Minor in Ancient and Medieval Studies

Through a wide variety of subjects drawn from a number of disciplines, this program provides a curricular framework for exploring topics in ancient and medieval studies which range from the history of ideas and institutions to that of material artifacts, literature, and certain of the original languages. The chronological span of the program includes some 6,500 years between 5000 BC and 1500 AD.

The goal of this program is to develop knowledge and understanding of the more distant past both for itself, in its uniqueness, and as an object of specifically modern questions and methods of inquiry. The program has an interest in the structure of institutions and social systems, and in relationships between the social order and learned traditions, values, ideologies, and ideas. Ancient and medieval studies derive a special claim to our interest from the fact that the record is so full and multiform and that much of it is of exceptionally high quality at once in substance and form.

The minor is designed for students who, in addition to the focus of their major program of study, are seeking a fuller understanding of the forces which shaped the ancient and medieval world. The geographical and chronological scope of the minor program is broadly conceived and is intended to be comparative. Subjects range in content from Classical Greece and Rome, and the ancient societies of Asia and South America, to medieval Europe and Japan. Students will be required to demonstrate intermediate level language proficiency in either Greek, Latin, or a medieval vernacular, but they need not concentrate their other subjects on the area associated with that language. Students are also expected to have some distribution across the ancient and medieval time periods. Students are expected to consult closely with the minor advisor in order to devise a coherent program of study.

The minor consists of six subjects (at least three of which must be MIT subjects), arranged in four primary areas of study: 

  • Area I: Languages
  • Area II: Arts and Architecture
  • Area III: Literary Studies
  • Area IV: Material and Historical Studies

Subjects in Ancient and Medieval Studies are also available from Harvard University and Wellesley College through cross-registration. Students must receive permission from the minor advisor prior to registering for a class at another institution.

Five of the six minor subjects may be counted toward the eight-subject Institute HASS Requirement. Of these five, at most one shall count toward satisfaction of the HASS Distribution Requirement. Of the six subjects required for the minor, at least four cannot be counted toward a major or another minor.

Area I: Language 1, 2
Select one of the following for a total of 12 units:12
Old English and Beowulf 3
Latin I
and Latin II
Greek I
and Greek II
Latin Readings
and Advanced Latin Readings 3
An intermediate-level subject in Greek, Latin, Italian, Norse, or Arabic 4
Select five subjects from at least two of the following areas. At least one subject must be taken in both the Ancient and Medieval periods:60
Area II: Arts and Architecture
A Global History of Architecture 5
The City of Athens in the Age of Pericles
The City of Rome in the Age of the Caesars
Building Islam
Early Modern Architecture and Art
Medieval and Renaissance Music
Area III: Literary Studies 6
Foundations of Western Literature: Homer to Dante 5
Comedy 5
Ancient Authors
The Bible
Latin Readings
and Advanced Latin Readings 3, 5
Ancient Philosophy
Arthurian Literature
Old English and Beowulf 3
Area IV: Material and Historical Studies
Communities of the Living and the Dead: the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
The Ancient Andean World
Ancient Mesoamerican Civilization
The Human Past: Introduction to Archaeology
Human Evolution: Data from Palaeontology, Archaeology, and Materials Science
Archaeology of the Middle East
Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Studies 5
The Ancient World: Greece
The Ancient World: Rome
Barbarians, Saints, and Emperors 5
Julius Caesar and the Fall of the Roman Republic
Early Christianity 5
The Making of a Roman Emperor
Humane Warfare: Ancient and Medieval Perspectives on Ethics in War 5
The Medieval World
Medieval Economic History in Comparative Perspective
Islam, the Middle East, and the West
The Vikings
The World of Charlemagne
Technology and the Global Economy, 1000-2000
How to Rule the World: The Promises and Pitfalls of Politics, War, and Empire 5
Total Units72

Students are required to take at least 12 units in a pre-modern language. Two six-unit subjects in a pre-modern language may be combined to satisfy this requirement (e.g., Latin I and II or, for students who enter with strong Latin from high school, two different iterations of 21L.6xx Latin Readings). Greek, Latin, and Old English are currently offered at MIT, but students may substitute another pre-modern language taken elsewhere.


Students with equivalent proficiency in a pre-modern language may substitute the Area I requirement with one more subject from Areas II–IV.


Counts as Area I or III, but not both.


MIT does not offer these languages; consult with advisor concerning appropriate coursework at Harvard University or Wellesley College. Arabic is required for students proposing a specialty in the medieval Islamic world. 


Counts as either Ancient or Medieval, but not both.


Any seminar-tier subject in Literature with a substantially ancient and/or medieval focus counts toward Area III.

The subject list above is not exhaustive. Additional information can be obtained from the minor advisors, Professor Eric Goldberg, E51-290, 617-254-2420, Professor Stephanie Frampton, 14N-434, 617-253-4452, or from the History Office, E51-255, 617-253-4965.