Back to:Ancient World Studies major

Ancient World Studies embraces the broad study of Classical Greece and Rome, as well as Egypt and the Near East from 3000 BCE to the 4th century CE. You can choose from a variety of subject streams, which combine the study of ancient languages and/or texts in translation such as myth, literature, history and philosophy with the study of archaeology, art and architectural monuments.

You can focus on a particular time period, geographic region, technical specialisation such as myth or ceramics, or thematic area of study. You will gain insight into and understanding of contemporary society by exploring how ancient cultures have contributed to the development of our modern world, with regard to gender and ethnic identity, warfare, colonialism and imperialism, the propagandistic power of literary and visual imagery, and technology and economy. You will develop skills in research, writing, analysis, and communication that promote career flexibility. 

Careers

  • Academic and research
  • Archaeology and history
  • Business and finance
  • Classics and teaching
  • Curatorship, heritage and tourism
  • Government and policy formation
  • Librarianship and archival work
  • Management and administration

Subjects you could take in this major

  • This subject will introduce students to the archaeology, history, and literature of the earliest civilisations - one situated in the Nile Valley (Pharaonic Egypt), and the other in the plains of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (Mesopotamia – modern Iraq and Syria). Neighbouring cultures in Greece, Persia, and Turkey will also be introduced. These vastly different, but interconnected societies, have stirred our imaginations for millennia, inspiring those who have shaped history, including Alexander the Great and Napoleon. They will be compared in terms of their monuments, art, mythology, epic narratives, languages, history and social institutions. Their highly visible legacy, uncovered by generations of archaeologists and historians, will also be examined to define further the processes that developed these complex societies.


  • This subject is an introduction to the grammar and reading of ancient Egyptian. It covers grammatical concepts and paradigms, sentence formation, and translating and reading simple hieroglyphic texts. Background information on the cultural context in which ancient Egyptian was spoken is woven into the subject matter. The aim is for students to acquire the basic elements of the grammar, syntax, vocabulary and writing system of ancient Egyptian, and attain reading skills sufficient to begin reading literary and historical texts.

  • This subject is an introduction to the grammar and reading of Syriac. It covers grammatical concepts and paradigms, sentence formation and translation and reading simple texts. Background information on the cultural context in which Syriac was spoken is woven into the subject matter. The aim is for students to acquire the elements of the grammar, syntax and vocabulary of Syriac, and attain reading skills sufficient to begin reading literary and dramatic texts.


  • This subject will introduce students to ancient Greek and Roman culture. Through a study of ancient literary texts, art, and society, students will explore the mythic origins, heroic archetypes, gods and goddesses, monuments and societies of the Greeks and Romans. The subject will focus on the apex of classical Greek civilisation in the fifth century BC, and the end of the Roman Republic and beginning of the early Imperial period in the first centuries BCE and CE. The subject will cover topics such as the Homeric poems, Greek and Roman mythology, ancient theatre, literary and artistic culture, sexuality and gender roles, militarism and imperialism, and the fate of marginalised groups, such as women, slaves, freedmen, prostitutes, gladiators and stage performers. The subject will also consider the ways in which modern Western culture has inherited and appropriated aspects of ancient civilisation, claiming it as a model in fields ranging from epic film and architectural design to political structure and imperial aspiration.

  • The subject concentrates on mainland Greece and the Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to the end of the Classical Period, examining what we know about the history and archaeology of these fascinating periods of ancient Greek history. The main emphases will be on the rise and fall of Bronze Age civilisations such as the Minoans and Mycenaeans, the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age, the Archaic and Classical periods of Ancient Greek history, the political, socio-economic and cultural changes within Greek Civilization, and the noteworthy developments in material culture in the light of archaeological evidence. The emergence of the polis system, debates on political systems such as democracy, oligarchy and tyranny, the critical role of religion, the interaction with non-Greeks and the resulting efflorescence of the Greek literary and philosophical tradition will be examined. The art and archaeology of the Greeks in the wider Mediterranean region will also be studied. Furthermore, the political and military history of Archaic and Classical Greece, as well as the extraordinary advances in Greek science, literature and philosophy during the same periods will be explored. There is detailed examination of modern scholarship on ethnicity, politics, warfare, colonisation, migration and acculturation.

