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MA Classical Studies part 1

Our fascination with ancient Greece and Rome continues to this day. The postgraduate foundation module in classical studies provides some answers to the question, ‘How do we know what we know’ about these two ancient civilisations. It meets this challenge by investigating classical studies as a multidisciplinary field. The fragmentary nature of the evidence requires approaching this question with reference to a variety of sources and using multiple perspectives. The module introduces you to classical studies at postgraduate level, offering a choice of pathways through the material. The module is designed to help you acquire and develop research skills in preparation for further study.

Vocational relevance

This module will be of particular relevance to students who wish to pursue a career in classical studies, teaching, academic institutions, museums, galleries, heritage and the wider arts sector.


A863 is a compulsory module in our:

A863 is an optional module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
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Module cost
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Entry requirements

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What you will study

In the Introductory block you will revise and update your research skills and enhance your confidence in dealing with a range of different types of evidence by focusing on a series of case studies exploring ‘how we know what we know’ about classical antiquity. We will investigate ancient and modern technologies of knowledge such as the library and the encyclopaedia; investigate how both texts and material culture allow us to explore and pose new questions about the ancient world; discuss how to find your own academic voice when writing; and consider the impact that discovering new material from classical antiquity continues to have on our understanding of the classical world.

In this block you'll also focus on themes that will be explored in more detail throughout the module such as classical archaeology, the ancient Greek and Latin languages, and the reception of classical antiquity in the modern world. 

You will then select two out of three of the following blocks:

Greek and Latin: The Languages of Love and Betrayal explores how public and private passions are described in two key authors, the Greek orator, Lysias, and the Roman poet, Catullus. While studying these texts in translation, you explore the meanings and resonances of key Greek and Latin terms, allowing you to enter more fully the thought world of classical authors. This block does not require you to have any knowledge of ancient languages, but for those that do, there are opportunities to practise and develop your language skills.

Classical Archaeology explores the role of material culture in constructing our understandings of ancient society. You will investigate a range of different types of material culture – individual artefacts, animal bones, visual sources, monuments and other material traces of the ancient world – as well as the scholarly arguments and understandings that their interpretation can lead to. In the process you will encounter recent research on a number of contexts and excavated sites associated with the Roman world, including Rome and Pompeii.

Classical Reception introduces you to the key themes of studies of the ways in which successive generations have engaged with the ancient world, including the study of Roman receptions of Greece. You will focus on one play, Euripides’ The Trojan Women, and consider its sources and its use by Seneca as well as recent versions in cinema and on the stage. You will discover the different meanings that ‘Troy’ could carry and in the process investigate not only how the classical past influences later centuries but also how contemporary concerns influence our readings of the past.

The interdisciplinary Concluding block, taken by all students, explores three case studies that will enable you to consolidate and revise what you have learned throughout the module by focusing on the Library of Alexandria, Latin inscriptions as language and artefacts, and the poetry of Sappho. The block includes elements of classical literature, languages, archaeology and reception. It prepares you for your end-of-module assessment, and enables you to consolidate skills and approaches which you’ll need for the MA Classical Studies part 2.

Throughout the module, you will be expected to engage with both ancient and modern material. You will evaluate ancient sources within their specific contexts, and will engage with scholarship which uses these sources.

This module will be of interest to those who wish to extend their knowledge and understanding of the classical world and of the research methods and perspectives of those working in this field of study. Normally you’ll need to have completed this module in order to progress to MA Classical Studies part 2 (A864). 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Your will have a tutor who will help you with the module work and mark and comment on your assignments. Both modules in the MA in Classical Studies have online tuition and you are encouraged to take part in the online tutorials with your tutor and tutor group, as well as the Module-wide Forum. Tutorials will be held throughout the year and can be accessed from any computer with internet access. They are likely to be a blend of asynchronous online discussions, in which you can participate at times of your choice, and synchronous (‘live’) tutorials at set times. Further information about tutorials will be provided at the start of the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

MA Classical Studies part 1 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2023.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    To study this module, you must hold a UK honours degree (or equivalent), preferably with at least a 2:1 classification. You must be studying towards either the MA in Classical Studies or the MA/MSc Open.

    Your degree can be in any subject. However, if your degree is not in Classical Studies, you will need a good knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman Worlds. Knowledge of the Greek or Latin language is not required. We strongly recommend that you complete the preparatory work referenced below.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    The following resources will be useful preparation for the MA, particularly if there is an area of classical studies which is unfamiliar to you. 

    For the Introductory block, you may find it helpful to start thinking about the issues addressed there by reading either: 
    Blair, A. (2010) Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, ISBN 9780300112511.
    Olson, D. (2004) The World on Paper: The Conceptual and Cognitive Implications of Writing and Reading, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-44311-3.

    Knowledge of the Greek or Latin language is not necessary for the MA, though knowledge of elementary Greek or Latin might be valuable for later work, especially for the dissertation (depending on your choice of topic). The following websites provide an introduction to the ancient Greek and Latin languages:

    If you have not previously studied ancient material culture, you could read: 
    Alcock, S. E. and Osborne, R. (2012) Classical Archaeology, 2nd edition, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN  978-1-4443-3691-7.
    Greene, K. (2010) Archaeology: an Introduction, 5th edition, London, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415496391.
    If you have not previously studied classical reception, you could read:
    Hardwick, L. (2004) Translating words, Translating Cultures, Classical Inter/Faces, London, U.K., Duckworth, ISBN 0-7156-2912-3, 978-0-7156-2912-3.
    If it is a long time since you worked on classical studies, or if you are relatively new to the subject, you may find useful:
    Beard, M. and Henderson, J. (2000) Classics: A very short introduction, Oxford, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-285385-1.
    To get a flavour of the interdisciplinary nature of classical studies, and of current research in the discipline, visit Classics Confidential.  
    Another useful resource is the MHRA Style Guide, which deals with referencing systems.


    Start End Fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Jun 2022 Not yet available

    Registration closes 16/09/21 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2023.

    Future availability

    MA Classical Studies part 1 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2023.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    Ways to pay for this module

    We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

    That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

    Study materials

    What's included

    Study materials with which you will be provided includes:

    • a module guide
    • an interactive week-by-week study calendar
    • online study guides to introduce you to the essential resources and important issues relevant to each block of study
    • the MHRA Style Guide, with information on the use of scholarly conventions in literary study
    • electronic resources relevant to classical studies, and training in their use, via The Open University library.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either an up-to-date version of Windows or macOS.

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Seneca, L.A.: Ahl, F. (trans.) * Trojan Women Cornell University Press £10.50 - ISBN 9780801494314 You should purchase this book if you choose to study Block 4 of the module.
    • Lee, G. (ed) * The Poems of Catullus Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199537570 You should purchase this book if you choose to study Block 2 of the module.
    • Euripides: Arnson Svarlien, D. (trans.) * Andromache, Hecuba, Trojan Women Hackett Publishing Company £12.99 - ISBN 9781603847353 You should purchase this book if you choose to study Block 4 of the module.
    • Schaps, D.M. Handbook for Classical Research Routledge £34.99 - ISBN 9780415425230 All students need to purchase this book.
    • Edwards, M.J. & Usher, S. * Greek Orators 1 Antiphon and Lysias Aris & Phillips £19.99 - ISBN 9780856682476 You should purchase this book if you choose to study Block 2 of the module. This book is Print on Demand, please allow at least 2 weeks for receipt following order.

    Note: All students should purchase 'Handbook for Classical Research'. Set books for optional Blocks are marked with an *. Please choose the Block before purchasing the relevant set books.

    If you have a disability

    Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.