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Classics and Ancient Civilizations

The Master’s programme in Classics and Ancient Civilizations provides comprehensive training covering the entire range of present-day research on the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, Egypt and the Near East. This Master programme 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 Renaissance 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 Master programme distinguishes itself from other similar Master’s programmes by offering expertise in the world of the Hebrew Bible, emerging Christianity, ancient Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt (ancient, antique and late-antique) and Greco-Roman Antiquity, all seen from a multidisciplinary perspective.

The student may specialize in one of four tracks:

See below for more details about the programme or visit our website.

Meer info

Master’s Thesis
Requirements for graduation
Contact data


The Master Classics and Ancient Civilizations (1 year, study load: 60 EC) offers a comprehensive teaching programme which comprises all cultures of the Mediterranean sea in antiquity. Students take 40 EC track electives, depending on their educational background, and they write a Master’s Thesis worth 20 EC.

The programme 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 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: Assyriology, Classics, Egyptology, and Hebrew and Aramaic Studies.

  • Assyriology: Leiden University is an ideal place to study the Ancient Near East and its texts written cuneiform (invented around 3000 B.C.). Our university produced some generally acclaimed research, such as the Altbabylonische Briefe in Umschrift und Übersetzung series, which contains a large collection of Old Babylonian letters. In addition to the Master’s thesis, the programme contains four 10 EC courses. Students may choose from various subjects/languages, e.g. the languages of Mesopotamia and Anatolia, Hittite, Hieroglyphic Luwian, (Anatolian) linguistics, the society of/trade and science in Ancient Mesopotamia and Anatolia.

Students have direct access to scholars and research projects, as well as the opportunity to be involved in research projects conducted at various top-level universities elsewhere, such as Leuven, Cambridge, Münster and Heidelberg, with which exchange programmes are organised on a regular basis.

This specialization involves close co-operation with academic staff who — as well as being experts on the languages and cultures of the Ancient Near East — are heavily involved in a variety of research projects, many of which are connected to the syllabus of the programme.

You will study through the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO), which houses a library reputed to have one of the finest collections of books and journals connected with Mesopotamia and Anatolia, as well as a world-class collection of original cuneiform documents from all periods of Mesopotamian history.

  • The specialization Classics provides students with a comprehensive view of the classical world, while defining the significance it still has for modern society. The programme includes Greek and Latin literature and/or linguistics, and a limited number of courses from the cultural-historical disciplines. Students are required to take at least 45 EC (including a Master’s thesis of 20 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 programme also contains an elective course, in which cultural-historical subjects (Ancient History, Classical Archeology, or Ancient Philosophy) and/or languages may be included. More information

This programme structure meets the nationally determined requirements for admission to the Teachers Training programme Classics (in Dutch). 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.

  • Egyptology: This specialization’s wide-ranging curriculum covers most of the linguistic and cultural history of Pharaonic, Graeco-Roman and Coptic Egypt. All students visit excavations and research projects in Egypt and will learn about the department’s own field and research projects, including excavations at Saqqara and the Dakhla Oasis. The staff members co-operate with fellow researchers from universities and research institutes in Germany, Egypt, France, Italy, Poland and the United States, on project topics covering: Egyptian art history, Egyptian archaeology, Egyptian religion, Coptic Egypt, Social and economic history of Ancient Egypt. These wide-ranging research activities form an integral part of the educational programme.

All students are, in principle, required to participate in the programme which is organised at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (Egypt) every year in November and December. In preparation for their stay in Cairo, all students follow a programme based on their individual background. Courses offered are Egyptian Temple Inscriptions of the Graeco-Roman Period (for those with a profound knowledge of Middle and Late Egyptian), and Theory in Egyptology, or, for those without a firm background in Egyptology: Reading Ancient Egyptian Inscriptions; Research Tools in Egyptology; and Egyptian Archaeology and Cultural History. In the second semester students can choose to take a course on Egyptian Archaeology and Epigraphy or a course in Papyrology in one of the following languages: Demotic, Coptic or Greek. All students will, of course, also write their thesis during the second semester.

  • The specialization Hebrew and Aramaic Studies in Leiden is offered by the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, which uniquely offers a thorough education in both languages. Students are not only enabled to study Classical Hebrew (Biblical, Qumran, Rabbinic) and various Aramaic dialects in their 3000-year-old history, but also to immerge in Modern Hebrew language and literature and present-day Israeli society. In addition to the Master’s thesis (20 EC), the programme includes four courses of 10 EC each: Historical grammar of Hebrew and Aramaic, Advanced Biblical Hebrew Grammar, Cultural history of Aramaic, and a seminar on Biblical Hebrew, Semitic Epigraphy, Classical Ethiopic or Neo-Aramaic Linguistics.

Master’s Thesis

The Thesis for the Master’s programme Classics and Ancient Civilizations is worth 20 EC, and contains a maximum of 20,000 words including notes, bibliography and appendices. The Master’s Thesis is evaluated by a lecturer of the Department possessing the appropriate expertise in the field addressed in the thesis and will be read by a second reader as well. As a rule it is written in English.

More information about the official regulations regarding the MA thesis

The Master’s thesis must be representative of the student’s ability to acquire knowledge on any topic covered by the degree programme 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.

For the specialization 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, the thesis plan must be approved by both the first and the second supervisor/reader (one from one of the language sections and one from the cultural-historical disciplines) before the start of the writing process.

Requirements for graduation

In order to graduate, students must have successfully completed the 60 EC programme of their specialization and have completed their Master’s thesis as a component of that programme.


Students in the Classics specialization can attend courses that are offered by Masterlanguage. Masterlanguage is a curriculum of courses offered annually to MA students in several languages (among others, classical Greek and Latin). The goal of Masterlanguage is, by a nation-wide combination of forces, to safeguard continued expertise in the study of these languages at university level. Participating students sign up for Masterlanguage courses while being enrolled in their own local masterprogramme.

Contact data

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