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The Graduate Group in Ancient History is an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental program that encompasses the study of the ancient history of the Near East and the Mediterranean Basin, from the origins of civilization in the fertile river basins of the Tigris and the Euphrates to the rise of Islam and the emergence of the so-called barbarian successor kingdoms. The expertise and interests of members of the group are diverse and heterogeneous. What unites us is the enterprise of building historical narratives from the fragmentary and diffuse textual and material evidence available to us. Students admitted to the Graduate Group in Ancient History will receive training in the political, intellectual, cultural, socio-economic, and religious history of at least two discrete ancient societies as part of their preparation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Students in the ANCH Graduate Group take 20 courses over three years of coursework. This coursework constitutes the essential building blocks for the development of the various skills that make up the ancient historian’s toolkit: grasp of not only the broad historical contours but also the pressing historiographical debates in the study of ancient societies; solid grounding in the philological and literary aspects of the relevant ancient languages; specialized competencies, for example in epigraphy, numismatics, legal frameworks or economic structures; experience engaging analytically and critically with elements of the art, architecture, and material culture of the ancient world; familiarity with the various methodological and theoretical approaches that are current in scholarly discourse. While certain courses are considered mandatory, we are committed to enabling our students to develop their own scholarly profiles, and there is great flexibility in crafting an itinerary through the program. All course choices are made in consultation with the Graduate Group Chair.
Students entering the program are expected to have a broad familiarity with ancient history and sufficient language preparation to begin graduate work in two ancient languages. For languages generally taught at the undergraduate level, such as Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Biblical Hebrew, this characteristically amounts to a minimum of three years’ study in one language, and two in another. The student will be expected to demonstrate competence in each of these languages by passing exams, typically administered at the end of the third semester, and at the end of the sixth semester. For languages not generally taught at the undergraduate level, such as Akkadian, Aramaic, Coptic, Syriac, or Sumerian, expectations of competence at the moment of entry into the program are necessarily different. In these circumstances, the student should identify the proposed language(s) in the application, and plan upon arrival to enroll in introductory courses as part of his or her regular course load. Having attained an appropriate level of competence, s/he will be expected to demonstrate that competence by passing exams¸ on a comparable schedule to that outlined above. Applicants who are in doubt as to their language preparation should contact the Graduate Group Chair directly, prior to submitting their application. (Students needing additional language training before applying to the Graduate Group may be interested in Penn’s Post-Baccalaureate Program in Classical Studies). It is also desirable for applicants to have knowledge of one or more modern languages, especially German and either French or Italian. Applicants are required to submit an example of their academic writing, demonstrating investigative and analytical skills appropriate to historical research, along with their applications; a research paper of about 15 pages in length (but of no more than 20) is sufficient to meet this requirement. The GRE General Test is also required.
Students in the Graduate Group in Ancient History are eligible for five-year Benjamin Franklin Fellowships. This award covers full tuition and pays a generous stipend; the student will also undertake teaching assignments for 4 semesters (during the second and third years) as a condition of the grant. Additional Teaching Assistantships and opportunities in the College of Liberal and Professional Studies are also available. Students in the Group are regularly successful in competitions for funding for study abroad and for dissertation fellowships from both Penn and external grant-awarding bodies, as well as Dissertation Research Fellowships and Dissertation Completion Fellowships administered by the Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences.