The Graduate Manual

Conspectus of Requirements for the Ph.D.

The formal requirements for the Ph.D. set by the Graduate School are: at least six semesters of tuition; fulfillment of the residence requirement (at least two consecutive semesters of full-time registration); passing of the Preliminary Examination; an acceptable dissertation; and a final examination by the student's Ph.D. committee.

These requirements, as administered by the Department and combined with additional departmental requirements, produce the following general rules of procedure, summarized chronologically below:

  • Semesters 1-5: courses;

  • Successful completion of Reading List Examinations in ancient Greek and Latin. At least one examination must be passed by the beginning of the second year. The second must be taken and passed by the beginning of the third year.

  • Students will also complete the German and French Qualifying Examinations by Sept. 1 of the third year (recommended progress: one by Sept. 1 of the second year, and the other by Sept. 1 of the third year). With the permission of the DGS, students whose research plans make it appropriate may substitute another language for French (e.g. Italian, Spanish);

  • By May 1 of the third year, each student will have completed the Preliminary Examination (articulated in a sequence of examinations outlined below);

  • In the seventh semester, each student will submit a prospectus of dissertation research, which will be discussed formally with and approved by the student's Ph.D. committee. Recommended progress: first draft of prospectus to dissertation director by Sept. 15; submission of prospectus, approved by director, to committee by Nov. 1; successful defense of prospectus by Thanksgiving;

  • During the second and third years, students will be required to contribute in some way to the teaching mission of the department, either as a teaching assistant or a grader in one of our larger courses. After successfully completing the Preliminary Examination, i.e. during the fourth through final year, each student will teach under the supervision of a member of the faculty, normally one course per semester;

  • Submission of completed dissertation within two years (maximum four years) of completion of the Preliminary Examination. The final examination by the student's committee will take the form of a two-hour defense of the dissertation.

Departmental support is contingent on students’ satisfactory progress, which is defined as follows:  students successfully complete exams and other requirements according to schedule; students avoid incompletes, taking no more than two in any one semester and finishing any incomplete within three weeks of the course’s end; graded course work averages above a B.

Requirements for the M.A.

The Department does not offer an independent M.A. program, but a M.A. may be awarded in three distinct circumstances:

1) The Department participates in the J.D./M.A. option for Law School students seeking a M.A. The requirements for a M.A. in Classical Studies as part of the J.D./M.A. option are: 30 units of registration, of which 21 must be graded (9 in languages and 6 in history/archaeology, at the 200 level or above); and a final exercise consisting of two examinations of 3 hours each on particular fields, or a M.A. thesis.

2) Students admitted to the Ph.D. track who can offer compelling reasons for obtaining a M.A. degree may request this of the department. If this is approved, upon successful completion of the Preliminary Examination the student requests the Ph.D. committee to submit a Non-Thesis Examination card to the Graduate School.

3) Students who decide, or are advised, to leave the program before completion of the Ph.D. may receive a terminal M.A. degree, after completing 39 hours of course credit (of which at least 30 must be graded) and completing a M.A. examination set by the Department. This will typically consist of the Reading List Examinations in Greek and Latin, an exam in either German or French, and either a research paper or a master's thesis of ca. 50 pages. The Qualifying Examinations and master's thesis (or research paper) will be read and judged by a committee of three department members appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Distribution of Course Work

The normal course load will be four courses per semester for the first year, three or four per semester in the second year (students may take three courses when holding a Teaching Assistant position in the department), and usually three in the first semester of the third year.

Course choices will be made with the advice and consent of the Director of Graduate Studies. Students are expected to take at least one Greek and at least one Latin course per semester, and, over the course of the first five semesters, a minimum of six courses in ancient history and archaeology. Recommended: at least one Greek history/archaeology course and at least one Roman history/archaeology course per year. (The sixth semester, when students are taking the Preliminary Examination, is usually without formal coursework.)

Taking courses outside the department is permitted and encouraged, with the following stipulations:  courses not obviously pertaining to classical studies are permissible only after students pass both Greek and Latin Reading List Examinations, and all choices must be approved by the DGS.  Further, the student must be making satisfactory progress toward a Duke degree in Classical Studies.

Direction of work during progress toward the Ph.D.

The Director of Graduate Studies is the advisor to all graduate students, and is to be informed of any needs, problems, or proposed changes in program as they arise. In addition, each incoming student will be assigned a faculty mentor for the first year, ideally to meet at least twice a month with the student.  The Department encourages students to establish working ties with all faculty members whose interests and expertise may be especially helpful to them, and to identify one faculty member as a particular mentor.

