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Oedipus and the Sphinx: interior tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix from Vulci attributed to the painter of Oedipus (today in the Vatican Museums in Rome, cat. 16541)

Classics

Trinity is home to one of the largest, most diverse and friendliest communities of classicists in Cambridge. We pride ourselves on an inclusive College environment that allows everyone to thrive, whatever their journey.  Our undergraduates come from two pathways: some arrive with Latin and/or Greek and take a three-year degree; others have studied neither ancient language before coming to Cambridge, and therefore take the four-year degree. At Trinity there is no quota for the subject (unlike at most Cambridge Colleges), but we usually admit between four and seven undergraduate students in Classics each year.

Classics at Trinity has a long and distinguished history. Some of the most important British editors of Classical texts – among them, Bentley, Porson, and Housman – were Fellows of the College. Since the College’s foundation by Henry VIII in 1548, the Cambridge Regius Professorship of Greek has been tied to Trinity: almost all of the 38 appointments over the last five centuries have been Fellows of the College.  The Wren Library has many important mediaeval manuscripts of Greek and Latin authors, and a vast collection of early printed books on Classical subjects; the undergraduate library likewise has one of the fullest collections of modern Classical scholarship in Cambridge. Our active Trinity Classics Society adds to a very real sense of community and companionship among our students, with activities and meetings several times a term.

Trinity is fortunate in having very considerable funds and endowments for the support of Classical studies – in the form of scholarships, book allowances, travel grants and prizes. Undergraduates who have in mind the possibility of a career in either teaching or research can approach their final exams confident that a College Graduate Studentship will cover the costs of further postgraduate degrees at Cambridge. Generous grants are also available to enable our undergraduates to travel to Classical lands, as well as to participate in archaeological fieldwork, museum internships and undergraduate summer courses (such as those offered by the British School at Athens and British School at Rome).

Undergraduates studying Classics at Trinity benefit from the number and wide-ranging expertise of College Fellows in Classics. From 2022 the Director of Studies is Dr Lea Niccolai (who specialises in Greco-Roman history). But most Trinity Classics researchers are actively involved in undergraduate teaching, and between them cover a vast range of research and teaching specialisms: Mr Nicholas Denyer (Ancient Philosophy); Prof. Philip Hardie (Latin Literature); Prof. Richard Hunter (Greek literature); Dr. Robert Rohland (Greek and Latin Literature); Dr Cédric Scheidegger Laemmle (Latin Literature); Prof. Michael Squire (Classical art and archaeology); Prof. Peter Wilson (Greek literature). Integral to our community are also doctoral research students, who are often involved in undergraduate teaching.

Teaching structure

The Faculty of Classics provides two degree pathways – the first for those without previous knowledge of either Latin or Greek (4-year degree), the second for those with one or both languages (3-year degree). At Trinity we tailor our teaching accordingly, welcoming potential classicists from all backgrounds. Most college teaching is in the form of individual or small group tutorials (“supervisions”).

The first year of the four-year course concentrates on Latin language, which is taught partly in classes in the Faculty and partly in the College. Alongside this language training are lectures and College-organised supervisions in ancient art and archaeology, history, linguistics, literature, and philosophy. An introduction to Greek language is offered towards the end of the year.

After this first year, second-year students of the four-year programme form a single cohort with first-year students of the three-year degree. They take Parts IA and IB of the Classical Tripos, and teaching in Trinity takes the following pattern:

  • Each week students receive supervisions in Greek and Latin language and literature. Teaching arrangements are tailored according to students’ previous knowledge of the languages.
  • In addition to this linguistic work, a weekly essay is written and discussed (either individually or in groups of two or three). Topics range across all Classics subjects and are split equally between Greek/Latin literature, and two of the following subjects: art and archaeology; ancient history; ancient philosophy; linguistics.
  • Lastly, students are given targeted fortnightly supervisions in Greek and Latin composition (usually prose, but in a few cases verse). At Trinity we consider composition not just an end in itself (though many students find it hugely pleasurable and rewarding), but also as a different and creative way to gain a grasp of Greek and Latin. Trinity has a distinguished tradition in composition and generous annual College prizes are offered in this area.

The final year of the degree is dedicated to Part II: here students choose four subjects (with the option of writing a dissertation). Because of the specialisation involved, teaching in the third year tends to be less college based than in the first two years, but wherever possible Trinity Fellows provide additional teaching and advice.

Further information about the Classics course in general can be found on the Faculty of Classics website here.

Admissions

Applicants for Classics have two separate interviews with members of College teaching staff and are asked to send two recent examples of their written work beforehand. The typical conditional offer for those taking A-levels is A*AA; comparable conditions are set for those taking the IB and other school-leaving examinations.

Course Details

Course length: 3 Years/4 Years
Typical offer: A*AA
Preferred A-Level subjects: For three year course either Latin or Greek preferred
Assessment Format: Classics three-year course: Translation exercise (60 minutes), Classics four-year course: Language aptitude interview (20 minutes)

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Admissions Assessment

All applicants for Classics are required to take a written assessment at interview, if interviewed.

ASSESSMENT FORMAT

Classics three-year course

  • Translation exercise (60 minutes)

Classics four-year course

  • Language aptitude interview (20 minutes)
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 Classics Admissions Assessment Specification

You do not need to register or be registered in advance for the assessment at interview – the College will provide details of arrangements in the emails inviting applicants to interview.

Further details about the format of the assessment and preparatory materials can be found on the written assessments page.

Please note that your performance in the assessment at interview will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

Primary Teaching Staff

  • Dr Lea Niccolai (Director of Studies and Assistant Professor in Ancient History)
  • Mr Nicholas Denyer (Fellow and Emeritus Senior Lecturer in Classics)
  • Professor Philip Hardie (Fellow and Emeritus Senior Research Fellow)
  • Professor Richard Hunter (Fellow and Regius Professor of Greek Emeritus)
  • Dr Robert Rohland (Junior Research Fellow)
  • Dr Cédric Scheidegger Laemmle (Senior Lector)
  • Professor Michael Squire (Fellow and Laurence Professor of Classical Archaeology)
  • Professor Peter Wilson (Fellow)

Course statistics from recent years

2021

Applications received

5

Offers made

4

2020

Applications received

15

Offers made

6

2019

Applications received

8

Offers made

3

2018

Applications received

9

Offers made

4
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