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Latin (Classical Philology)

Degree: Bachelor of Arts
Application: not required
Course commences: winter semester / summer semester
Standard course duration: 6 semesters
Focus options: 50% (with Teaching Degree option); 25%
Language requirements:

certified proficiency in Latin (Latinum)
as a joint-main subject (=50%) also certified proficiency in Greek (Graecum) and acquisition of proficiency in a Romance language

Language of instruction: German / English

Faculty of Philosophy

Note for prospective students interested in coming to Heidelberg University to take the Teaching Degree course qualifying its graduates to teach at higher secondary (grammar) schools (Gymnasien) in Germany:

In accordance with the statutory provisions laid down by the State of Baden-Württemberg, students wishing to embark as of winter semester 2015/2016 on a Teaching Degree qualifying them to teach at higher secondary (grammar) schools (Gymnasien) in Germany can only do so by enrolling in two-tier courses with a Bachelor/Master structure (polyvalent two-subject (50%) Bachelor programme with a Teaching Degree option; Master of Education course scheduled to start in winter semester 2018/2019).

As of winter semester 2015/2016, the subject described on this page can be studied in a polyvalent two-subject (50%) Bachelor course with a Teaching Degree option. It has to be combined with another 50% subject of relevance for secondary-school education.

For more information, go to

Note for students already enrolled in a Teaching Degree course in the framework of the Examination Regulations for Teachers at Higher Secondary Schools (GymPO I):

In the winter semester 2015/2016 and later, students enrolled by 31 July 2015 in a Teaching Degree course regulated by the provisions of GymPO I (2009) are entitled to switch to a different main subject under the conditions set out in said GymPO provided that the change is in accordance with the statutory provisions.

In this case, the following transitional regulations apply:

For more information, go to

Course outline

Classical Philology encompasses the two independent but closely linked subjects Greek and Latin, both of which are taught at the Department of Classical Philology.

As a subject, “Latin” (or more precisely Latin Philology) is defined by its prime concern, engagement with the Latin texts that have come down to us from antiquity.

Research, coursework and teaching focus on the following topics:

  • Latin as the communication system underlying the texts
  • the texts as literature and their formative principles
  • Roman culture as context

Greek Philology and Latin Philology add up to “Classical Philology”. From the outset, literature in Latin was greatly influenced by Greek literature, accordingly a sound knowledge of the Greek works it set out to emulate is necessary for a more profound understanding of its particularities. Latin Philology and Greek Philology are thus closely associated.

The purview of “Greek Philology” comes to an end on the threshold of the Middle Ages, i.e. approx. in the 6th century AD. The follow-on subject is Latin Philology of the Middle Ages and the Modern Age, a subject with an institute of its own at Heidelberg University.

In methodological terms, two approaches are important and need to be seen in conjunction with one another. One is historical, the other structural.

The historical approach sets out to grasp a text, its origins and its impact in terms of the conditions operative in the age in which it was written. This approach links Latin Philology with other subjects under the heading of Ancient Studies, notably Ancient History, Classical Archaeology and Indo-Germanic Studies. They all share the goal of casting light on the culture of the Graeco-Roman civilisations in antiquity.

The structural approach involves concentrating on the text in itself, its form, its message and its stylistic/aesthetic qualities. Here the link is with other “philological” subjects (i.e. subjects focusing on language and literature) that take the same or a similar approach to the works they investigate.

The identity of Latin Philology as a subject and its status as a meaningful choice for study hinge very largely on the way it relates to the present. Two perspectives suggest themselves.

  • Continuity: Roman civilisation and the language and literature it produced are seminal for the evolution of European culture. In the so-called “Renaissances”, Roman-Latin sources were repeatedly drawn upon and developed into a driving force behind new developments. Central modern concepts, value systems and symbols derive from Latin. Any understanding of European culture that is more than superficial will call for sound knowledge of Roman civilisation. Continuity issues of this kind are frequently associated with the terms “impact” or “reception” and represent a key research focus in Heidelberg.
  • Contrast: Despite the obvious historical links, Roman culture and Latin are very remote from the world of present-day Europe. A highly inflectional language, a pre-Christian, non-rationalised religion, a pre-industrial society: these are the foundations for contrastive studies that can contribute much to defining the identity of the present-day world.

Latin linguistics

Scholarly engagement with Latin, accorded a place of its own in lectures and seminars, focuses first of all on its prehistory, which can be elucidated with the help of comparative methods. Major attention is paid to the different historical stages of Latin (Old Latin, classical Latin, Late Latin) and its varieties (Vulgar Latin, a research focus in Heidelberg) and the further development from late Latin to the Romance languages. Alongside this predominantly historical approach, various synchronicities of the language are dealt with, e.g. regional and social differentiation, text linguistics and so forth.

Heidelberg differs from some other universities in Germany in that in line with international norms Latin linguistics is taught at the Department of Classical Philology.

