Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

 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.

Ready to enrol?

Get Started

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.

Classics at Otago

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

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.


Classics as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, 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 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


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.

CLST papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
CLAS105 2024 Greek Mythology 18 Semester 2
CLAS108 2024 Classical Art and Archaeology: Of Heroes, Gods and Men 18 Semester 1
CLAS109 2024 Roman Social History: Slaves, Gladiators, Prostitutes 18 Semester 1
CLAS230 2024 Special Topic 18 Not offered in 2024
CLAS238 2024 Fantasies, Phobias and Families in Graeco-Roman Myth 18 Semester 1
CLAS240 2024 The Classical World in the Movies 18 Not offered in 2024
CLAS241 2024 Alexander the Great 18 Not offered in 2024
CLAS242 2024 Living and Dying in Classical Athens 18 Semester 1
CLAS247 2024 The Roman Republic, from the Kings to Julius Caesar 18 Semester 2
CLAS330 2024 Special Topic: Experiencing the Environment in Ancient Greek Poetry 18 Semester 2
CLAS340 2024 Love, Death and the Good Life: Socrates and Plato 18 Semester 1
CLAS341 2024 After Alexander: the Struggle and the Chaos 18 Not offered in 2024
CLAS342 2024 Ancient Greek Religion: Myth, Ritual and Belief 18 Not offered in 2024
CLAS343 2024 Archaeology and the Fall of the Roman Empire 18 Not offered in 2024
CLAS344 2024 From Augustus to Nero: Scandal and Intrigue in Imperial Rome 18 Semester 1
CLAS345 2024 Tales of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood 18 Not offered, expected to be offered in 2025
CLAS346 2024 Power and Politics in Roman and Modern Times 18 Not offered in 2024
CLAS347 2024 The Roman Republic, from the Kings to Julius Caesar (Advanced) 18 Semester 2
CLAS380 2024 Directed Study in Ancient Greek or Latin Language 18 Semester 1
CLAS440 2024 Advanced Studies in Socrates and Plato 20 Semester 1
CLAS441 2024 Advanced Studies in Alexander's Successors 20 Not offered in 2024
CLAS442 2024 Advanced Studies in Ancient Greek Religion 20 Not offered in 2024
CLAS443 2024 Archaeology, History and the End of Rome 20 Not offered in 2024
CLAS444 2024 From Augustus to Nero: Advanced Studies 20 Semester 1
CLAS460 2024 Special Topic: Experiencing the Environment in Ancient Greek Poetry (Advanced) 20 Semester 2
CLAS480 2024 Research Paper 20 Semester 1, Semester 2
CLAS490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
CLAS590 2024 Research Dissertation 60 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

More information

Contact us

Classics Programme
School of Arts

Studying at Otago

This information must be read subject to the statement on our Copyright & Disclaimer page.

Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

Back to top