Department of Classical Studies

For 2,000 years, classical civilization has influenced the institutions, languages, literature, and arts of many nations. Indeed, the ancient Greeks and Romans created much of the political and intellectual questioning still with us today. To take only one example, the US Constitution rested in part on the founding fathers’ deep respect for the literature and history of ancient Greece and Rome. The study of classics therefore 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.

It is also true that elements of the classical world are abhorrent, such as the institution of slavery, to take an obvious example. The study of classics, then, does not entail mindless admiration for the “greats” of the past; on the contrary, it fosters critical investigation of that past in all of its glory and all of its horror. We also seek to acknowledge and confront the abuse of the classical tradition by those who have enlisted it to promote racism and elitism. Through our courses, students will engage with some of the most profound thinkers and writers of human history, but they will also learn about the contributions of the “forgotten” voices from the past, of slaves, of women, of conquered foreigners, and of other marginalized peoples.

A major in Classical Civilization provides a superb foundation for students interested in comparative literature, archaeology, linguistics, philosophy, religion, and a wide range of other humanistic disciplines. Majors in Ancient Greek and Latin can go on to pursue graduate study in classics, as well as teaching careers at the secondary level. However, most of our majors use their classical studies degree as a foundation for careers in other fields, such as law, business, medicine, or communications. The classical studies major teaches students to read, write, 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 and the development of Greek language and culture since antiquity. 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 & archaeology, classics & philosophy, and classics & religion. 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 (at the discretion of the director of undergraduate studies or the department chair). For student majoring in Latin, Ancient Greek, or Ancient Greek and Latin, with advisor approval students may choose a two-semester program of directed research and writing or fulfill the requirement for honors through graduate courses, including at least one seminar course and one course with a substantial research component. In order to qualify for any of these honors tracks, students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and a department GPA of no less than 3.4, must submit an application to their faculty project advisor by April 10 of their junior year, and must have approval from the director of undergraduate studies and department chair. For general information, please refer to Honors in the Major.


The Undergraduate Classics Association

The Undergraduate Classics Association is a student-run organization open to any BU undergraduates who have an appreciation for the Classics. It 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.

The Boston University Philhellenes

The Boston University Philhellenes (BUPh) is a student organization open to all BU undergraduates who associate themselves with Hellenic culture and ideals. It aims to promote the appreciation of Greek culture and its continuous history from antiquity to the present day through cultural events at Boston University and annual summer study in Greece.

Study in Greece or Rome

The department takes part in two programs: the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, a semester-long program offered during the academic year; and the Boston University Philhellenes Summer Study in Greece, which includes study of Greek language (ancient and/or Modern) and culture. The department also collaborates with Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies to sponsor an internship in Nafplio, Greece.

The Scully Summer Travel Fellowship

The Department of Classical Studies offers four summer fellowships to study material culture and archaeological sites of the ancient Mediterranean. Fellowships are up to $7,000.00 each and open to advanced undergraduates with a strong interest in classical archaeology and/or intentions to attend graduate school in Classics and to all Classics graduate students. The fellowship may be used to cover expenses to attend summer programs offered through the American School in Rome (AAR), the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), other programs (upon departmental approval), or (for graduate students) a carefully conceived itinerary of your own design (again, dependent upon departmental review). Applications, including budget and one-page travel plans, should be sent to Professor Scully by the first Monday in April.

Undergraduate Awards and Prizes

The College Prize

The College of Arts & Sciences, on the recommendation of the Department of Classical Studies, awards this prize to the senior who has demonstrated excellence both as a scholar and superior achievement in ancient Greek and Latin and as a member of the classics community in terms of service to the University, college, and/or the department. The award is presented every year on Friday of Commencement Weekend.

The Dean Elsbeth Melville Latin Prize

The Department of Classical Studies, in conjunction with the Center for the Humanities, awards this prize, on the recommendation of the faculty of the Department of Classical Studies, 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 Humanities Foundation award ceremony held each April.

The John Oddy Memorial Award

The Department of Classical Studies, in conjunction with the Center for the Humanities, on the recommendation of the faculty of the Department of Classical Studies, to a junior or senior woman who has distinguished herself in a course in classical history or classical civilization. Applicants need not be in the College of Arts & Sciences. Financial need may be taken into account in making the selection. The award is presented at the Humanities Foundation award ceremony held each April.

The Meyer Reinhold Prize

The Department of Classical Studies awards this prize to one or more undergraduate(s) 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 award is presented at a spring reception hosted by the Department of Classical Studies held each April.

The Ann Vasaly Prize

The Department of Classical Studies awards this prize to the student who has excelled in the study of ancient Greek and Latin. The award is presented at the department’s Commencement ceremony in May.

The Classics House

Students majoring or minoring in Classical Studies are eligible for housing in the Classics House, a co-ed brownstone for 17 students located on picturesque Bay State Road.