Graduate Courses in Eastern Christianity at Oxford

Image from the iconostasis

Image from the iconostasis

Besides the research degrees of M.Litt. and D.Phil., the Faculty of Oriental Studies also offers three taught courses at graduate level in the areas of Classical Armenian Studies, Syriac Studies, and (in conjunction with the Faculty of Theology) Eastern Christian Studies. The University of Oxford has excellent library facilities in all of these areas. The Bodleian Library is the main research collection. The Oriental and Theology Faculties both have their own libraries, with lending facilities, and there is also a small library specialising in the Eastern Churches at the House of St Gregory and St Macrina (1 Canterbury Road).

Armenian studies have been pursued at Oxford since the mid-nineteenth century. More recently, the establishment in 1965 of the Calouste Gulbenkian Professorship has guaranteed a permanent place for Armenian in the broader field of the Near East. Within the long span of Armenian history study of Armenia at Oxford concentrates on the period when Armenian sources give valuable information not only about Armenian culture itself, but also about neighbouring peoples of the Near East. Emphasis is therefore given to the study of the classical and medieval forms of the language and to Armenian literature from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries.

Oxford is the only university in the UK where Armenian may be studied for graduate degrees. The Armenian resources of the Bodleian Library are excellent; the Oriental Institute also houses a working library for students.

Icon depicting St. Anthony the Great, considered the Father of Christian Monasticism.

Syriac, which started out as the local Aramaic dialect of Edessa (modern Urfa, SE Turkey), became at an early date the literary language of Aramaic-speaking Christians in the Eastern Roman Empire, and in the Persian Empire further east. Over the centuries a very large body of Syriac literature has been produced (and, on a smaller scale, still continues to be produced even today). The most important texts belong to the period from the fourth to the end of the thirteenth century, and some of these are of outstanding literary quality (this applies especially to some of the early poetry). The texts that have come down to us cover a wide range of subjects, both religious and secular. There is also a large number of surviving Syriac translations of Greek texts, including several for which the Greek original has been lost. Besides being of interest in their own right, Syriac studies are also of relevance to scholars working in the fields of Biblical and Patristic literature, the transmission of Classical literature to the Arab world, and the history of Late Antiquity and of the early and medieval Islamic period.

Oxford has had a long association with Syriac Studies, and the Thesaurus Syriacus, in two folio volumes compiled by R. Payne Smith, is one of the Oxford University Press's finest examples of dictionaries employing oriental scripts.