Department of Classics

A Journey of Discovery

Welcome to the riches of Classics! Our students and faculty, a tight-knit community, work closely together on a journey of discovery, exploring two of the most dynamic and fascinating civilizations in history. We delve into the past on a daily basis, always bringing new questions and new perspectives. From this interaction we gain a fuller understanding of both the past and the present, and we learn how to shape the future. Tradition and innovation are two sides of the same coin.

Language and Culture

You can choose two different paths: (1) the traditional study of the classical languages (ancient Greek and Latin), or (2) the study of classical cultures through translations of ancient Greek and Roman texts, archaeological data, and modern works.
  • Why Study Greek and Latin?

    Greek and Latin provide unique skills. By learning a different system for creating meaning, you will learn how languages work, from the inside out. The study of Greek and Latin is the study not only of a specific language, but of language in general.

    Classicists have little trouble learning derivative languages (French, Spanish, Italian, modern Greek). But their linguistic training also enables them to adjust to completely unrelated language structures (Arabic, Swahili, Russian, Chinese, etc.) with aplomb. That’s why so many classicists have worked for the CIA and U.S. foreign service, for instance.

    Knowledge of different linguistic structures also provides you with a new appreciation for the particular limitations and unique capabilities of English. This fosters an innovative and developed English prose style and a finely-honed faculty for critiquing the gaps between language and reality. 

  • Why Study Classical Civilization?

    Many students study the classics without learning Greek or Latin. Like the language courses, this program of study enables an ascent from the particular to the universal. Classics students learn to recognize the patterns in human development like:

    • How societies form, function, and dissolve.
    • How humans embed complicated messages (often untrue!) in compelling language.
    • How arguments about abstract ideas (justice, democracy, freedom) shape human history.
    • How the past has been used to shape the future, for good and for ill.

    Through this program, you’ll gain a broad view of the foundations of American, European, and Mediterranean civilizations and learn how to apply that knowledge to the present day. This extensive study of human associations prepares you for leadership.