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Frieze from the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi

Detail of frieze from the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi, c. 525 BC.


Why study the ancient Mediterranean civilisations when we live in New Zealand in the twenty-first century? The brilliantly creative eras of Greek and Roman culture from c.800 BC – 400 AD, and the periods of growth and decline which flank them, laid the foundations of Western society as we experience it today, warts and all.

The very words by which we know such important concepts as democracy, philosophy, theatre, rhetoric, psychology (to name just a few) are Greek in origin, indicating that they are ancient Greek inventions. Likewise, the cultural legacy of Rome is far-reaching, especially in architecture, administration and law-making, in addition to its literature and art.

Why study Classics at UC?

You will study classical creations in drama and poetry, and the philosophy of writers like Homer, Aeschylus, Virgil and Plato; you will examine the achievements in the world of politics, warfare and government of leaders like Alexander, Julius Caesar and the Roman emperors.

Teaching in UC’s Classics Department is all-embracing and includes Ancient Greek and Latin languages, as well as courses on aspects of Greco-Roman culture for which no ancient language is required.  Language and non-language courses can be combined.

The Logie Collection

UC Classics students are lucky to be able to see the exquisite visual art and cultural relics of the ancient Greeks and Romans first-hand as the James Logie Memorial Collection is housed within UC's very own Classics Department. The Collection is located in the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities in the Arts Centre in town. It is one of the finest teaching collections of Greek and Roman antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Collection spans more than 2,500 years from about 2000 BC, with pottery from Bronze Age cultures onwards. The Collection includes hundreds of ancient artefacts including Greek and Roman artefacts, with pieces from Ancient Egypt, as well as a small collection of Greek and Roman coins. A particular strength of the Collection is Greek painted pottery from the Archaic Period.

Though work in classical studies at school is a fine preparation for Classics at UC, there are no prerequisites for study at first-year level.

Since the 100-level Greek and Latin courses are beginners' courses, some students with previous experience of studying these languages may proceed directly to 200-level Greek and Latin. This will depend on the individual's suitability and a qualification of at least Year 13 Latin.


See all Classics courses

100-level courses

All our 100-level courses are designed to introduce a variety of aspects of the ancient world and to enhance any study in the area students may have already done. Courses cover heroes, legends, ancient history, and epic tales by authors; as well as introducing two of Europe's oldest languages.

The study of ancient languages*

An important way to get to grips with any culture is to understand its language. A knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin has the following benefits for students:

  • enhanced understanding of the ancient world
  • increased enjoyment of some of the greatest works of poetry, prose, rhetoric and philosophy ever created
  • greater command of the English language – around half of the words we use today come from Latin and Greek
  • assistance in learning modern languages such as French, Italian, Spanish and other romance languages which descend from the language of ancient Rome.

Courses in Latin and Greek start from beginner's level, which assume no prior knowledge of either language.  If you have any questions about studying Latin and/or Greek, please contact the Head of the Department.

*Note: Although study of an ancient language is not required to obtain a BA or BA Hons. degree in Classics, it is highly recommended that students take at least one ancient language in their studies; this will greatly enhance their understanding of all aspects of the Greco-Roman world.

200-level and beyond

The first-year courses are followed by 200 and 300-level courses in literature, history, art, ancient languages and philosophy.

  • In literature there are courses that cover classical drama (tragedy and comedy), ancient epic poetry, as well as Roman satire.
  • The history courses study key areas of Greek and Roman civilisation, including Imperial Rome, Alexander the Great, Roman social history and the Hellenistic World.
  • Courses in Greek philosophy, ancient sport and leisure, slavery and Roman law look at important aspects of ancient culture.
  • Those with a taste for art history are catered for in courses on Greek and Roman art which emphasise ancient art and the way the ancients lived. 
  • Courses in Greek language study authors such as Homer, Euripides, Aristophanes, Plato and Thucydides.
  • Latin students study authors such as Cicero, Pliny the Younger, Virgil, Horace and Petronius.

Career opportunities

The successful study of Classics cultivates highly desirable skills employers want in the twenty-first century: critical and rigorous thinking, evaluating evidence, constructing arguments, reasoning, analysis, and a well-formed awareness of others’ viewpoints and cultural identity.

Many students who have majored in Classics have gone into teaching and academic careers, while others have branched off into other professions such as art conservation, museum curatorship, music, law, administration, public policy, library science and business. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Internal Affairs and Treasury are always on the lookout for good graduates in Classics.

Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Classics.

More information

School of Humanities and Creative Arts

Phone +64 3 364 2176

Physical location
5th and 6th Floors
Logie Building

Postal address
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand

Nicolette Paul

Nicolette Paul

'I love that my research directly impacts on my job...'

Andrew Wong

Andrew Wong

'Trying to understand the intellectual and ethical issues of the time is extremely rewarding...'