Although we can learn about Ancient History from documentaries or books, sometimes it’s easier to learn in a structured system – like a course. Of course, traditionally these courses were held in a university or college. However, now there are plenty online for you to participate in! In this article we want to run you through the best ancient history courses that are both paid and free.
1. The Ancient Greeks: By Wesleyan University – Coursera
To start with the Classics, we want to introduce to you the Ancient Greeks. The course is run by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, PhD from the Wesleyan University. He’s written over 40 academic articles and has authored, and co-authored various Ancient History works. The course takes you from the Greek Archaic Period to the death of Socrates in 399 BC. Szegedy-Maszak himself describe his process of writing the syllabus. “Though I left a lot out, I felt a responsibility to the material and students not to dumb it down. I worked to allow for complexity, ambiguity, and ignorance, as there’s a lot we still don’t know about Greek history.”
Length: Approximately 20 hours over 7 weeks.
Price: Free – But Payment Required for Certificate. However, there is financial aid available.
2. Cambridge University Virtual Summer Festival of Learning
Every summer, Cambridge University run their Summer Festival of Learning. This year it’s all virtual, meaning that you can take the classes from anywhere in the world! They run courses on a large variety of subjects, but we’ve identified 7 individual programmes that are related to the study of Ancient History. To start, Cambridge are renowned for their Classics department who are hosting 4 courses: Odysseus the Storyteller, Dangerous women in Greek Tragedy: Medea and Clytemnestra, Homer’s gods: anthropomorphism unbound and Love and hate in Rome: the poetry of Catullus. From other departments: Landscape History and Archaeology are hosting the course Roman Britain; the Medieval and Renaissance department are presenting The Dig: exploring the cultural and artistic context of Sutton Hoo; and finally, the philosophy department are hosting a class on Socrates and Plato. These courses give you a really exciting opportunity to learn from the University of Cambridge’s world-famous professors. They’re also on more specific topics so great for those who already have some background in the area.
Length: Each Course last 5 days.
Price: Each course costs £149
3. XSeries Program in History of China: Bronze Age to the Last Dynasties by Harvard Univerity on Edx
As we’ve already looked at a lot of Classics courses, we thought we’d move further east to China. Through Edx, Harvard run various courses, but we want to focus on the series program on Ancient China. Made up of 5 individual classes, that each take 15 weeks, the full program does take time and effort. However, run by top professors it seems like an ideal syllabus to follow. This is because it goes in depth and gives you a comprehensive guide that will help you better understand ancient China, and indeed China today. Peter K. Bol and William Kirby are your professors, and you’re in good hands! Not only are they both renowned historians in their own right, but they have been teaching the history of China together since 1992.
Length: Each course requires 1 – 3 hours of work a week for 15 weeks. The full program should you take all 5 courses is 1 year and 7 months long.
Price: To do the individual courses is free, with a £70 for certification. However, if you want to do the full XSeries Program, the cost is £314.
4. The First Civilization: Mesopotamia – University of Oxford
This course is the programme on the list that asks the most of its participants – both in terms of work and fees. However, we’ve included it as it’s also the only of these courses listed to give you accreditation points. We also wanted to include it as it’s the most in depth on one topic of all the courses we’ve listed. Therefore, if you really want to know the ins and outs of Mesopotamia this is the Course for you. Much the like the Cambridge Festival of Learning, this course allows you to be taught by professors from one of the best universities in the world. The professor on this occasion is Dr Kathryn Kelley, who’s expertise is in Cuneiform and helps digitise it.
Length: 10 hours of study per week for 10 weeks.
Price: The full course price is £312, with an extra £10 to get CATS points.
5. Archaeology: from Dig to Lab and Beyond – University of Reading on Future Learn
If you’re more interested in where we learn about the ancient past, this short course on Future Learn could be the one for you. Running for 2 weeks, it aims to cover the full process of an archaeological dig. You don’t need any prior archaeological training and it’s perfect for anyone who wants to round out their ancient history knowledge. Run by the University of Reading the three teachers are those who have considerable knowledge in their speciality and work in either the lab or in the field.
Length: 2 weeks
Price: Free, or £42 with certification.
Still want to learn more about Ancient History? Why not check out the following articles:
- 5 Best Ancient History Documentaries;
- 10 Best Museums and Exhibitions in the UK;
- 15 Best Ancient History Books for Beginners.
Or, you can look at our full catalogue of article for discovering the past here.