nl en

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:

Assyriology Classics Egyptology Hebrew and Aramaic Studies

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



The student may specialise in one of four tracks:

Assyriology Classics Egyptology Hebrew and Aramaic Studies

More information about the program

See 'More info' for details about the programme or visit our website.

Coordinators of Studies:

Anne Zwetsloot

Lianne Decoz

Meer info

Structure Specializations Master’s Thesis Requirements for graduation Masterlanguage 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.
Students from all four specializations take the 5-EC Classics and Ancient Civilizations MA-Seminar, which contains the following elements: 1) Thesis training: academic and technical writing skills, 2) Career training (personal skills and job applications), 3) a Joint Project carried out by students from all tracks on an interdisciplinary topic.
In order to finish the Master Classics and Ancient Civilizations students write a Master’s Thesis worth 15 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, e.g. Cuneiform Epigraphy, Old Assyrian Archives, and language modules in Akkadian, Sumerian, Hittite, and (Anatolian) linguistics.

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. To complete the specialization Classics students take at least 20 EC of classes on Greek and Latin literature and/or linguistics, and at least 5 EC of cultural-historical classes (Ancient Philosophy, Ancient History). Students attend the core course Classics Now! for at least 5 EC (it is also possible to take this course for 10 EC with an additional reading list and paper). The language courses in Greek and Latin total up to 45 EC, including the core course and the MA Thesis of 15 EC.
    Finally, the program has a free component that allows students to choose either an extra seminar from the Classics program (Greek and Latin literature and linguistics, Ancient History, Ancient Philosophy) or an MA elective on a topic that is related and relevant to the Classics specialization: e.g. Greek papyrology or classical archaeology. 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 program which is organized at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (Egypt) every year in January - March. 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 Amarna Seminar, or, for those without a firm background in Egyptology: Introduction to Middle Egyptian and the Hieroglyphic Script and Selected Topics in Egyptian Archaeology. In the second semester students can choose to take a course on Deir el-Medina or Mastabas or a course in Papyrology in one of the following languages: Demotic, Coptic or Greek.

  • 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 (15 EC) and the Classics and Ancient Civilizations Seminar (5 EC), the program includes four courses of 10 EC each, e.g. Historical grammar of Hebrew and Aramaic, Advanced Biblical Hebrew Grammar, Cultural history of Aramaic, and Reading Source Texts.

Master’s Thesis

The Thesis for the Master’s programme Classics and Ancient Civilizations is worth 15 EC, and contains a maximum of 15,000 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

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. The Masterlanguage courses on offer for students in Classics are listed in the prospectus under the heading 'Courses related and relevant to Classics'. Participating students sign up for Masterlanguage courses while being enrolled in their own local masterprogramme.

Contact data

Co-ordinators of Studies: Ms. L. van Heteren MA
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 2776

Mrs. J.K. Koning MA
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 2665

E-mail Website

Career Preparation

The program of the MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations provides comprehensive training in the languages, literatures and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean region and the Near East. But how will you be able to use your knowledge of the ancient world and your academic skills on the job market? What skills will you develop, and how can you best prepare yourself for the future? We discuss these questions at several moments during the MA program, and there are several opportunities for you to receive more information. We organize job market events and meetings with alumni, and we can help you to find internships.

Classics and Ancient Civilizations MA Seminar; Internships Leiden Antiquity Network Meetings Humanities Career Service Humanities Career Event Forum Antiquum and Ancient World Network (Lunch Talks) Transferrable Skills Meetings with the Study Advisor

Classics and Ancient Civilizations MA-Seminar

The job market is one of the central topics of the Classics and Ancient Civilizations MA- Seminar. Part of this seminar are meetings with representatives of the Career Service of the Faculty of Humanities. There is one meeting on ‘Personal Skills’, consisting of two parts: a panel discussion with a large group of alumni, who are invited to share their experiences on the job market; and a workshop that explores what students expect from the job market and what they and the university could do to achieve their goals. There is also a meeting on writing your CV and application letters.


Internships are very useful for students who wish to familiarize themselves with the job market. We have established firm connections with several institutions and companies that have agreed to offer annual internships for students of Classics and Ancient Civilizations: Brill Publishers, Uitgeverij LAMBO, NINO and RMO (the National Museum of Antiquities). Other internships are also possible. The Board of Examiners must approve your internship plan, which can be either part of your study program (10 EC) or extracurricular. For more information, contact the internship coordinator and visit the website Finding and arranging an internship.

Leiden Antiquity Network Meetings

The program annually organizes Leiden Antiquity Network Meetings: at these events students can meet alumni with different jobs. Apart from presentations by alumni about their careers, the Leiden Antiquity Network Meeting may include ‘speed-dating’ sessions for students and alumni.

Humanities Career Service

The Faculty of Humanities Career Service provides Humanities students with professional advice and guidance concerning (international) internships and jobs, courses in career planning and job application, and job application readers. The internship coordinator and the career advisor assist you in exploring your individual interests and abilities, and guide you towards the most appropriate internships and job.
Please consult the Humanities Career Service webpage for more information.

Humanities Career Event

This career day is organised by the Faculty of Humanities. It is meant for students who are preparing themselves for a future career in The Netherlands. There are various things to do during this event. There are inspiring keynote speakers; organisations and companies give workshops about work experience from employees and the career opportunities for Leiden University alumni; and there are also workshops about for example Linkedin, networking, and applying for jobs.
Check out the next Humanities Career Event on Wednesday 10 April 2019!

Forum Antiquum and Ancient World Network (Lunch Talks)

For students who wish to pursue an academic career, there are two lecture series where you can meet scholars and learn about new approaches to the ancient world. Forum Antiquum is the lecture series that focuses on research in Classics. Lectures are organized every other week during the semester on Thursdays. Every semester, a number of national and international speakers are invited, both well-known experts and promising young researchers.
The Ancient World Lunch Talks provide an opportunity to exchange ideas and latest research in an informal atmosphere with an audience of MA and PhD students, Postdocs and Faculty and all interested students. There is free pizza and everyone is welcome to bring lunch!
If you are not in the mailing list and you would like to receive e-mails about the lunch talks, please contact the study advisor.

Transferrable Skills

Your future employers will not only be interested in your knowledge of Classics and Ancient Civilisations, but also in the skills that you have developed during your studies. Therefore, it is important that you are aware of the skills that you are training in your MA programme. The course descriptions in the e-Prospectus tell you which skills you will acquire.
In the MA programme you learn how to analyse a problem, how to formulate a research question, how to select and assess your sources, how to assess secondary literature, how to give a clear and well-argued oral presentation either for specialists or for a wider audience, and how to write a clear and well-argued paper. You will be training the following transferrable skills:

  • critical thinking (formulating questions, checking assumptions, assessing sources and scholarship)

  • analytical skills (selecting, ordering, sorting out, and solving a problem)

  • oral presentation skills (speaking, listening, discussing, receiving feedback)

  • writing skills (reporting, summarizing, presenting an argument, with structure and style)

  • independence (self-discipline, initiative, motivation)

  • project management (planning, demarcation of a topic, discipline, meeting deadlines)

  • flexibility (adapting to changes)

  • creativity (curiosity, developing new ideas and innovative topics)

  • academic integrity (acting with honesty, fairness, and responsibility)

  • collaboration (working together with other students on a joint project)

Meetings with the Study Advisor

Students who have questions about their orientation on career prospects can contact the study advisor of the MA programme Classics and Ancient Civilizations.