By Sept. 15 of students’ third year (and no later than 60 days before the first examination) the DGS will form a Preliminary Exam Committee consisting of five faculty members, which will administer and read all preliminary exams that year. By Sept. 15 of the third year each student must also choose, in consultation with the DGS, his/her special author and special topic for preliminary exams, speak with the appropriate faculty, and inform the DGS.  If a special preliminary exam is to be set by faculty outside the Preliminary Exam Committee, the faculty member(s) will be added to the individual student’s committee.  Students can expect response to their exams within two weeks of each exam.

Before students begin the dissertation, preferably by July 1 before the start of the first year, they must consult with the Director of Graduate Studies on the formation of a Ph.D. committee, comprising at least four faculty members, and reflecting the direction of their research. This Ph.D. committee does not have to be the same as the Preliminary Exam Committee, and not all members of it need to be drawn from the Department of Classical Studies at Duke. By the rules of the Graduate School, one member must be a Minor Area representative. The composition of the Ph.D. committee, whose members serve as readers and examiners of the dissertation, may change over time if necessary, but only in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. The director of the dissertation serves as chair of the Ph.D. committee.


Examinations (apart from those set in individual courses) will consist of a diagnostic language test in reading Greek and Latin (one hour each language, and ungraded), given before the student's initial enrollment to determine appropriate placement in language courses, and:

  • Qualifying Examinations in reading Greek and Latin (the "Reading List Examinations": each three hours; may be taken separately);
  • Qualifying Examinations in reading scholarly French and German (each two hours; may be taken separately);
  • the Preliminary Examination (whose parts, length and schedule are outlined below).

 A) Examinations on the Greek and Latin Reading Lists

The Reading List Examinations in Greek and Latin are administered by a committee of at least two faculty members appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies, and are usually offered twice annually, in August and in March. Examinations may be arranged for December by petition to the DGS. At least one must be taken by the second semester of the first year, except if granted a waiver by the DGS, and passed by the beginning of the second year. The second must be taken and passed by the beginning of the third year, and preferably by the second semester of the second year.  Failure to pass both ancient languages by the beginning of the third year may result in termination or placement on the terminal M.A. track. A student may appeal to the faculty through the DGS for an exception to these rules, but such appeals will only rarely be granted.

Each 3-hour examination consists of six passages of prose and poetry for translation, taken from the Reading List. Poetry passages are about 25 lines long; prose passages about 20 lines long (as per an OCT text). Passages will not be identified; students are required to identify them. The student is expected to have read and thoroughly understood all of the works on the Reading Lists (deemed central to our discipline and specialities). The examinations will allow students to demonstrate mastery of the texts that appear on the lists, as well as their abilities to translate accurately Latin and Greek.  

B) Qualifying Examinations (modern languages)

All candidates for the PhD are required to demonstrate competence in at least two foreign languages, usually German and French, as a prerequisite for preliminary certification. With the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies, students whose research plans make it appropriate may substitute another language for French. Exams will be scheduled twice yearly, usually in the middle of Spring and Fall semesters. Students should complete the language requirement as soon as possible. They are expected to have passed one exam by Sept. 1 of the second year, and the other by Sept 1 of the third year.  Failure to pass both modern languages by December of a student’s third year may result in placement on the terminal M.A. track.

Competence in a foreign language will be demonstrated by passing a 2-hour written examination administered by a Classical Studies faculty member, or, if necessary, a faculty member outside the department. The examination will consist of translating accurately and completely a piece of scholarship of 750 words or more in the designated language. A dictionary may be used. Two faculty members will read the examination. Should a student fail the examination, faculty will review the examination with the student and explain where improvement is needed. The exams can be retaken without penalty.

Graduate students should initiate discussions about modern language requirements with the DGS and their faculty mentor when they arrive on campus, and should begin necessary language study as soon as practicable. Duke's Graduate School often helps subvent fees for graduate students who take a Language for Reading Knowledge course during the summer.

C) Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination is divided into two parts, the General and the Special Examinations. The General Examinations are designed to test breadth of knowledge of classical antiquity; the Special Examinations, specialized knowledge of a particular corpus of texts and a particular area of discipline, and the modern scholarly literature on these. The Special Exams may contribute to students’ evolving dissertation plans or to related areas of interest, offering students opportunities to explore in detail the history of a particular text or discipline, or even to investigate a particular topic or set of related topics that he/she will return to profitably, either for the dissertation or for future research.

