History trains its students.
1. The program is ideally five or six, but can be up to seven, years long, with the assumption of at least one year away from UVA after the third year. Students of Ancient History might logically spend that time at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, or the Academy in Rome, or acquiring an ancillary skill at a European university that makes a specialty of it. Archival research, or work at major European manuscript collections (the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, the Bibliothéque nationale, the British Library) are likely destinations for students engaged in medieval research. Similarly, students of both ancient and medieval history may be expected to participate in archaeological fieldwork over summers.
2. Outside fellowships won to attend these institutions do not count against the student’s guaranteed five years of funding.
3. Students must complete fourteen full graded courses of graduate-level work before they take the general examinations for the Ph.D. Only six of these fourteen must be in History; we expect students to be taking other courses in Classics, Art, Religious Studies, or other appropriate departments. There is no colloquium or research seminar requirement; students must merely take graduate-level courses, i.e. courses that are numbered 5000-level or above. HIST 7001 is recommended but optional. A typical courseload in each semester of the first year is either four graded graduate courses or three graded graduate courses and a graded undergraduate language course; in the second year, three graded graduate courses each semester; in the third year (unless four graded graduate courses were taken both semesters of the first year), two graded courses and HIST 9011 (“College Teaching”) and HIST 9012 (“Dissertation Prospectus”). Because the courseload is different both in kind and distribution from that of other students and because a greater proportion of it is taken outside the department, students must show (only) a minimum of half their grades as A or A-, rather than two-thirds.
4. If incoming students have not written a substantial MA-level thesis based upon original research as part of a prior MA, MPhil or MStud degree course in History or a clearly defined sub-field (e.g., ‘Ancient History’, ‘Late Antique History’, ‘Medieval History’), it is expected that they will do so, in the context of an independent study with their Major Advisor; it must also be endorsed by a second reader.
5. Students in Ancient History must pass four language exams: Mastery-level exams in French and German, and the MA-level exams in Latin and Greek in the Classics Department. The latter are offered twice a year, are based in part on a reading list and in part on sight-reading, and do not allow the use of a dictionary (see http://www.virginia.edu/classics/classics.html). All students in Medieval History must pass Mastery-level exams in Medieval Latin, German, and French or Italian. However, Mastery-level competency in an additional language, such as Old English, may also be required when relevant to a student’s intended research.
6. For both ancient and medieval historians only one of these language exams must have been passed before taking the general exams for the Ph.D., but we recommend working towards all of them steadily and passing them as soon as possible.
7. For ancient and medieval historians, the major field is either Ancient (i.e., Greek and Roman) or Medieval; the special field will be within the Major Field; and the outside field can be outside of the discipline of history. This exam will be taken in the spring semester of the third year, concurrently with writing a Ph.D. prospectus in HIST 9012. Otherwise the exam is constructed and administered as for other history students.
8. The dissertation should be written and submitted as is described for other history students; two readers can be from outside the department of History.
- J. E. Lendon, Professor, Greek and Roman History
- Elizabeth A. Meyer, Professor, Greek and Roman History, Epigraphy, Ancient Law
Selected Cooperating Faculty:
- John Dillery, Professor, Department of Classics, Greek Historical Authors
- John Dobbins, Professor, Department of Art, Roman Art and Archeology; excavates at Pompeii
- Paul Kershaw, Associate Professor, Department of History, Late Antiquity; Merovingian; Carolingian
- Jon Mikalson, W. R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Classics, Department of Classics, Greek Religion
- John Miller, Professor, Department of Classics, Roman Poetry; Roman Religion
- K. Sara Myers, Professor, Department of Classics, Roman Poetry; Roman Culture; Roman Women
- Tyler Jo Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Art; Greek Vase Painting; Greek Religion
- A. J. Woodman, Basil L. Guildersleeve Professor of Classics, Roman Historical Authors