PhD Classics and Ancient History / Programme details

Year of entry: 2020

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 Classical Philology and Linguistics.

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 Late Antiquity, 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, such as classical Greek history; the performance and theory of ancient literature; Roman love elegy; the Roman Republic; epigraphy, language and history; ancient science and didactic literature.

Other specialisms include ancient warfare, Greek law, Greek oratory, pre-Roman Italy, critical theory, Hellenistic literature, ancient drama, Indo-European and the (pre-)history of the classical languages.


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 is followed by wine and the opportunity of going out for a meal with the speaker.

Every Monday in term-time, in the Classics and Ancient History Library, a buffet lunch is held for postgraduates and staff with interests in the Greek and Roman worlds from across the University.

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, however, have not one but 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 or lesser-known ancient languages) 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 must take 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:

  • 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: