Ancient Mediterranean



In Ancient Mediterranean History the Department has long enjoyed a strong reputation for graduate training and research.  M.A., Ph.D., and HILS students who have earned degrees in this field hold excellent positions in colleges and universities, and in museums and other cultural institutions in the U.S. and abroad.  The Department cooperates in this field with eminent faculty in collateral disciplines:  in Classical Languages and Literatures, Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Art History and Archaeology, Philosophy, Architecture, and Anthropology.  The Washington, D.C., area abounds in special resources for students of the Ancient Mediterranean, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, the Hellenic Center, and the Library of Congress, and we cooperate with the Center for Early Christian Studies at the nearby Catholic University of America.  Students in Ancient Mediterranean History currently have the opportunity to participate in University- sponsored excavation projects in Greece, Israel, Turkey, and Italy.  Students in this field are eligible for all types of departmental and University-wide financial aid, including fellowships and teaching assistantships.  The Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies offers targeted financial aid for students in the history of ancient Judaism.

For admission, the program recommends familiarity with fundamentals of the field acquired in several undergraduate courses in Classical Languages and Literatures, Classical Art History and Archaeology, Biblical- or New Testament Studies, Ancient and/or Medieval History, or other related fields.  Especially important for prospective students seeking the Ph.D. is language preparation.  The degree requires competency in at least four languages, Classical Greek, either Classical Latin or Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, modern French, and modern German.  In some cases Italian, modern Hebrew, or Classical Arabic might be added.  Students can acquire some of these linguistic skills while enrolled in the program, but applicants should present at a minimum two years of one of the Classical languages and one of the modern languages as well as a capacity for language learning demonstrated by excellent performance in language courses.  No language skills (other than English) are required for the M.A. and HILS programs in Ancient Mediterranean.

The Department normally offers one reading seminar each semester in which all students are expected to enroll who have not passed the M.A. or Ph.D. comprehensive exam.  Other coursework is individual studies courses or appropriate courses in Medieval Europe, the Middle East, or in collateral departments.  Students in the M.A. or HILS programs may select either the thesis or non-thesis option.  Non-thesis M.A. and HILS students will stand for a comprehensive exam based on coursework and a reading list of 30-50 titles approved by the student’s advisor, including both ancient sources (in English translation) and modern works.  The Ph.D. minor requirement may be satisfied by examination or coursework in Medieval History, the Middle East, or in one of the collateral fields, for example in Greek or Latin Languages and Literatures. 

For Ph.D. students the comprehensive exam consists of written exams in three historical fields covering coursework as well as a reading list for each field of 30-50 titles approved by the advisor, including both modern works and ancient sources.  At least one of the three fields must cover a broad chronological spectrum of Ancient Mediterranean History from early Greece to Late Antiquity.  Two of the three Ph.D. fields will be written as the four-hour departmental Ph.D. “general field” exam and one as the three-hour departmental “special field.”  Usually, students write the “special field” exam in the field of their likely dissertation topic.  In consultation with the adviser and other faculty in the field, each Ph.D. student will define her or his historical fields for the Ph.D.  The following list, intended to be representative rather than exhaustive, includes fields of recent Ph.D. students and others suited to faculty strengths and interests:

            The Ancient Mediterranean economy
            Food supply and food culture in the Ancient Mediterranean World
            Greek and Roman military institutions and strategies
            Greek and Roman imperialism
            Greek and Roman historiography
            Greek and Roman religion
            Hellenism and the Jews
            Jews, Christians, and other religious groups in the Ancient Mediterranean World
            The Roman Near East
            The Classical Mediterranean city
            The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity
Students write their Ph.D. dissertations on topics of diverse types employing a wide variety of ancient sources and a number of theoretical approaches, depending on the interests of the student.  All require research in sources in one or more ancient languages and use of modern scholarship in several modern languages.  In some cases experience in archaeological, epigraphic, papyrological, and/or numismatic methodologies proves to be important. 

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact one of the faculty in Ancient Mediterranean History in advance in order to assess prospects for admission and current fields for study and research.