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 Study Classics at Otago


The ancient past and its legacy

Classics is the study of the civilisations of ancient Greece, Rome and the Mediterranean world. These civilisations have had an immense influence on the development of the modern world – on words and ideas, religion, literature, art and architecture, drama and philosophy. Many legal and political systems also have their roots in these ancient cultures.

Classics aims to understand these ancient civilisations and appreciate what they achieved and how important they have been in historical terms. At the same time, Classics students are challenged to confront the major questions and problems that ancient people faced, and which humanity has continued to face down the ages: human behaviour, human society, ethics, war, politics and religion – indeed, the whole meaning and purpose of life.

Why study Classics?

To understand anything properly, you need to have an appreciation of its origins. The cultures of Greece, Rome and the Mediterranean world lie at the root of many modern traditions and institutions, and not always in a positive way. By studying the Classics we are gaining further wisdom and insight into our challenges and experiences in the 21st century.

Classics is a self-contained interdisciplinary subject. It has links to almost every other arts subject – anthropology, art history, gender studies, history, languages, philosophy, politics, religious studies, theatre studies. Western medicine and science have their roots in Greece and Rome, too.

By studying Classics you will develop your awareness of language, your insight into literature and art, your understanding of history and politics, your knowledge of religion and mythology, your appreciation of ethical and social issues. You will certainly broaden your intellectual and cultural horizons. You will also develop valuable generic skills transferable to the outside world.

Career opportunities

Arts degrees provide valuable generic skills in demand in the workplace. For some jobs you may well need further specialist training. However, there are plenty of employers who value the well-rounded education Classics provides. The millionaire financier Sir Robert Jones is fond of saying that he would far rather employ a Classics graduate than a Commerce one. Employers value transferable skills such as the ability to think through a problem, to see both sides of a question, to analyse, to present an argument, and to express yourself clearly and fluently.

Recent Classics graduates have made careers not only in school and university teaching but in university administration, foreign affairs, trade and industry, social welfare, local government, tourism, computing, insurance, law, librarianship, bookselling, publishing, museums and art galleries, fashion and design, broadcasting, journalism, tourism and the theatre. This list emphasises the versatility of Classics graduates.

Background required

No specialist knowledge is required, as Classical Studies, Greek and Latin are all taught from scratch. If you have done Classical Studies at school, you will find that our first-year courses build on and extend your knowledge. Students who have passed NCEA level 3 Latin are granted direct entry into 200-level papers.

Your first year of study

At Otago we offer papers in Classical Studies, Greek, and Latin. If you plan to major in Classics in a Bachelor of Arts you can do so with any combination of these three subjects that suits your interests. Majoring students will need to do at least two of our first-year papers. Classics, Greek and Latin can also be taken as minor subjects. We encourage you to study one or both of the languages.

First-year Classical Studies papers introduce you to Greek and Roman archaeology, Roman social history, Greek mythology and Classical etymology. You can study: the art and archaeology of Greece and Rome, from the Minoan period to Classical Athens, and on to ancient Pompeii and the buildings of the late Roman empire, the social life of the ancient Romans, looking in particular at the experiences of slaves, gladiators and prostitutes the myths of Classical Greece, especially their stories about the creation of the cosmos, and the deeds of heroes such as Heracles and Theseus.

Studying Greek and Latin

Learning the languages is an excellent way to appreciate how the Greeks and Romans perceived the world and communicated their values and ideas. The textbooks we use to teach Greek and Latin language are designed for beginner students, and they focus on reading continuous texts from the outset. Papers in Greek and Latin language are available at all levels.

Learning ancient Greek and Latin is not compulsory at Otago, but if you are considering postgraduate study, we strongly encourage you to take papers in Greek and Latin in your degree.

Student exchange

You may be able to do part of your study overseas through the University’s extensive exchange programme or as a postgraduate student. But, even if you don’t, your study of Classics is going to enrich your OE enormously. Students repeatedly tell us after all that study, there is something magic about your first glimpse of the Parthenon by moonlight!

What about further study?

At higher levels, you can investigate Classical Athens’ culture and society, the conquests of Alexander the Great, and Greek and Roman myths connected with cursed individuals such as Oedipus and his family. For students interested in ancient history, we have advanced papers on the Roman emperors from Augustus to Nero, on the successors to Alexander the Great’s kingdom, and on violence and corruption in the Late Roman Republic (studied via the speeches of Cicero). A paper on the Fall of the Roman Empire examines the archaeological remains from this crucial period of Roman history, and advanced studies of ancient Greek culture are available through our papers on Greek religion and Greek philosophy (looking especially at Socrates and Plato).

For students who want to pursue postgraduate studies in Classics, our honours programme offers the opportunity to work closely with a lecturer in the programme and investigate a topic of your own choice in detail.

