Graduating with Classics Honors

Students graduating from CU Boulder with honors

CU Classics encourages eligible majors (those who have a minimum 3.3 general GPA and a minimum 3.5 Classics GPA) to pursue a degree with honors. This represents a special educational opportunity, including thoughtful advising and close contact with Classics faculty, for motivated students. Many CU alumni who graduated with honors regard it as the most challenging and rewarding aspect of their undergraduate experience.

If you are interested in exploring this option, please see the Honors Representative for Classics at least three semesters in advance of your anticipated graduation date. We also encourage freshmen in particular to explore the possibilities offered by the CU Honors Program as a whole.

Students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree from CU or any other institution are not eligible. This includes students who have graduated in one major and are finishing a second major.

Honors Designations

CU Classics offers qualified undergraduate majors the opportunity to earn their B.A. with one of three possible honors designations: cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude. These honors designations are recognized by a certificate and an Honors medal; they are noted in the graduation program and indicated as Honors on the diploma.

The honors designation depends on three areas of academic achievement:

  1. The candidate’s academic record, as represented by their GPA;
  2. The quality of the thesis in terms of research, written style, clarity of argument, and synthesis of material;
  3. The quality of the oral defense of the thesis.

To be eligible for a cum laude designation, a student must maintain a 3.3 general GPA and a 3.5 Classics GPA; to be eligible for a magna cum laude designation, a student must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and a Classics GPA of at least 3.7; to be eligible for a summa cum laude designation, a student must maintain both a general and a Classics GPA of at least 3.8. Only in rare cases will the level of Honors recommended deviate from the level that corresponds to the student’s GPA.  

Requirements for Honors in Classics

The famous Colusseum The thesis:

The principal requirement for graduating with Honors in Classics is represented by the honors thesis, a significant extended essay (typically 30-50 pages) on a topic within the field of Classics chosen by the student in consultation with and approved by the thesis director. To qualify as an honors thesis, this essay should demonstrate scholarship, originality and thoroughness. An oral thesis defense—scheduled about a month before you graduate—is an integral part of the process. It will typically involve work over a five- or six-month period and report original research.

Since a thesis is a substantial piece of original scholarship, it is important that you think of it as a multi-semester process. You should select a topic for research at least three semesters in advance of graduation. Contact the Classics Honors Council Representative and the faculty member under whose supervision you would like to work. If you are unsure about whom to approach for supervision, consult the Honors Representative for advice. In the semester prior to your thesis defense, you will then generally complete an Independent Study to help you complete your research and make substantial progress on your writing.


You must meet with the Classics Honors Representative prior to registering for an honors thesis to discuss your eligibility and proposed timeline. All proposals for Departmental Honors theses must be reviewed and approved by the Honors Office. Therefore, in the semester before you graduate, you will need to complete the registration form for graduation with Latin Honors and submit it to the Honors Office in Norlin M400L by the posted deadline. At the start of the semester in which you will complete your thesis, you should submit your transcript to the Classics Honors Representative for review to confirm that you still meet the GPA requirements to graduate with honors.

Course work:

It is strongly recommended that you complete a 3-credit Independent Study in the semester prior to defending during which you will complete your research and start writing your thesis (e.g., in the fall semester when you intend to defend in the spring). In the semester in which you plan to defend, you will then normally register for a 3-credit Honors Thesis. The Independent Study can be counted toward the 36 hours of required course work for the Classics major. The registrar’s designation for such work is CLAS 4852. Should you wish to register for such credit, please acquire an independent study form from the staff in the Classics front office in advance of the semester in which you wish to pursue the independent study and fill it out in consultation with your thesis advisor. Please note: Honors Thesis credits count as general university credits, not Classics credits.

The oral defense of the thesis: 

Once your written thesis is complete, you will defend it before an examination committee. This committee consists of the student’s thesis director and two other members approved by the Honors Council Representative for Classics. One member must be an Honors Council Representative, and one member must be from an outside department. You may have more than three committee members. It is the candidate’s responsibility to see that the committee is constituted correctly and to schedule the examination; the candidate should consistently consult with their advisor in establishing the other members of the committee.

The student consults with the members of the committee to determine the date and time of the oral defense.  For December graduates, defenses are held the first week of November; for May graduates, the first week of April. (No defenses are held in the summer.) Students should be in touch with all members of their committee at least one month before the defense to discuss the defense scheduling.

During the defense, which will normally last around one hour, committee members question the student about the thesis and related issues. 

Timing considerations:

Thesis defenses take place about a month before the end of classes. To give your committee enough time to read and respond to your work, a full draft of your thesis should be submitted to all committee members at least three weeks prior to your scheduled defense date. Your thesis therefore should be substantially done about half-way through the semester in which you plan to graduate. This time constraint makes it all the more important that you start early and head into your final semester with your research and a significant amount of the writing substantially complete. Your thesis director and the Honors Council representative can help you establish a realistic timeline for your particular case, but the following can serve as a general model:

Three semesters before graduation: determine eligibility; select a topic (ideally something you have come across in your courses); secure a thesis director

Two semesters before graduation: register for Independent Study; complete Honors registration for the following semester; complete thesis research; complete a full draft of at least half the thesis

Final semester: schedule defense; by middle of semester: complete full draft of entire thesis; defend thesis; file final version of thesis.

Some recent honors theses

Settling the Wandering Kingdom: The Establishment of the Visigothic Kingship under Ataulf

Roman Family Structure and Early Christianity: Deconstructing familial and gender norms through the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbari: A Comparison of the Foreign Tribes in the Eastern and Western Empire of Ammianus Marcellinus

The Metroac Cult: Foreign or Roman?

The Achaemenid Satrapy of Armenia

From Architecture to Graves: The Development of Emotion in Ancient Greek Sculpture

Roman Social-Sexual Interactions: A Critical Examination of the Limitations of Roman Sexuality

The Limits of Dionysiac Liberation in Euripides’ Bacchae

An Investigation Concerning Ancient Roman Education: The Dispelling of Widespread Illiteracy and the Significance of the Classical Model of Education Grounded in the Lives of Scholars and Emperors

Femininity Unveiled: Perspectives on the Protagonists of Medea and Trachiniae

Territory, Terracottas, and Tombs: The Evidence Against Argive Hegemony in the Central Argolid Plain in the 8th c. BC

A Measure of the Biblical Understanding of the Early Christian Martyrs

A Renewal of Systems Theory: Using Modern Dynamical Systems as a Qualitative Method for Understanding Relational Power in Late Bronze Age Greece

Nero Tyrannus: The Physiological and Psychosomatic Causes of his Tyrannical Legacy

St. Michael the Archangel in Late Antiquity

Stratalinguistics and Shifts in Power: Changing Perceptions of Ethnicity in Post-Roman Britain