Classics and Oriental Studies

Classics and Oriental Studies

Classics and Oriental Studies (COS) is a rich and flexible course that may be variously nuanced to reflect an individual student’s interests – whether linguistic, historical, literary, archaeological, or a combination of these.

Students should bring to the course a strong appetite and a commensurate talent for language learning, and are likely besides to be interested in exploring similarities and differences and possible cross-fertilization and interactions between different ancient cultures. The Oriental languages available to study on this course are Akkadian, Arabic, Egyptian, Hebrew, Old Iranian, Sanskrit, Aramaic and Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Pali, Persian, and Turkish.

COS is available to students of all linguistic backgrounds, both those who are taking Greek and/or Latin at school up to A level or an equivalent (‘Course I’) and those who are not taking either Greek or Latin up to A level or an equivalent (‘Course II’). It is not expected that any student will have had prior exposure to the Oriental language of their choosing. The course duration is in all cases four years. The course structure for the first five terms is identical to that for students of Classics (Literae Humaniores); study of the Oriental language begins only at the start of the third year (of four). The first five terms of the course involve intensive study of the Greek and/or Latin languages (only one for ‘Course II’ students), of Greek and/or Latin literary texts, ancient history or classical archaeology or comparative philology, and philosophy (ancient or modern). For the last two years, options in Classics and in the Oriental language are taken in parallel, and it is possible to weight the course in favour of literary, historical, linguistic, or archaeological options, or to aim for a balance between two or more of the sub-disciplines.

Recent students of COS at Oriel have studied Classics and Akkadian, Classics and Arabic, and Classics and Sanskrit. The Oriel Classics tutors themselves have a keen personal interest in the Classics and Oriental Studies course. Dr Bruno Currie has studied extensively the question of the relationship between the mythological poetry of ancient Greece and Mesopotamia; his book Homer’s Allusive Art considers ‘whether there can have been historical continuity in a poetics of allusion from Gilgamesh via the Iliad and Odyssey to the Aeneid and Metamorphoses, despite the enormous disparities of time and place and of language and culture, including that represented by the cuneiform tablet, the papyrus roll, and an oral performance culture.’ The interactions between the Greek and Roman worlds and the great and ancient civilizations of the Egyptians, the Indians, the Persians and the Hebrews are of equal interest and importance.

Admissions criteria

Admissions criteria can be found on the Classics (Literae Humaniores) page.

For more information contact the admissions office:

Telephone: +44 (0)1865 276522