Ancient History PhD Program

The Ancient History program is currently paused and not accepting applications as it undergoes restructuring.  Applicants interested in studying Ancient History with a strong language focus in Ancient Greek and Latin are encouraged to apply to Classics, which houses several distinguished ancient historians.  The requirements for that program can be found on the Classics PhD program page.


Old World MapThe Ph.D. program in Ancient History at Brown is an interdisciplinary program established jointly by the departments of Classics and History to train ancient historians to meet the needs and goals outlined in the following paragraphs. “Ancient history” comprises primarily classical Greek and Roman history, including the history of late antiquity.

The program offers considerable scope for students who wish to explore intersecting areas in the broad field of ancient history. Students on the PhD program have real scope to choose courses that they feel will enhance their research interests and skills.

Most of all, such a program must emphasize the intellectual challenge and excitement of moving among various fields, of interdisciplinary interaction and collaboration, and of developing the larger and broader conceptions that can be fostered through comparative history. Students trained as historians and classicists may be expected to be attractive to both types of departments and thus to have broader prospects for a productive career in either.

Ancient History Graduate Program Handbook

Candidates are admitted into the program by either the Classics or the History Department. The admitting department assumes financial responsibility for all candidates it admits to the program. All applicants to the program should upload their materials directly to the Ancient History portal and indicate by checking the appropriate box whether they wish to be evaluated by the Classics Department or by the History Department. Please consult with the Director of Graduate Studies for the Ancient History Program to discuss which of the two routes will be best suited for your application to the program.


Criteria for Admission

Applications are assessed on a holistic basis, but candidates admitted to the program will normally have a minimum of three years of Greek and Latin. Candidates have to meet the following criteria: advanced level in Latin and Greek; reading knowledge in one of four modern foreign languages (German, French, Italian, and Spanish) that are most important for research in ancient history. Students are strongly encouraged to attain these levels before applying (if necessary, for example, by attending a post-baccalaureate program).

Duration of Funding

The program is designed to take five years.  Students are funded by the sponsoring programs and, when available, through fellowships designated for advanced students in the program.

The program is operated and supervised by a Director of Graduate Studies (currently Professor Graham Oliver (Classics and History) in consultation with an Executive Committee comprised of other Brown faculty in Ancient History, currently Professors John Bodel and Graham Oliver (Classics and History), Ken Sacks (History and Classics), Adele Scafuro (Classics), and Associate Professor Jonathan Conant (History and Classics).  An Assistant Professorship in Roman History will be advertised and filled during 2018-2019.

Tenured faculty contributing to the program, in addition to the ancient historians mentioned previously, are drawn from the departments of Classics: John Cherry (Greek and Roman archaeology), Johanna Hanink (Greek culture and reception); History: Amy Remensnyder (European Middle Ages); Archaeology: Peter van Dommelen (Western Mediterranean, Phoenician-Punic archaeology); Egyptology and Assyriology: Laurel Bestock (Egyptology); Matthew Rutz (social and political history of Late Bronze Age Syria; Babylonian/Assyrian documents), and John Steele (Exact Sciences, Mesopotamia); Religious Studies: Michael Satlow (Hellenistic and Roman Judaism), Susan Harvey (early Christianity, Syriac), and Nancy Khalek (early Islam). Untenured faculty who contribute to the program include, in Archaeology: Felipe Rojas (Greek and Roman Anatolia); in History: Brian Lander (Qin and Han China, environmental history).

Students will select courses that develop areas of interest that suit their specific needs. Apart from courses in the ancient languages and histories, students will take the graduate colloquium on historical methodologies in the Department of History (typically in semester three), and, in the Department of Classics, the proseminar on methodologies and ancillary disciplines (typically semester one). Students in the program are expected to demonstrate, through successful completion of an appropriate course or a written exam, competence in (a) one ancillary field (normally one of the following: epigraphy, archeology, numismatics, papyrology, or art history) and (b) two literature/author Classics courses (including one poetry or literature survey course).

Students are expected to take the preliminary exam by the end of the sixth semester.   This exam will consist of a three-hour oral examination in two major fields:  Greek history (from the archaic to the end of the Hellenistic period) and Roman history (from the beginning to Justinian).  There will be one examiner in each field and one presider; the other members of the Ancient History faculty are invited to attend.

After passing the preliminary exam, students will choose a dissertation topic in ancient history. The dissertation committee will consist of three faculty who are best able to advise the student on the chosen topic; at least two of these must be among the program’s contributing faculty. No later than three months after passing the Preliminary Exam, students will submit a written dissertation prospectus, a substantial essay setting forth the problematique, a plan of research, and bibliography. This will be assessed by two Faculty members. 

Students who have graduated from the program have found employment in both academic and non-academic positions:

Joseph Kurz (2017) Teacher, Francis Parker School, San Diego

Dominic Machado (2017)  Assistant Professor of Classics, College of the Holy Cross

Bryan Brinkmann (2016)  Lecturer, Modern and Classical Languages, Missouri State University

David Yates (2010) Associate Professor of Classical Studies, Millsaps College