The General Examinations will be administered by a five-member committee appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. General Ph.D. exams will be offered the first M-F-W after November 1 and the first M-F-W after March 1 in the third year; in the extraordinary event that an exam has to be repeated, exams will be offered on the first M-F-W after May 1. The Special Field and Special Author examinations will each be set by the faculty member whom the student has chosen to guide her or his focused study. They may be taken at any time between September 15 and April 15 of the third year. The Preliminary Exam Committee, supplemented if necessary by the student’s special field and special author faculty directors, will evaluate all Preliminary Exams.

The Preliminary Examination as a whole consists of the following parts:

1) General examinations:
A & B:  Major general examinations (two; each three hours).  If the student has chosen the Literature track, the two major general exams are in Greek and Latin literature.  For those in the History/Archaeology track, the two major general exams are Greek and Roman history/archaeology. “Greek and Latin literature” is understood as comprising the authors, genres (etc.) within the span from Homer through Late Antiquity. “Greek and Roman history/archaeology” is understood as comprising the period from the Mycenaean age through Late Antiquity. Each Major exam has two parts: three essay questions (chosen from at least four), each to be answered in 50 minutes, and identifications (usually a choice of 10 from a larger number listed) to be completed in 30 minutes. The Major exams test for (a) factual knowledge; (b) understanding of the limitations of the sources; and (c) mastery of pertinent secondary scholarship.
C:  The Minor general examination (three hours) is either in ancient histories or in ancient literatures (the Greek and Roman/Latin components are taken together). This exam has two parts: three essay questions (chosen from at least 5), each to be answered in 45 minutes, and identifications (usually a choice of 9 from around 16), to be completed in 45 minutes. The Minor exams place greater emphasis on factual knowledge and the limitations of the ancient sources.

The major and minor general examinations will be offered once each term within a period of eight days (as above) and are to be taken as a group. The student's committee may call for a supplementary oral examination to follow promptly upon completion of the major and minor general examinations.  Extraordinarily a student may be asked to repeat one or more of the major or minor general examinations; this retake must be successfully passed by mid-May of the third year.

2) Special Examinations:
D:  Special Author Examination (three hours);
E:  Special Field Examination (three hours).

The Special Author and Special Field examinations will be individually scheduled by the student and faculty member, consulting with the Director of Graduate Studies. The student's committee may call for a supplementary oral examination after either or both of these examinations. Both the choice and scheduling of the examinations will be subject to the approval of the student's committee. “Special Author” may in a given case include works of more than one author belonging to a single genre or otherwise closely related. “Special field” may include an area not directly covered in the general examinations (e.g., Roman law), a scholarly discipline or technical specialty (e.g., epigraphy, palaeography), or an area within the scope of the general examinations (e.g. Roman architecture) studied in greater depth than would otherwise be the case, or a related area outside Classics (e.g., medieval history). Students are encouraged to broaden their disciplinary and methodological range through their choice of special examinations. Special exams usually consist of three essay questions, chosen from a slightly larger number. Each Special exam must include one essay on the history of the text or discipline.

In accordance with the regulations of the Graduate School, all students will be expected to have completed the Preliminary Examination by the end of the sixth semester. The graduate school further stipulates that in case of failure in any portion of the Preliminary Examination, only one retake of that portion will be permitted.

Teaching as a component of graduate education

As an introduction to teaching and as part of their stipend package, students will serve as  Graders/Teaching Assistants one semester in both their second and third years.  Further, as part of their package of financial support, students will serve as instructors in undergraduate courses, usually one each term during the fourth through final years. This teaching, which whenever possible will involve experience with both civilization and language courses, will be supervised by an experienced faculty member who will be available to help in the preparation and execution of the course and will observe, evaluate, and advise.

The Dissertation

Students are expected to have identified an area of specialization and made initial explorations within it under the guidance of their intended dissertation director by the time they have completed the Preliminary Examination. Before the start of the seventh semester they will have established, in consultation with the DGS, a Ph.D. Committee of at least 4 members, preferably 5; not all members need to be drawn from the Department of Classical Studies at Duke. By the rules of the Graduate School, one member must be a Minor Area representative. 

By September 15 of the seventh semester the student should submit a first draft of the dissertation prospectus to her/his advisor. By November 1, the student is to submit to the Ph.D. committee a dissertation prospectus, approved by the dissertation director; the student may meet with members of the committee for advice in advance of submission. Committee members are to receive the prospectus at least two weeks before the scheduled defense, and the prospectus meeting must be undertaken successfully by Thanksgiving. If the committee considers that the prospectus is not fully developed or is deficient in some other way, it may ask the student to rethink and resubmit the prospectus, after incorporating ideas and material from the prospectus discussion. The dissertation prospectus must pass by February 15 of the student’s fourth year.