Latin literary studies

The literary side of the course concentrates on enabling students to get to know important works by reading them in the original language. Students are called upon to compile an individual reading programme encompassing representative works of the most important authors, epochs and genres. Most of this reading will need to be done during the semester breaks. Independent reading cannot be replaced by classwork. The “reading classes” in the curriculum can be no more than a stimulus.

Within the space of a century, the late Republican and Augustan periods saw the birth of numerous literary masterworks in Latin (Sallust, Cicero, Horace, Vergil, etc.) that have been a perennial source of inspiration for writers in the West. This is the deeper meaning of the term “classical”. The course centres on these great works, while also engaging with literature of the pre- and post-classical eras.

The central task of literary studies is the understanding of the individual work, its interpretation. This understanding builds on a number of part-disciplines discussed mainly in seminars: literary theory, stylistics and metrics, rhetoric, textual criticism (i.e. reconstruction of the original text from partly contradictory manuscript versions), mythology and religious history, everyday life, legislation and the state, and the history of the impact of these great classics on modern literature, art and music. Heidelberg has a unique collection of sheet music and recordings reflecting the immense range of settings of ancient texts from the Baroque to the present.

Roman culture

This aspect cannot be fully and systematically represented at B.A. level. Insights are however vouchsafed (a) by classes in other subjects like Archaeology and Ancient History, (b) by meticulously prepared excursions to Roman culture sites (excavations, museums), (c) by classes on individual culture-historical topics, e.g. Roman religion.

Prerequisites for the course

Students embarking on the course will need to be in possession of the Latinum or an equivalent certificate of proficiency in Latin. Those opting for Latin as a joint-main subject in their Teaching Degree or the B.A. programme will also require the Graecum (or equivalent). Students unable to produce evidence of proficiency at this level (school-leaving certificate, additional exam, etc.) will have to remedy this deficiency (Teaching Degree students by the intermediate examination at the latest). Courses for this purpose are offered by the University. Students also need to have a good reading knowledge of two modern foreign languages.

Main research interests

Literary studies

The chair of literary studies (Latin) focuses its research on the history of literature in Latin and the reception accorded to that literature in the European context. As an integral part of general and comparative literary studies, research on literature in Latin inquires into the categorial preconditions that make scholarly statements about aesthetic and cultural phenomena possible in the first place. Is it in fact legitimate to speak of “history” and “literature” in the Hellenistic-Roman cultural context? How does the historiography of ancient literature in Latin actually function – and what is “literature”? What procedures underlie oral and written speech, what is a theme, what status is accorded to literary texts and to authors and orators? Based on the close reading of texts, we are working on a method designed to reveal the structural properties peculiar to late Republican literature, including the epochs of Augustus and Nero. This method is a novel approach to the historiography of literature, an “archaeology of modernity” that eschews anachronisms and homes in on the potential “modernity” of the ancient literature that has come down to us.


In the study of Ancient Greek and Latin, linguistics figures as a sub-discipline of Classical Philology that is closely connected with the study of literature (this proximity to literary studies is grounded largely in the use of structuralist procedures in textual analysis and narratology). With its strongly systematic and historical bias, the linguistic component is dedicated to the formal description of textual constituents of all kinds, its main emphasis naturally being language itself. Another of its tasks is to elucidate the language theories of the ancient Greeks and Romans, which are still of seminal significance for present-day language studies both in Europe and elsewhere. These theories are implicit in the wealth of disquisitions on grammar, rhetoric, poetics and language philosophy that have come down to us. A further concern is the analysis of prosody and metre in Greek and Roman poetry. Scholarly editing and textual criticism are also a major focus.

Formal requirements


Bachelor/Teaching Degree: There are no admission restrictions. Click here for instructions on how to enrol.

International applicants

There are special regulations for international applicants. For more information, apply to the International Relations Office of Heidelberg University (Seminarstraße 2).

Subject combinations

Possible subject combinations are listed in the Catalogue of Subjects.

Study and examination regulations

Examination regulations B.A. (12 October 2017)
Examination regulations B.A. (26 June 2015)
Study and Intermediate Examination Regulations: Teaching Degree (29 April 2010; after GymPO)
Regulations on Intermediate Examinations: Teaching Degree (15 June 2000)
Academic Examination Regulations (WPO 2001)
Examination regulations B.A. (28 March 2007)

Module Handbook

Please click here to find the latest Module Handbook.

Examinations board

Issues arising in connection with examinations, credit transfer and academic credential recognition are dealt with by the relevant examinations board/office. For more information, consult the academic advisor(s) indicated below.


Tuition fees at Heidelberg University are payable at the beginning of each semester.

M.A. course

Heidelberg University offers consecutive M.A. courses in Classical Philology (Latin) and Classical and Modern Literary Studies.

Academic advisors


Department of Classical Philology
Marstallhof 2-4
D-69117 Heidelberg

Secretaries' office:
phone: +49 (0)6221 542265
fax: +49 (0)6221 543381

E-Mail: Seitenbearbeiter
Letzte Änderung: 2018-07-10
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