Practical internships

The Classics programme offers students the opportunity to make connections with employers and gain valuable workplace experience through internships.

The Humanities internship is a one semester paper for undergraduate (HUMS 301) and postgraduate (HUMS 401) full-time students. Entry into these papers is competitive.

Suggested degree plans

The following plans are suggestions only. They outline possible streams through the degree according to your particular interests.

We encourage students to study at least one of the ancient languages over the course of their degree but this is not mandatory. For this reason, there are more options given for each year than is required for the major.

It would be an advantage to do two papers of GREK or LATN as well as CLAS papers in your first year, as this increases your range of options for subsequent years. Or you could consider doing three CLAS papers in your first year, which will give you a good broad foundation for more advanced work.

List of CLAS papers
List of GREK papers
List of LATN papers

Mythology and Literature

First year: CLAS 105, CLAS 108; GREK 111/112 or LATN 111/112

Second year: CLAS 238, CLAS 242; GREK 211/212 or LATN 211/212

Third year: CLAS 340, CLAS 342, CLAS 345; GREK 328/329 or LATN 328/329

History and Archaeology

First year: CLAS 108, CLAS 109; GREK 111/112 or LATN 111/112

Second year: CLAS 241, CLAS 242; GREK 211/212 or LATN 211/212

Third year: CLAS 337, CLAS 341, CLAS 343, CLAS 344, CLAS 345, CLAS 346; GREK 328/329 or LATN 328/329


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Classics (including Classical Studies, Greek and Latin)

Level Papers Points

Any two CLAS, GREK or LATN 100-level papers

ANAT 131 may be substituted for one 100-level CLAS, GREK or LATN paper.


Any three CLAS, GREK or LATN 200-level papers


Any four papers from CLAS, GREK or LATN 300-level papers, PHIL 335


198 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Arts

Total   360

Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)) in Classics (including Classical Studies, Greek and Latin)


Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in Classics

The Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) programme in Classics is the same as the programme for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)).

Master of Arts (Coursework) (MA(Coursework)) in Classics


Master of Arts (Thesis) (MA(Thesis)) in Classics

  • Thesis: CLAS 5

Note: Students who have not completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA(Hons)) in Classics or a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in Classics must complete the required papers for the BA(Hons) in Classics prior to undertaking the thesis.

Minor subject requirements

Classics as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Papers Points

Five CLAS, GREK or LATN papers, at least three of which must be above 100-level, including at least one above 200-level

ANAT 131 may be substituted for one 100-level CLAS, GREK or LATN paper.

Note: No paper forming part of a minor subject requirement in Greek or Latin may also count for a minor or major subject requirement in Classics.



Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
CLAS105 2023 Greek Mythology 18 points Semester 2
CLAS108 2023 Classical Art and Archaeology: Of Heroes, Gods and Men 18 points Semester 1
CLAS109 2023 Roman Social History: Slaves, Gladiators, Prostitutes 18 points Semester 1
CLAS230 2023 Special Topic 18 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS238 2023 Fantasies, Phobias and Families in Graeco-Roman Myth 18 points Semester 1
CLAS240 2023 The Classical World in the Movies 18 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS241 2023 Alexander the Great 18 points Semester 2
CLAS242 2023 Living and Dying in Classical Athens 18 points Semester 1
CLAS330 2023 Special Topic 18 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS337 2023 Murder and Corruption in Ciceronian Rome 18 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS340 2023 Love, Death and the Good Life: Socrates and Plato 18 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS341 2023 After Alexander: the Struggle and the Chaos 18 points Semester 1
CLAS342 2023 Ancient Greek Religion: Myth, Ritual and Belief 18 points Semester 1
CLAS343 2023 Archaeology and the Fall of the Roman Empire 18 points Semester 2
CLAS344 2023 From Augustus to Nero: Scandal and Intrigue in Imperial Rome 18 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS345 2023 Tales of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood 18 points Semester 2
CLAS346 2023 Power and Politics in Roman and Modern Times 18 points 1st Non standard period
CLAS380 2023 Directed Study in Ancient Greek or Latin Language 18 points Semester 1
CLAS437 2023 Cicero and Roman Oratory 20 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS440 2023 Advanced Studies in Socrates and Plato 20 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS441 2023 Advanced Studies in Alexander's Successors 20 points Semester 1
CLAS442 2023 Advanced Studies in Ancient Greek Religion 20 points Semester 1
CLAS443 2023 Archaeology, History and the End of Rome 20 points Semester 2
CLAS444 2023 From Augustus to Nero: Advanced Studies 20 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS460 2023 Special Topic 20 points Not offered in 2023
CLAS480 2023 Research Paper 20 points Semester 1, Semester 2
CLAS490 2023 Dissertation 60 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period
CLAS590 2023 Research Dissertation 60 points 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

Key information for future students

Contact us

Classics Programme
School of Arts