Department of Classical Studies

The ancient Greeks and Romans created much of the political, social, and intellectual framework for Western civilization. For more than 2,000 years, classical civilization and tradition have influenced the political and religious institutions, languages, literature, and arts of many nations. To take only one example, the Constitution of the United States rested in part on the founding fathers’ deep respect for the literature and history of ancient Greece and Rome. The study of classics therefore not only provides access to the thoughts, achievements, and ways of life of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but also treats material relevant to the study of many cultures across the ages.

Through courses in classical studies, students engage some of the most profound thinkers and writers of human history. They explore issues of enduring importance in ethics, politics, art, literature, and history. A major in classical civilization, also referred to as a classical studies or classics major, provides an ideal foundation for students interested in comparative literature, archaeology, linguistics, and a wide range of humanistic disciplines. Majors in classical languages can go on to pursue graduate study in Greek and Latin, as well as teaching careers at the secondary level. A major in classical studies also provides a superb foundation for students who wish to enter schools of law, business, medicine, or communications. The classical studies major teaches students to read and think clearly and enables them to deal from a critical perspective with the ethical and moral issues raised by a professional career.

The Department of Classical Studies provides an introduction to classical civilization through courses in Greek and Roman literature in translation, history, philosophy, religion, art, and archaeology. The major in classical civilization focuses on courses exploring the cultural legacy of Greece and Rome through readings of classical writers in English translation. Students majoring in classical civilization may, but are not required to, supplement these courses in translation through courses in the Greek and Latin languages. Students who desire a deeper understanding of Greek and Roman literature and culture may choose a major or minor in Ancient Greek or Latin, reading texts in the original language. Students may also choose a major that combines the studies of Ancient Greek and Latin.

A joint major in classics & religion or a minor in myth studies is especially recommended for students with a particular interest in myth. Students especially interested in ancient philosophy may pursue a joint major in classics & philosophy. The department also offers a minor in modern Greek that examines Byzantine and modern Greek language and culture in light of the ancient tradition. Students in any major who intend to go on to graduate study in classical philology, ancient history, or classical archaeology should take as much ancient Greek and Latin as possible.

Majors in the Classics

The Department of Classical Studies offers majors in classical civilization, ancient Greek, Latin, and ancient Greek and Latin, as well as joint majors in classics & religion, and in classics & philosophy. Courses may be credited toward a major only if a grade of C or higher is earned. Required courses may be exchanged for others in the curriculum with the approval of the department chair or the director of undergraduate studies. Students are advised to choose a major before the beginning of their junior year. To develop a plan of study or for further information, contact the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Classical Studies.

Honors in the Major

The department encourages work toward graduation with honors in the major. For students majoring in classical civilization, the primary requirement is successful completion of a two-semester program of directed research and writing in their senior year, culminating in an honors thesis and oral defense. For students majoring in Latin, ancient Greek, or ancient Greek and Latin, the primary requirement is different: two specifically designated honors reading courses, including at least one seminar course and one course with a substantial research component. In order to qualify for either of these honors tracks, students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and a departmental GPA of no less than 3.4, and must submit an application to the department’s director of undergraduate studies by April 20 of the junior year. For general information, please refer to Honors in the Major.

The Dean Elsbeth Melville Latin Prize

The Department of Classical Studies, in conjunction with the Center for the Humanities, awards this prize to an undergraduate who has demonstrated superior achievement in the study of Latin and who anticipates a profession in the classics. The award is presented at the Center for the Humanities award ceremony held each May.

The John Oddy Memorial Award

The Department of Classical Studies, in conjunction with the Center for the Humanities, awards this prize to an undergraduate woman who has distinguished herself in a course in classical history or classical civilization. The award is presented at the Center for the Humanities award ceremony.

The Meyer Reinhold Prize

The Department of Classical Studies awards this prize to one or more students enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences who have demonstrated superior achievement in the study of ancient history, Roman civilization, or the classical tradition.

The Classics House and Undergraduate Classics Association

Students majoring or minoring in classical studies are eligible for housing in the Classics House, a coed brownstone for 25 students located on picturesque Bay State Road. The house is the base for the Undergraduate Classics Association, a student-run organization that sponsors lectures, dinners, trips to museums and the theater, and various other social and scholarly events including the annual performance of one of Aristophanes’ comedies.