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Ph.D. Program


During the first three years, students’ efforts are directed intensively toward three main goals:

  • Improving and refining a command of Greek and Latin, especially the ability to read the languages both intensively and extensively with understanding and enjoyment
  • Gaining a broader and firmer grasp of the development of Greek and Roman literature in their historical settings–a knowledge based on, among other things, wide reading in the original languages
  • Acquainting themselves with the various subfields and basic tools, methods, aims, and achievements of classical scholarship, and with the methodologies (literary, historical, linguistic) currently being applied to classical texts.

Requirements for Admission

The program presupposes a minimum of three years of college Latin and two years of college Greek, with honor grades (A or B.) Students with less than this amount or quality of preparation will need to make up their deficiencies before entrance. The Chair or the Director of Graduate Studies will be glad to counsel such students, either in person or by correspondence. Command of French and German, while not actually required for admission, is so important from the very beginning for advanced work in classical studies that prospective students are encouraged to equip themselves with at least one of these languages before entering. (Command of Italian is recommended.) A writing sample (limit 20 pages,) 3 recommendation letters and official transcripts are also required (in addition to Rackham requirements.)


It should be emphasized that students’ training is not expected to come entirely from formal courses. Their own readings and explorations in classical literature and scholarship are at least as important; in fact one purpose of the program is to equip and encourage students to make such explorations on their own. However, a good part of the time will be spent in courses, especially during the first two years. Several kinds of courses are included in the program. All will contribute to the student’s progress. The Department offers many reading courses in Greek and Roman authors or in periods or types of literature.

Required Courses


One course in the first year; introduction to documents, introduction to transmision, methods of bibliography, and exercises in research.

Greek and Latin Composition

One course in each, normally to be completed during the first two years.

History of Greek and Roman Literature Courses

Three courses, at least one in each language. Grades for these courses are recorded as the third part of the Preliminary Examination component (see below). The survey courses include GREEK 571, 572, and 573 and LATIN 571, 572, and 574. 

Upper Level Courses in the Specialized Disciplines

At some point before students present themselves for the preliminary examination they must have taken one 600-level course in the methods and problems of a particular sub-discipline such as linguistics, textual criticism, paleography, papyrology, numismatics, epigraphy, law, archaeology, textual criticism, metrics, or religion.


Involve advanced and intensive exegesis, in collaboration with the professor, of a classical author or subject, with particular emphasis on the independent research of the student in the form of reports and papers. One or more seminars will be offered each semester, either in literary or in non-literary fields. Two seminars are required.


At least two courses must be taken outside the student’s primary area of interest. These can be courses in other departments or cross-listed with other departments (i.e., History, Linguistics, History of Art), or courses in ancillary disciplines within the Department (i.e., papyrology, Roman law).

Required Examinations

SIGHT-READING EXAMS in Greek and Latin are administered at entrance; these tests are diagnostic, to alert the Department and the student to weaknesses in command of the languages.

MODERN LANGUAGE EXAMS (French/Italian and German) are offered twice each year. Students must take one each year until both are passed.

GREEK AND ROMAN HISTORY EXAMINATIONS are to be taken at the beginning of the second year of study. These are written examinations of four hours which require general competency in the larger movements of history (for further information).

QUALIFYING EXAMINATIONS in the translation of Greek and Latin must be passed not later than the end of the second year. The Department expects a holder of the Ph.D. in Classical Studies to have read a considerable amount of Greek and Roman literature in the original language, whether in high school, college, or graduate school. The special reading courses taken in the first year are particularly designed to help the student make progress toward completing the Ph.D reading list that forms the basis for these examinations.

PRELIMINARY EXAMINATIONS are to be taken after all course work is completed and the student is ready to begin work on the dissertation. After successful completion of the preliminary examinations, formal admission to candidacy for the degree is granted. 

There are three categories of preliminary examination: 

  1. The Latin/Greek examinations test the student on authors/periods/genres. The examination often takes the form of a discussion of three or four questions or topics agreen upon by the student and advisor in advance of the exam. 
  2. The topic of the special field examination is typically chosen by the student from areas pertinent to classics: archaeology, metrics, history, philosophy, papyrology, religion, linguistics, numismatics, epigraphy, law, Medieval Latin, or literary theory. By agreement of the student and the examiner, this requirement is fulfilled by either a written or oral examination, or by a substantial research paper
  3. Greek and Roman literature: The grades in the three required survey courses in the history of the literatures are used to fulfill this requirement. The lowest grade considered to be passing in a graduate course or examination is B–.

DISSERTATION DEFENSE. Having achieved candidacy for the degree, the student undertakes a dissertation under the supervision of an advisor and a committee. The usual time required for its completion is one to two years. The final oral examination is on the dissertation and related topics.


Fellowship Opportunities

The application must be complete by December 15 to be considered for admission and fellowship for the following fall term.

The Department offers five year support packages to incoming graduate students, providing full tuition and a stipend in the first year, with equivalent support from a combination of fellowship and graduate student instructorships in subsequent years. Qualified students will be nominated for Rackham Merit Fellowships, which also guarantee a five-year support package. These also provide a stipend plus full tuition in the first year, and equivalent support from a combination of fellowship and graduate student instructorships in subsequent years. Summer support is also provided. 

The letter offering admission will set forth the details of any financial aid offer. It is the usual practice to offer fellowship aid after having met with potential students during our recruitment weekend, usually held in February. Additional forms of aid (student loans, work/study, etc.) may be available through the Office of Financial Aid (2011 Student Activities Building, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; 734.763.6600) or the graduate Office of Fellowships and Recruitment (122 Rackham, The University of Michigan, Arbor, MI 48109, 734.764.8119.) Students who receive work/study awards can be assured of a job within the Department as a research assistant, grader, etc.

Ordinarily, first year Ph.D. students are not expected to hold graduate student instructorships, but this is a common form of support in subsequent years. Indeed, at least two terms of work experience, in the form of a graduate student instructorship, are required for the Ph.D. A typical pattern of support would be a fellowship in the first year, graduate student instructorships during the second and third years, and part fellowship, part graduate student instructorships in the fourth and fifth years when the student is writing the dissertation.