The Ph.D. program in Classical Studies attracts students with a broad range of interests in all fields of ancient studies. Unique in its scope, the Classical Studies Program provides access to the intellectual and organizational resources of the four participating Departments: Art History and Archaeology, Classics, History, and Philosophy. Students are eligible to work with the materials of Columbia’s archaeological, epigraphic, and numismatic collections, can apply to Columbia’s excavation projects, and participate in the numerous initiatives organized by the University: seminars, lectures, conferences, museum trips, and more.

The beginnings of this integrated approach to antiquity go back at least as far as “Altertumswissenschaft” in 19th century Germany. For Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, classical scholarship was a “science.” It should “re-create the poet’s song, the thought of the philosopher and the lawgiver, the sanctity of the temple and the feelings of the believers and the unbelievers, the bustling life of market and port, the physical appearance of land and sea, mankind at work and play.” Today, the study of antiquity is a methodologically diverse field, looking to discover the past, but also to engage with art as art, and to do philosophy with the ancient philosophers. In the words of Momigliano, historians work with sources. But their work is not to interpret these sources. It is to interpret the reality that these sources refer to: “it is this ability to interpret a document by not making it a document, but a real episode of life in the past, that ultimately makes someone a historian.”

Variety and flexibility are among the defining features of the program. Each scholar graduating from Classical Studies has a different profile. Through one-on-one advising and a vibrant research community, we help students define their interests and move toward independent scholarship. As students enter the program, we encourage them to develop advanced language skills and to learn about aspects of antiquity that they may not yet have explored as undergraduates. As students proceed toward dissertation work, they are advised to find topics that reflect inter-disciplinary training and that allow them to make original contributions to the field. All Classical Studies Ph.D. students receive a full funding package which includes both the cost of tuition and a stipend.

For more information about the program and the application process, please get in touch with faculty, Chair Ellen Morris, or the administrators of Classical Studies, and consult the Classical Studies admissions page as well as the admissions page of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University.


The requirements below should be read in conjunction with the general requirements of the Graduate School.

After admittance to the program, students should consult the Chair to set up an advisory committee to assist in planning a course of study for each term in residence. Typically, the Chair and the Vice-Chair of the program shall act as advisors, and an individual advisor shall be assigned depending on the specific interests of the students. Each student’s program of study must be approved before registration.

Requirements for the free-standing M.A. degree in Classical Studies and the M.A. degree taken en route to the Ph.D. are identical (see M.A. requirements). The M.A. dissertation must be approved before the student is permitted to continue on to the M.Phil. degree.

Phases of Study

The program of study for the Ph.D. tends to fall into three phases: (i) coursework and language training, (ii) developing advanced research skills and deeper knowledge of topics relevant to a dissertation project, to be demonstrated in qualifying exams, as well as a dissertation proposal, to be defended at a proposal defense examination, (iii) the dissertation phase during which the student completes a Ph.D. dissertation.

Students are encouraged to apply for additional external fellowships, and to consult GSAS guidelines about fellowship applications. Students should consult with their advisors about fellowships suitable to their phase of study and research profile.

M.Phil. Requirements

Students in the Ph.D. program are admitted to candidacy for the M.Phil. degree upon completion of all requirements for the M.A. degree.

Languages: Competence in a second ancient language, Greek or Latin, to be demonstrated by course work or examination, and in a second modern language (one of the two must be German, the other may be French or Italian), by examination.

Courses: Six additional courses for a letter grade beyond those completed for the M.A., to be taken in the Departments of Classics, History, Art History and Archaeology, or Philosophy. No more than three of these courses may be in any one department, and at least two of them must be colloquia or seminars. Students are expected to maintain at least a B+ average in their graded courses.

Qualifying Examination: Examinations in three topics are taken after the completion of all language and course requirements. Each student is examined on selected topics from the three fields of ancient study most relevant to the student’s research interests (to be determined with the help of the student’s advisor, and to be approved by the Advisor, Chair and Vice Chair). The examination includes both written and oral sections.

Dissertation Proposal Examination: In addition to completing successfully all requirements for the M.Phil. degree, students must pass a proposal defense and successfully complete and defend their doctoral dissertations in accordance with the regulations of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Continuation beyond the M.Phil. degree is authorized by the student’s dissertation proposal committee (sponsor and two further committee members), the Chair and the Vice-Chair.

Dissertation Phase

Ph.D. candidates must be enrolled full-time. 

Dissertation: Topics are approved by the student’s Dissertation Committee, the Chair and Vice-Chair. Topics usually require a substantial amount of scholarly expertise in more than one of the three disciplines. The student must present and successfully defend the dissertation.

Teaching Requirement

Participation in the instructional activities of one or more of the participating departments for three years. As a rule, in the second, third and fourth years of study, students gain exposure to teaching as assistants to professors in undergraduate courses, as section leaders in lecture courses or as language instructors. Students who are interested in broadening their teaching apprenticeships are eligible to teach in the Core Program once they have received the M.Phil. Students may only apply to be a preceptor if they have or expect to have the M.Phil. by the May prior to being appointed as a preceptor, which includes having successfully defended a dissertation proposal, if they have completed at least two substantive chapters of the dissertation, and if they are not past their sixth year of registration during the first year of the preceptorship. Students may not hold instructional appointments after year seven.

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