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Classics and Ancient Civilizations (research)

The Research Master’s program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations provides intensive and comprehensive training covering the entire range of present-day research on the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome and the Ancient Near East. This Research Master program is unique in the Netherlands in the breadth of its subject matter, the historical periods covered and the multidisciplinary approach of its study. From the beginning of history in Egypt and Mesopotamia up to the Medieval texts in Neo-Latin, Coptic or Hebrew. Characteristic for the Master is its focus on reading ancient texts in their original languages, and discussing the different interpretations the texts allow.

The Leiden program distinguishes itself from other similar Master’s programs by consistently integrating the world of the Hebrew Bible, emerging Christianity, the cuneiform cultures of Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt (ancient, antique and late-antique) and Greco-Roman Antiquity within their broader context.

The amount of specializations available is unparallelled. Students may specialize in one of four tracks:

See below for more information and visit our website.

More info

Research School membership
Master’s thesis
Requirements for graduation


The objectives of the Research Master’s program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations are:

  • The broadening and deepening of knowledge, insight, skills and use of methodology in the field of Classics and Ancient Civilizations studies;

  • The furtherance of academic and professional training; to solve scholarly problems in an independent way, critically and creatively; and to report research results with clarity both orally and in writing;

  • Preparation for an academic career in universities, and/ or post-graduate education and for functions outside of academe in the public or private sector in which advanced research skills and substantial practical research experience are among qualifications required.

As a graduate of a two-year Research Master’s degree you are qualified to work as a junior academic researcher in an academic environment or carry out further research work on a PhD program.


The Research Master’s program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (2 year, study load: 120 EC) provides intensive and comprehensive training covering the entire range of present-day research on the civilizations of Greece and Rome and the Ancient Near East. The program introduces a wide variety of research methods: traditional philology with its intimate knowledge of languages and texts, while still indispensable, is enriched by social history and economic theory, comparative literature, the study of religion in an anthropological perspective and, of course, archaeology and material culture.

The study load runs up to 120 EC and is divided over four semesters. Apart from the obligatory core courses, a student of the Research Master’s program follows a number of tracks electives within the program. Though these track electives are shared with the 1-year Master program Classics and Ancient Civilizations, students in the Research Master follow these courses at a more advanced level:

  • Common core courses (20 EC)

  • Track electives (55 EC)

  • Research School Elective(s) (10 EC)

  • Tutorial in preparation for the thesis (5 EC)

  • Thesis presentation and research proposal (5 EC)

  • Thesis (25 EC)

Please visit our website (and click on your specialization in the Research Master’s program) to find more details about the structure of the program.


The Research Master has four specializations, all of which focus on reading ancient texts in their original languages and discussing the interpretations these texts give rise to. Ranging from the sources of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and the Roman Empire to the medieval texts in Neo-Latin, Coptic and Hebrew:

  • The specialization Assyriology includes the multi-disciplinary study of the various civilizations employing the cuneiform script for different languages. A total of six special track electives (10 EC each), the subject of which changes yearly, are to be chosen. A strong emphasis on society and administration makes a valuable contribution to the methodological framework of the Research Master’s programme as such.

  • The specialization Classics refers to the multidisciplinary study of the Greek and Roman world and provides students with a comprehensive view of the classical world, while defining the significance it still has for modern society. This program includes Greek and Latin literature and/or linguistics, and –if desired– courses from the cultural-historical disciplines (Ancient History, Classical Archeology, or Ancient Philosophy). A total of six special track electives (10 EC each), the subject of which changes yearly, are to be chosen. The academic staff responsible for this specialization is internationally renowned for their research work.

  • The focus of the specialization Egyptology covers Ancient Egypt from its beginnings and its role as a major player during the Bronze Age until the Christian period. Textual and material data are studied together.
    The courses on offer cover most of the linguistic and cultural history of Pharaonic, Graeco-Roman and Coptic Egypt. Part of your program will take place in Egypt, where you will gain essential knowledge and experience in field and research projects.

  • The specialization Hebrew and Aramaic Studies is taken in its broadest sense and refers to the literature and culture of Ancient Israel within its wider context (i.e., the world of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible) from its emergence around 1200 B.C.E. until its disappearance as a political entity in 135 C.E. The underlying approach is strongly based on languages, chiefly Hebrew and Aramaic, but also Phoenician, Ugaritic and other small corpus languages. Nonetheless, history and material culture are also taken into account. It is not so much geared towards Theology or Old Testament Studies, but rather focuses on the languages and civilizations of ancient Syria-Palestine. Several courses, the subject of which changes yearly, are to be chosen.

Research School membership

All Research Master students are required to enrol in one of the National Research Schools. They have to take courses offered by Research Schools up to 5 EC per academic year (10 EC in the entire study program). More information

Master’s thesis

The thesis for the Research Master’s program Classics and Ancient Civilizations is worth 25 EC, and contains a maximum of 25,000 words including notes, bibliography and appendices. Students who (have) start(ed) writing their thesis, should attend the seminar: Thesis presentation and research proposal.

The thesis must be representative of the student’s ability to acquire knowledge on any topic covered by the degree program and to process this knowledge in an academically sound manner, as well as presenting it in writing in accordance with generally accepted academic practices. The aforementioned topic generally implies working with primary sources in the original languages. Research MA students write their thesis in English.

Students in the Classics specialization write their thesis under supervision of one of the staff members of the Department of Classics. All theses are based on a substantial amount of primary texts in Greek or Latin relevant to the line of investigation, which is either of a linguistic or literary nature, or of a cultural-historical nature.
In the case of the latter, there are two supervisors, one from one of the language sections and one from the cultural-historical disciplines. In that case, the thesis plan must be approved by both the first and the second supervisor/reader before the start of the writing process.

Requirements for graduation

To complete the specialization for which you they been accepted, students will have to conclude the two common courses (20 EC). They have to accumulate 55 EC of track electives in the field of their specialization, of which a number can be replaced by a stay abroad. Further, students have to have taken 10 EC of Research School courses. Lastly, they should have finished a thesis in their field of specialization (35 EC, including a thesis tutorial and thesis seminar).

If students want to meet the nationally determined requirements for admission to the Teachers Training programme Classics (in Dutch), they are required to take at least 45 EC (including a Master’s thesis of 25 EC) in Greek and Latin literature or linguistics, and they are required to take at least one course (seminars/tutorials) of 10 EC for each language. The academically more advanced cultural-historical element in the Master’s programme, and the requirements of the Greek/Latin language component provide an adequate basis for the Teachers Training programme Classics required for a qualification for teaching Greek and Latin in secondary school.


Co-ordinator of Studies: Mrs. J.K. (Joëlle) Koning MA
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 2665