  • This subject will focus on mythical narratives from the ancient Greek and Roman traditions. Students will explore some of the central patterns and themes in classical mythology. These include narratives of birth and creation, war and the warrior, fire and flood, animals, gods and humans. We will explore how these symbolic themes are incorporated into a diverse range of myths, including stories of the birth of the cosmos, Zeus's rule over the world, the foundation of cities and peoples, and hero myths in which men confront monsters. We will also be concerned with the story of Troy, which is the quintessential Greco-Roman myth, and the many classical tales of metamorphosis. We will engage directly with these narratives in the surviving literary sources (especially epic and drama), and in classical art, which is a major source for the Greek and Roman myths.

  • This subject will focus on mythical narratives from the ancient Greek and Roman traditions. Students will explore some of the central patterns and themes in classical mythology. These include narratives of birth and creation, war and the warrior, fire and flood, animals, gods and humans. We will explore how these symbolic themes are incorporated into a diverse range of myths, including stories of the birth of the cosmos, Zeus's rule over the world, the foundation of cities and peoples, and hero myths in which men confront monsters. We will also be concerned with the story of Troy, which is the quintessential Greco-Roman myth, and the many classical tales of metamorphosis. We will engage directly with these narratives in the surviving literary sources (especially epic and drama), and in classical art, which is a major source for the Greek and Roman myths.

    This subject requires students to access reading and lecture materials online and to participate in regular online seminars.

  • The Egyptians are one of the most fascinating peoples of the ancient world. This subject will study the distinctive character of Egyptian civilisation which emerged in the Nile valley during the early third millennium BCE and survived right through until the spread of Christianity. Through a systematic survey spanning the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms students will be introduced to the historical and cultural achievements of dynastic Egypt. Object based learning is an important focus of this subject. Knowledge acquisition will be reinforced through the study and handling of authentic ancient objects in the classroom. Study of the monuments, reliefs, inscriptions, literature and material remains of the royal rulers of the period covered by the native Egyptian dynasties from about 2950-332 BCE (with the brief interruptions of foreign rule) will provide students with a unique insight into the power and authority of one the ancient world’s most enduring empires.


  • This subject will focus on the gods and the goddesses, heroes and villains from ancient Egypt and neighbouring lands. Students will explore some of the mythical stories that emerged from the lands of the Nile and Mesopotamia, which predate those found in classical mythology by several thousand millennia. Among the central patterns and themes that will be studied are the creation of the cosmos, the search for immortality, and hero myths in which men confront monsters. The characters we will meet along the way include deities such as Isis and Osiris, the formidable goddess Inanna, and the quintessential Near Eastern hero, Gilgamesh. We will engage directly with these narratives in the surviving literary sources, and in art, which are major source for Egyptian and Near Eastern myths.

  • This subject examines the ideas of pre-Socratic philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. We focus specifically on the philosophical innovations of the Ancient Greeks, both in their contributions of radically new ideas and radically new methodologies. Specific questions to be discussed will include: What makes philosophy different from mythology? What is knowledge and how is it possible? What is the epistemological value of a definition? What is the nature of the soul and mind? What is virtue and what is its relation to happiness? What is the good life for a human being? These questions grew out of one another for the Greeks, and we will trace that development. We will also think about the relevance of Ancient Greek philosophical positions to our own lives and our own understanding of the world. In doing so, we will test the staying power of Plato and Aristotle’s thought and, more importantly, put into action the Socratic sentiment that the unexamined life is not worth living.

  • The turbulent and exciting history of the Roman Republic roughly spanned some five centuries: from its humble beginnings around 500 BCE to the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BCE. The first part of this lecture series celebrating this formative period in world history discusses early Rome; the social, political and religious institutions of the Republic as they gradually emerged from 509 to 264 BCE; and the Roman conquest of Italy and its significance. The second part concerns the high point of the Roman Republic, approximately the period from 264 to 133 BCE, including discussions of the Punic Wars and the conquest of the Mediterranean, and its tremendous consequences for the Republic. The third and final part deals with the Republic’s troubled last century and surveys the ill-fated Gracchan reforms; the first full-fledged breakdown of the Republican system and the Sullan reaction; the social, economic and cultural life of this period; the rise of the great dynasts; and Caesar’s temerarious attempt to establish a New Order.

  • This subject is designed to give students an understanding and knowledge of the variability of past civilisations by comparing their accomplishments and inner structures. Using a combination of texts and archaeology, it will compare the life cycle (rise and fall) of Egyptian, Near Eastern and Persian civilisations. Students will examine cultural elements such as belief systems, daily routines, gender roles, power and authority, which will provide an insight into the distinctive worldviews that shaped each civilization. Material culture, historical documents, language and literature, will be combined to address major issues such as the social evolution of complex societies and their eventual collapse, themes which resonate in the contemporary world.

