Undergraduate Studies in Classics
Classics is the interdisciplinary study of the ancient (1700 BCE-600 CE) Greek and Roman civilizations that gave subsequent European culture its distinctive character. The study of Greek and Roman antiquity includes: Greek and Latin language, literature, and linguistics; ancient philosophy; history; archaeology and art history; papyrology; epigraphy; and numismatics.
The Department of Classics at Cornell has a long tradition of distinguished teaching and scholarship. With 16 faculty members -- and with professors of related subjects in archaeology, comparative literature, history, history of art, linguistics, medieval studies, Near Eastern studies, philosophy, and religious studies -- the range of instruction is large. Included are the traditional study of language, literature, and ancient history and newer approaches, such as comparative study of Mediterranean civilizations and modern literary theory. Because of the large number of faculty and small size of most classes, students of classics are ensured opportunities to work closely with individual professors.
Language Study and Literature in Greek and Latin
For many students, studying Classics begins in college. Introductory courses in Greek and Latin encourage rapid development of reading skills. By the end of their first year, students are ready to read Plato and Homer in Greek, and Cicero, Catullus, and Vergil in Latin. Students who enter Cornell with prior training are placed in the appropriate level by departmental examination. In intermediate level courses, students review grammar and vocabulary and are introduced to various aspects of interpretation. Advanced courses vary in content from year to year to cover the major authors, epochs, and genres of Greek and Latin literature and, through literary and historical interpretation, to develop appreciation of their special characteristics. The recent offerings in Greek have included Homer, the Lyric poets, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Plato, and Aristotle; in Latin, Lucretius, Horace, Ovid, Propertius, Tacitus, Tibullus, the Neronian and Flavian epic poets, and medieval writers. Classics majors are encouraged to enhance their knowledge of the languages with courses in Greek and Latin prose composition.
The Department also offers courses in Greek and Latin historical linguistics and cross-lists courses in Sanskrit, the related Indo-European language of ancient India, and modern Greek.
Classics in Translation
For Classics majors and other interested students, the Department offers a wide variety of courses with readings of ancient sources in English translation. The aim of these courses is to introduce the civilizations of Greece and Rome as expressed in literature, art, material culture, and social and political institutions.
"Greek Experience" and "Roman Experience" are one semester surveys of the literature and thought of ancient Greece and Rome. “Greek Mythology” focuses on myths as the Greeks themselves expressed and understood them, on their influence on the Western tradition of literature and art, and on modern interpretation. “Archaeology of Greek Private Life” and “Archaeology of Roman Private Life” offer an overview of Greek and Roman material culture through every day lives of the Greeks and the Romans.
Other examples of courses are Greek and Roman history, Greek and Roman art, ancient religion, and philosophy.
Courses in classical archaeology range from classroom surveys to field training in Greece and Italy. Archaeology is a multi-disciplinary subject, and offerings by faculty in Classics are coordinated with and supplemented by courses in History of Art and the Archaeology Program.
Classics faculty currently run field projects in Cyprus, focusing on Bronze-Age settlement, and in Italy, focusing on Roman economy and landscapes. Cornell is also home to the Aegean Dendrochronology Project, which conducts summer expeditions. A limited amount of funding for students wishing to participate in these and other archaeological projects is administered by the Archaeology Program.