By Sept. 15 of the student’s fifth year (but preferably within the student’s fourth year), the student will submit a chapter to all members of the Ph.D. Committee, and will meet two weeks later to discuss progress on the dissertation with the Committee. If the committee considers that the chapter is not satisfactory, it may ask the student to rethink and resubmit the chapter, after incorporating ideas and material from the discussion. A satisfactory dissertation chapter must be approved by February 15 of the student’s fifth year. After the initial chapter discussion committee members may, but are not obligated to, read drafts of further dissertation chapters. The candidate is expected to provide drafts of all the chapters (with the bibliography) no later than six weeks before the submission date set by the graduate school for that semester. The final draft of the dissertation (with bibliography, and in correct format) should be distributed to all committee members at least two weeks before the dissertation defense. (See Graduate School web site for current formatting guidelines). Committee members with serious objections to the dissertation must notify the advisor in advance of the defense.

Failure to submit a satisfactory prospectus or first chapter by the specified deadlines may result in termination or placement on the terminal M.A. track.

When the dissertation has been completed to the satisfaction of the advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies will arrange the dissertation examination. This will take the form of  a public oral defense consisting of a 15-minute presentation by the candidate followed by questions from the committee and from the public. After the committee has deliberated in private, the candidate will be invited back to discuss the outcome.

The Graduate School expects the acceptance of the dissertation within two calendar years after completion of the Preliminary Examination, but sets the maximum time limit at four years. A copy of the dissertation must be submitted to UMI/ProQuest on or before March 25 preceding the May commencement, ten days before the end of the Duke summer session for a September degree, or ten days before the end of the fall semester for a December degree. The electronic dissertation must be submitted to UMI/ProQuest and the format accepted at least two weeks before the scheduled date of the student's examination. Except in unusual circumstances approved by the Dean, a final examination will not be scheduled when the university is not in session. A student must be registered during the term that he/she takes the final examination. Refer to the Graduate School Ph.D. requirements page for further details.


The Department's graduate award budget is limited, and not all students admitted to the Ph.D. program in Classical Studies can be offered financial aid. Our policy is to support for five years all students to whom we have offered aid upon admission and who are making satisfactory progress toward the Ph.D. Students beyond the fifth year cannot expect additional support, but they may be eligible for teaching or other employment in the Department, should it become available. Students who enroll in the program without financial aid will be considered for support in subsequent years, but they will in effect be competing for resources with new applicants.  Students who begin to receive support only after matriculating at Duke will be eligible for support only for the remainder of the five-year period for which aid can be offered.

All students, regardless of whether they have previously received support, will be paid from the Department's instructional budget at the currently applicable rate during the terms when they are teaching. Although we strongly encourage all Ph.D. students to complete the dissertation in a timely fashion, some may not be able to finish by the end of the fifth year of graduate study; therefore, it is important to be aware of and pursue other sources of support for the further period required.

Other sources of funding within the Department include: 1) research assistantships, often connected with individual professor's grants, and available preferentially to students who qualify for work-study money; all students must fill out the forms which determine eligibility for work study funding; 2) summer teaching in the Department: Intensive Beginning Greek and Latin are regularly offered and are entrusted to advanced graduate students, and certain Classical Studies courses may be as well. Possible sources of funding outside the Department have included: summer teaching in Duke's Talent Identification Program (TIP), a summer program for intellectually gifted 13- to 16-year-olds that often employs Duke graduate students; teaching in the University Writing Course, Duke’s freshman writing program; tutoring area high school students or Duke undergraduates in Latin; competitive fellowships available to the American School in Athens and the American Academy in Rome; competitive fellowships, particularly for dissertation research and writing, offered by Duke and by a number of institutions and foundations. Smaller sums of money may be made available by the Graduate School and the Department to aid students attending and participating in conferences and meetings of professional associations.

The Director of Graduate Studies, will coordinate information about available resources within and outside the Department.


The Department has high expectations of the candidates it admits to its Ph.D. program. The terms above convey only part of our expectations. We ask that you prepare not only for classes, but read widely beyond your assignments in primary and secondary sources. We expect you to engage the full range of your intellectual gifts in your work, to exercise all your curiosity, tempered by all your self-discipline, in assimilating and thinking about an immense field of learning. In return, as your teachers (and fellow students of the ancient world), we commit ourselves to making available to you all the resources, facilities, and skills at our command to help your intellectual growth. We stand ready to match your efforts with our own in the common enterprise of learning.

