PhD Classics and Ancient History / Programme details

Year of entry: 2024

Programme description

Our PhD Classics and Ancient History programme is aimed at students who want to make a genuine contribution to scholarly knowledge and understanding of the field through their thesis.

You will acquire an excellent general knowledge of the wider field in question and high competence in relevant languages - ancient and modern - and associated skills, both subject-specific and generic.

Our research covers Greek and Roman history, Classical literature and its reception, and ancient philosophy.

We enjoy close links with researchers in areas including Medieval and Modern History, Archaeology, Art History, English and American Studies, Linguistics, Religions and Theology, the John Rylands University Library and the Manchester Museum.

Research centres of special importance to us and our research students include the Centre for Correspondence Studies, the Centre for the Cultural History of War, and the Cultural Theory Institute.

We offer supervision in a very broad range of subjects spanning Greek and Roman culture, history, literature and language from the archaic period to late antiquity.

Certain research clusters stand out within our present constellation of permanent staff and research fellows, especially in the areas of Greek and Roman history and Greek and Latin literature. Areas of specialism include epistolography, epigraphy, Hellenistic and Augustan poetry, drama, oratory, historiography, Greek and Roman warfare, Greek institutional history, critical theory, and ancient philosophy. For a comprehensive list of our research interests, click here


We aim to:

  • further your academic career objectives by making you feel welcome within, and a part of, our dynamic and demanding research culture;
  • inspire you to attend and give papers at seminars and conferences;
  • encourage you to undertake a modicum of appropriate undergraduate teaching, with guidance and support throughout.

Special features

Find out more about the Graduate School

Graduate School

All of our postgraduate students become members of the Graduate School when you start at Manchester. It has dedicated facilities for students and offers opportunities to collaborate with other postgraduates.

Lively research environment

Symptomatic of the size and dynamism of our research community is our research seminar, which meets every Thursday in term-time and is one of the largest and liveliest in the country.

Addressed mainly by visiting speakers from universities in the UK and overseas, the seminar attracts an audience typically of 40 to 50 people, and usually also gives you the opportunity of meeting and talking with the speaker.

Lockdown conditions permitting, every Thursday in term-time, in the Department's Common Room, a buffet lunch is held for all postgraduates and staff with interests in the Greek and Roman worlds from across the University.

Additional programme information

Equality, diversity and inclusion  is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. 

We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. 

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status. 

All appointments are made on merit. 

The University of Manchester and our external partners are fully committed to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Teaching and learning

Given the all-important emphasis on the production of a PhD thesis in three years, good research training and good proactive supervision are essential.

PhD study centres on the student-supervisor relationship and on regular meetings with the supervisor (at least once a month for full-time students).

Our PhD students have three members of academic staff assigned to them in a supervisory role.

The principal supervisor, a co-supervisor, and a further 'independent reviewer' together constitute the PhD Panel, which meets biannually to review and give constructive advice on the student's individual progress, both on the thesis and more generally.

Research training teaches you how to devise realistic independent research projects, how to plan and execute them, and how to present your results.

Core/generic training areas include:

  • IT, research and analytical skills
  • academic writing and publishing
  • communication and networking
  • career management
  • language support
  • teacher training.
Subject-specific training includes special language support (eg academic German, Italian, Latin or Greek as required) and technical skills (eg papyrology, palaeography).

Coursework and assessment

Assessment is based on the thesis and an oral examination.

Programme unit details

First-year research students participate in our research training course 'Studying the Ancient World: Techniques and Approaches', and any MA or advanced BA course units recommended by the supervisor.

You are expected to acquire and develop knowledge of relevant languages (modern as well as ancient) throughout the PhD.

Recent and current PhD topics include:

  • Shapeshifters in Greek Poetry;
  • Medical Imagery in Seneca;
  • Vision, space and time in Lycophron's Alexandra;
  • Commentary on Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica Book 1;
  • Past and Present in Ovid's Fasti;
  • Commentary on Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2;
  • Banquet of Death: Alimentary Imagery in Statius' Thebaid;
  • Leadership in Herodotus;
  • Identity in Ammianus Marcellinus;
  • The Amphiareion at Oropos: Euergetism, Honour and Internal Politics;
  • Retirement in the Roman world;
  • Burial societies in the Roman World;
  • The Language of the Ancient Mediterranean.

Find out more about current PhD research in Classics and Ancient History.


Alan Gilbert Learning Commons Fly Through

The vast book and periodical collections of The University of Manchester Library are the result of well over a century of large-scale book purchasing, and are deservedly world-famous.

Of special note for you are the impressive collections of papyri, medieval manuscripts and early printed books held at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate in the city centre (a ten-minute bus ride from the department).

The Library's holdings are constantly updated and enlarged on every front, with purchasing in all areas of Greek and Roman studies being exceptionally vigorous.

Find out more about libraries and study spaces for postgraduate research students at Manchester.

We also have one of the largest academic IT services in Europe - supporting world-class teaching and research. There are extensive computing facilities across campus, with access to standard office software as well as specialist programmes, all connected to the campus network and internet.

Every student is registered for email, file storage and internet access. If more demanding computer access is required, our specialist computing division can provide high-end and specialist computing services.

The Graduate School offers dedicated state of the art facilities to research students, including common rooms and workstations.

Find out more about our facilities for Classics and Ancient History students.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: