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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:




Hebrew and Aramaic Studies

See below for more information and visit our website.



The student may specialise in one of four tracks:




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

More info

Objectives Structure Specializations Research School membership Master’s thesis Requirements for graduation Contact


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, 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, 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: Research Career Seminar.

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 presentation 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.



Anne Zwetsloot

Lianne Decoz

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.

Thesis 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

Thesis Seminar

The job market is one of the central topics of the Thesis Presentation and Research Proposal Seminar. The seminar focuses on skills that you need to develop for academic jobs, including PhD positions, as well as many non-academic jobs. These skills include the writing of a conference abstract, the composition of a professional CV, the writing of a research proposal, academic integrity, and the planning of a research career.


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

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.