Classical busts in Klarman Hall
Accessing the past

Department of Classics

Classics is the original interdisciplinary academic field at the heart of both European/western civilization and today’s Liberal Arts education. We teach and research the languages (Greek, Latin), literature, history, philosophy, science, art, and material culture that survive from the worlds of ancient Greece, Rome, and Late Antiquity. Through archaeology and art history we investigate and analyze the material record and environment of these civilizations and their neighbors – accessing a past beyond the texts of the elite and their mostly male voices to explore fully this world from top to bottom.

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What is Classics?

Students standing by sign.

Classics is about learning Latin and Greek

Neither language is spoken today, but hundreds of world-historical masterpieces were written in those two languages. Ancient Greek is the key that unlocks Homer, philosophy, tragedy, comedy, history, particle physics, and half the Bible. Latin is the key that unlocks epic poetry, stage drama, fables, rhetoric, law, and the reawakening of the West in the Renaissance. The two languages together allow you to observe, like a firsthand witness, the downhill slide of Rome’s thousand-year civilization from an American-style democracy to an authoritarian empire. Studying them, and the voices of the women and men who spoke them, reveals more than just the mindset of a people that built the Coliseum and the catacombs. Those voices also reveal the foundations of the modern world order—from secular humanism to religious orthodoxy. They’re also a lot of fun!

Student and professor at archaeological dig

Classics beyond the classroom

Classics doesn’t just involve learning your Latin principal parts (important though they are!). Our students and faculty engage with the Greco-Roman world in multiple ways, whether speaking “living Latin” in Rome, taking part in archaeological digs or traveling seminars to Europe, curating exhibitions, or putting on performances of ancient plays. From experiments with ancient technology to the use of myth in contemporary art, we celebrate and explore the enduring relevance and reinvention of the Classical past within the 21st century.