Key facts

Average number of students offered a place per year

5

Average number of applicants per year

10

Classics at Downing

Our standard conditional offer for this subject is usually A*AA at A level or 41 - 43 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB.  All Colleges may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances.  Further information can be found here.

The teaching of Classics at Downing aims to extract the maximum benefit from the opportunities offered by the Cambridge Tripos. Emphasis is placed on securing the best teaching available across the University.

As is appropriate for a College built in the Classical style, the subject flourishes at Downing. Over recent years, four students have been admitted in each year to read Classics, giving us one of the largest communities of classicists in Cambridge.

The College has an active Classics Society, which meets once in each term for dinner and informal talks by classical scholars. Downing is only a ten-minute walk from the Classics Faculty Building where lectures take place and the main Classics Library is located.

Meanwhile, the ongoing influence of Greece and Rome in modern times is a real growth area. Downing continues to supply raw materials for this trend with the most recent addition to its fine collection of neo-classical buildings, the Howard Theatre.

The influence of Greek and Roman culture is also felt close by. Cambridge’s own Fitzwilliam Museum, just a five-minute walk from the College, has a completely refurbished Gallery of Classical Antiquities.

Why Choose Downing?

We currently have the largest Classics cohort of any Cambridge college, making this a wonderfully vibrant Classics community. We have two fellows, and two additional College lecturers in the subject, covering a wide range of areas of expertise in the discipline. We also have a thriving Classics Society.

Teaching at Downing

At Downing you will be taught in a mixture of small groups, and individual sessions, making sure that your teaching experience is tailored to your interests and needs during your study. Given the strength of our teaching team (on which see below), you will be taught by relevant experts in a variety of fields.  

Meet our team

Frisbee Sheffield is a Fellow at Downing and Director of Studies in Classics (IB and Part II). She teaches ancient Greek philosophy, particularly ethics, moral psychology, aesthetics, politics and the reception of ancient Greek philosophy, particularly in the work of Hannah Arendt. She has co-edited the Routledge Companion to Ancient Philosophy (2013), two volumes on Plato’s Symposium, and a monograph on Plato’s Symposium: The Ethics of Desire (2006). She has published book chapters and articles on ancient Greek theories of love and friendship, piety, and Hannah Arendt’s engagement with Plato. Recent work is focused on the ethical value of Socratic dialogue.

Daniel Jolowicz is a Fellow at Downing and Director of Studies in Classics (Prelims and Part 1A). He teaches Greek and Latin language and literature papers across all three/four years of the undergraduate course. His primary research is on imperial Greek literature (especially the Greek novel) and the way that Latin and Greek culture cannot be neatly separated from each other during this period, although his deep enthusiasm for Classics stretches to all corners and aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world. His book, Latin Poetry in the Ancient Greek Novels (Oxford), came out in 2021, and he has published articles and book chapters on a variety of authors in Greek and Latin literature. He is also co-editor of the book Articulating Resistance under the Roman Empire (Cambridge, 2023). In his spare time he likes playing squash and watching films (especially spaghetti westerns). He holds degrees (BA, MSt, DPhil) from Oxford and has held teaching and research positions at Oxford, Cambridge and King’s College London. He joined Downing in October 2022.

Rosanna Omitowoju is a College Lecturer at Downing and a Fellow of King’s College. She is a very keen teacher, and teaches Latin, Greek and Greek literature with great enthusiasm. She has written "Rape and the Politics of Consent in Classical Athens", articles on Greek literature, especially drama, and a translation of the Greek novel "Callirhoe" for Penguin.

Franco Basso is a University Associate Professor in the Faculty of Classics, a College Lecturer at Downing and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He lectures and supervises for both Greek History and Greek Literature courses and for Greek Language. He has a special interest in Historiography and in Homer.

President of the Millett Classics Society - Aleena Islam is currently a second-year Undergraduate, studying Classics (IB). She loves the Classics community at Downing, in which everyone – both the staff and students – is passionate, friendly, and happy to chat. She is also fond of Downing’s close-knit and homely supervision rooms and the aesthetically decorated College grounds, which she can often be seen strolling through. She has a special place in her heart for Platonic philosophy, Greek tragedy and Homer and hopes to help organise various events for the Classics Society and its vibrant students, such as termly Classics-themed socials, informal talks by Downing’s fellows and scholars, and outings to plays and Museums!

Interviews

Candidates for both the three year course and the four year course in Classics will be interviewed in Downing. The aim of the interviews is to assess the candidate’s ability and potential. To this end the discussion will concentrate on topics concerned with the Ancient World, although questions may also be asked, where relevant, about the other A-Level subjects which the candidates are studying. It is expected that those wishing to study Classics at Downing will have found time to extend their reading on the Classical world beyond the confines of the A-Level syllabus.

All applicants for Classics are required to take an assessment at interview, if interviewed. Further information about the assessment for both three-year and four-year course applicants is on the University website here:

http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/applying/admissions-assessments...

For three-year course applicants who are invited to interview, this will be a translation exercise held on the day of their interview.  All candidates for the four-year course who are invited to interview will be asked to attend a language learning aptitude exercise conducted in the Faculty of Classics on the day following the college interviews. The nature of this exercise varies depending on whether candidates already have a qualification in Latin at GCSE or AS Level (or equivalent) or have no previous knowledge of the language.  For further information on the nature and contents of this exercise candidates for the four-year course are encouraged to contact the Director of Studies.

All those applying for the Classics courses will be asked to submit in advance of their interview two pieces of written work, produced in the course of their studies. For those taking A-Levels in Latin or Greek, essays on set texts are suitable, but other pieces of writing are also welcome. Apart from giving an impression of the kind of work a candidate turns out on a regular basis, the essays may be used as the basis of discussion in their interviews.

Further advice about entry requirements and interviews for all subjects can be found in the Apply to Downing section of this site.

Further details about the Classics course can be found at the University of Cambridge site and on the Faculty of Classics website: for general information about the Classics courses, or continue to our view our dedicated pages to the four-year and three-year degrees for more specific information. If you are interested in a degree which combines either Greek or Latin with a modern language, then you may be better suited to Cambridge’s Modern and Medieval Languages course.

Love Your Subject: Classics