Highlights of the Ancient World

Highlights of the Ancient World

In this minor, Classical Antiquity and its impact on later cultures take centre stage. Students can study various aspects of the ancient world in relation to each other, such as Classical works of art and literature, ancient religion and the notion of Greece as the cradle of Western civilization. They will gain insight in the influence of Classical culture and in processes of cultural contact and cultural transformation. They will also learn to analyse cultural-historical problems from an interdisciplinary angle using material and textual sources.

The Classical Canon 1
This course discusses works from ancient literature, archaeology, history, art and architecture that have reached a canonical status in Western culture, such as the Bible, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer, the site of Troy, the Athenian Acropolis and the Ara Pacis.

The Decline and Fall of Rome
Why did Rome fall? And why do writers and politicians from Edward Gibbon to Mark Rutte refer to it as a defining moment in Western history? This course explores the causes and significance of the fall of the (Western) Roman Empire.

Religion in Antiquity
This course deals with the main points and issues of religion in ancient Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world. The lectures give an overview of the deities, religious life, rituals and customs in these various cultures.

Greece: Cradle of Civilization
A critical introduction to ancient Greek culture and its relevance in the modern world. During the classes, aspects of Greek archaeology, mythology, history, politics, literature, etc. will be topics of discussion.

Classics beyond Antiquity
How have the Classics impacted Western art, literature and political thinking? From Greco-Roman sculpture to national origin myths and ideas of “empire”, this course discusses the influence of ancient culture in medieval, early modern and current times.

Highlights uit de Griekse en Latijnse literatuur (Dutch only)
This course provides a smorgasbord of the many literary forms produced by Greco-Roman Antiquity, ranging from Archaic epic and Hellenistic poetry to historiography, drama and philosophical letters.

Classical Mythology
From the heroic deeds of Theseus to the exploits of the witch Medea, Greco-Roman mythology provides a treasure-trove of stories. In this course, we explore ancient myth in many textual and visual forms, from epic to vase painting.

Klassieke mythen en bijbelse verhalen (Dutch only) (on VU campus)
Today’s culture is full of references to biblical stories and Graeco-Roman myths. In this course, you will learn about the origin, context and function of these stories in Antiquity and their later reworking in different cultural-historical contexts and in various media: literature, visual arts, theatre, film and music.

Ancient Christianity (on VU campus)
During this course the development of ancient Christianity will be traced in context. Different aspects will be highlighted: political, social, and cultural. Important conflicts during the first centuries will be discussed as well as influential literary genres and visual representation.

All Bachelor’s students within VU Amsterdam are eligible for this minor. There are no admission requirements for studies from other universities. HBO students cannot participate.

This minor is offered in collaboration between the two Amsterdam universities, VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA). These institutions have clustered their knowledge and expertise in the Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology (ACASA). Most courses are taught on the UvA campus in the city centre.

More information about Admission and Registration (Dutch: Aanmelden voor een minor).

If you have detailed questions about the contents of the programme, please contact:

Nienke Vos
E: n.m.vos@vu.nl

Overview Highlights of the Ancient World


English, Dutch


2 semesters (30 EC)


1 September


Art, Culture and History
Language and Communication