Honors in Classics or Ancient Studies

The departmental honors program is open to Classics and Ancient Studies majors with a strong academic record and is particularly recommended for those planning to pursue graduate work. The centerpiece of the program is a substantial research paper on a topic of the student’s own choosing, written in the senior year under the direction of a faculty member of the classics department.

The honors thesis is an exciting and deeply satisfying way to complete your undergraduate major. The project allows you to delve deeply into a subject that interests you, to work closely with a faculty member, and to produce a substantial piece of research. Recent theses in the department (shelved in the Classics study room) have ranged in length from 40 to 100 pages, not counting bibliography and illustrations. Successful completion of the thesis brings with it six academic credits. These are in addition to the credits of the major (18 for Classics, 24 for Ancient Studies). In other words, those completing the major with honors will finish their degrees with a minimum of 24 credits (Classics) or 30 credits (Ancient Studies).

Honor Society

Eta Sigma Phi

Washington University in St Louis is home to the Alpha Xi Chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, the national honorary society for students of Classics. The chapter sponsors activities throughout the year, including Classics Movie Nights, community service activities, and the "Banquet of the Gods" (Cena Deorum). In the spring outstanding students of Latin or Greek are inducted into Eta Sigma Phi at a special initiation ceremony.

apply now

applying for honors


To apply for honors, a student should have the following: 

  • Junior standing
  • A cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher
  • An average of A- or better in advanced courses (300-level or higher) in Greek and/or Latin (for Classics majors) or in Classics (for Ancient Studies majors)
  • Agreement of a Classics faculty member to act as advisor of the thesis
  • Permission of the Chair of the Department

application to the program

The following items must be included in the application:

  • Completed application form, with the signature of the faculty member who will supervise the thesis  
  • Transcript, with cumulative GPA clearly indicated
  • A 1-2 page description of the project, with a preliminary bibliography


Spring semester of the Junior year

In the early part of the semester, students should begin to develop a topic and should identify a faculty member who is willing to advise the thesis.

April 21: Application to the honors program due
May 10: Decisions on applications announced

Fall semester of the Senior year

Honors students enroll in Study for Honors (Greek 499, Latin 497, or Classics 497 as appropriate).

First week of classes: Meet with thesis advisor to develop a schedule for the timely completion of the thesis. In the course of the semester, the advisor and the student should identify two additional faculty members who will serve as readers.

First day of exams: All written work assigned for fall semester due to advisor. The advisor either: records a grade for Study for Honors and approves continuation of the project into the Spring semester; or, in consultation with other committee members, terminates the honors project. The student will then enroll in Classics 493 and complete the work as a Senior Project, for three credits. Reasons for termination might be insufficient progress during the fall semester, or a drop in the GPA below the threshold of 3.5.

Spring semester of the Senior year

Student enrolls in Greek 499, Latin 498, or Classics 498.

February 1: Complete draft of the thesis to be submitted to the thesis supervisor.

Friday before March break: final draft of the thesis, complete with all documentation, bibliography, and illustrations, to be submitted to the full committee. The draft should be distributed to the three committee members, either as a PDF or bound copy, depending on the preference of each member. A bound copy must be double-spaced, printed on one side of the page only, and comb or spiral-bound. 

Thesis defense: An oral presentation, followed by discussion with the thesis committee, normally within two weeks of submission of thesis. After the defense, the members of the committee discuss the thesis, assigning a grade and a level of honors; the candidate is informed of this decision immediately. The committee members return copies of the thesis, marked with corrections and revisions. The student will then prepare the final version of the thesis.

Ca. March 25 (date varies slightly from year to year): deadline for submission of honors grade to the Registrar.

First week of April: final version of the thesis to be submitted for binding. This official copy of the thesis must be typed double-spaced on white paper.


Each semester of thesis work will be assigned a letter grade by the thesis advisor. If the thesis committee approves the thesis following the defense and the student meets College GPA qualifications, the student will be a candidate for Latin honors. The level of Latin honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) is determined by the College just prior to graduation.