Reading Lists for Examinations


  • Homer: Iliad 1, 9, 16, 24; Odyssey 1, 9-11; Hymns 2
  • Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days 1-285
  • Greek Lyric Poetry (selections from David A. Campbell's anthology): Archilochus, Sappho, Alcaeus, Mimnermus, Tyrtaeus, Solon
  • Pindar: Olympian 1, Pythian 4
  • Presocratics (from Kirk-Raven-Schofield, The Presocratic Philosophers, 2nd. ed.): Heraclitus, Parmenides
  • Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Eumenides
  • Sophocles: Antigone, Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus at Colonus
  • Euripides: Alcestis, Troades, Bacchae
  • Aristophanes: Clouds, Lysistrata
  • Herodotus: 1; 6, 94-140, 7
  • Gorgias:  Helen
  • Hippocrates: Sacred Disease
  • Thucydides: 1; 2.35-65, 5.84-116; 7
  • Xenophon: Hellenica 1.1; 2.2-4
  • Lysias: 1, 12
  • Demosthenes: Olynthiac 1, adv. Leptinem
  • Isocrates: Panegyricus
  • Plato: Apology, Crito, Phaedrus, Symposium, Republic 1
  • Aristotle: Poetics, Politics 1
  • Menander:  Dyscolus
  • Apollonius:  Argonautica III
  • Theocritus:  I, VII, XI, XV
  • Callimachus:  Hymns II; Aetia Frs. 1-2.  67-75, 110
  • Polybius: 6
  • Gospel of Mark
  • Plutarch:  Pericles
  • Lucian: Somnium
  • Herodian:  VII
  • John Chrysostom: Contra ludos


  • Plautus: Amphitruo; Miles Gloriosus
  • Terence: Adelphoe
  • Catullus:  all
  • Lucretius: 1
  • Cicero:  In Catilinam 1;  De Officiis; Pro Milone; Caelio; Letters Ad Atticum 1. 2, 5, 11, 13; 2. 14; 3. 3, 13; 4. 3, 5, 10, 12, 15; 5. 1, 14; 6. 6; 7. 4, 10; 8. 13; 9. 11, 18; 11. 4, 5; 12. 15, 16, 32; 13. 10, 11, 33A, 42, 52; 14. 1, 13B, 21; 15. 1A, 11, 16A, 27; 16. 6, 9;  Ad Familiares 5. 1, 2, 12, 16; 6. 14, 24; 7. 1, 4, 5, 6, 16, 22, 28; 9. 10, 23, 24, 26; 10. 3; 12. 3, 22; 13. 27; 14. 2, 7, 12, 18, 20,; 15. 1, 18; 16. 14, 24; Ad Quintum Fratrem 2. 4, 9, 10
  • Caesar: Bellum Gallicum 1
  • Sallust: Bellum Catilinae
  • Livy: 1
  • Augustus:  Res Gestae Divi Augusti
  • Vergil: Eclogues 1,4; Georgics 1; Aeneid
  • Horace: Odes 1.3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 21, 22, 24, 29, 31, 34, 35, 37, 38; 2.1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18; 3.1-6, 9, 13, 21, 29, 30; 4.3, 7; Satires 1.1, 4, 6, 10; Epistles I, II 2
  • Tibullus:  I, II
  • Propertius:  I
  • Ovid: Metamorphoses 1, 6, 8, 10; Amores 1
  • Persius:  I
  • Lucan:  1
  • Seneca:  Thyestes; Epistles 40, 47, 77, 79, 88, 90, 114
  • Petronius:  Cena Trimalchionis
  • Juvenal: 1, 3, 8, 10
  • Pliny the Younger: Letters 1.6, 12; 2.17, 20; 3.1, 16, 21; 4.2; 6.16, 20; 7.4, 9; 9.36; 10.96, 97
  • Martial:  I
  • Tacitus: Annals 1, 14; Agricola
  • Suetonius: Caesar
  • Apuleius: Golden Ass 4. 28-6. 24 (Cupid and Psyche)
  • Tertullian: Apology
  • Ammianus Marcellinus:  14
  • Historia Augusta:  Hadrian
  • Augustine:  Confessions 3, 8
  • The Medieval Latin selections on “The Christian Life,” Section 2 of F.E. Harrison, Millenium: A Latin Reader, A.D. 374–1374