  • At the height of its power and splendour, the mighty Roman Empire stretched from the Syrian borders to the Portuguese Atlantic and from the Sahara to the hills of Scotland, and comprised many peoples, from Germans to Greeks and Arabs, from Celts to Jews. This hotchpotch of peoples and cultures thus constituted history’s first and only Mediterranean superpower, a startling achievement lasting some four hundred years. This lecture series will introduce students to imperial Rome’s social, political, cultural and religious history. First we will discuss the Julio-Claudian period (44 BCE-68 CE), including the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination and Octavian’s stunning rise to absolute power. The second part concerns the long second century (69-192 CE), the apex of Empire. Part three highlights the Severan Dynasty and the crises of the third century (193-284). Last but not least, we will scrutinize the last century of the Mediterranean Empire, from its reinvention by Diocletian to the definitive separation of West and East at the death of Theodosius I in 395 CE.

  • Ancient World Studies encourages a broad approach to the interpretation of the past, integrating both texts and material remains to understand past cultures, thinking, and behaviour. These remains consist of fragmentary archaeological remains, including the ordinary debris of daily life, luxury items, art, architecture, and texts. Texts, which are also sometimes fragmentary, include the literary, historical, political, and religious documents of the Classical world and the ancient Near East in translation. This subject will draw on students’ previous academic experience of these diverse categories of data in teaching them appropriate methods and theories drawn from literary studies, anthropology, archaeology, and art history required to promote an integrated and balanced approach to the combined interpretation of textual, symbolic, and archaeological evidence in both historic and in prehistoric periods. Students will also be given practical advice in preparing for the future, whether they are planning a non-academic career, or for honours and post-graduate study.

  • This subject combines traditional classroom teaching and learning with hands-on fieldwork and workshop exercises to enable students to develop a working knowledge of practical archaeology and its methods within the context of modern research and archaeology in Australia and the Old World (the Near east, Mediterranean and Europe). The subject assumes no prior knowledge of archaeology. It will introduce students to some of the main fieldwork, scientific and interpretive methods involved in practical archaeology. Students will use the University's extensive antiquities collection to develop their practical skills and knowledge about how we can record and interpret the past from archaeological data.

    Note: The tutorials are organised according to four ‘blocks’ (each approx. 3 hours duration): surveying; fieldwork; artefact analysis; and study of standing monuments.

  • A special study based on one of the student's other subjects taken previously or concurrently. This subject can only be undertaken with special permission from the Ancient World Studies discipline co-ordinator. Enrolment is typically limited to Ancient World Studies or Classics majors who can demonstrate a need for the subject (e.g., unexpected changes in the level 3 curriculum, or mid-year completion).

  • The aim of this subject is to introduce students to the archaeology and ancient history of the Mediterranean from the end of the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta in 404 BC to the incorporation of Egypt in the Roman Empire after the death of Cleopatra (30 BC). From an overview of how Pericles transformed Athens the course will move on to examine how Macedonia came to dominate mainland Greece until the time of Alexander the Great and look at the fragmentation of his empire. We shall examine the archaeology of other Greek cities, such as Miletus, Ephesus, Syracuse and Alexandria, and many further examples from Italy, Sicily, Spain, etc. to see how they developed over the period. The subject will also explore the differences in material culture between the Classical and Hellenistic periods, and how and why the centre of Greek culture shifted after Alexander the Great’s time to the Near East. Particular attention will be paid to Ptolemaic Egypt, especially Alexandria and its renowned library.

  • The journey to the underworld, the existence of an afterlife, the survival of the bereaved, the mummification of the dead, the sacrifice of virgins, communicating with ghosts - the ancient world blossomed with myths and rituals associated with all these things. This subject focuses on these topics in the literature and material culture of antiquity, including the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer, Greek tragedy, Roman epic, epitaphs commemorating the deceased, and archaeological evidence from funerary and other ritual contexts. On completion of this subject students should have an understanding of ancient myths and death-rituals, have assessed critically the relevant literary and material sources, and have learned the major scholarly approaches to death, bereavement and the afterlife in the ancient world.

Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

You can read more on the the

Bachelor of Arts&Bachelor of Arts Extended