Classics is the study of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds from many different angles, including language, literature, history, art, archaeology, philosophy, and science. Coursework in Classics can involve everything from learning to read ancient tragedies in their original languages (and even performing in them yourself) to studying what archaeobotanical evidence can tell us about climate change on the millennial scale. Classics students often complement their coursework with summer experiences like language study in Greece and Rome or archaeological fieldwork around the Mediterranean (see Studying abroad).
Classes you might like:
- Greek Mythology
- Great Discoveries in Classical Archaeology
- Conversational Latin
- Identity in the Ancient World
- Introduction to Ancient Rome
- Climate, Archaeology and History
Classics faculty currently run field projects in Cyprus, focusing on Bronze-Age settlements, 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.
As a Classics major, you can immerse yourself in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome through programs in ancient languages, literature, history, archaeology, history of art, science, linguistics and philosophy. Classics majors work closely with individual professors in their areas of expertise, often in small classes, and have many opportunities for independent research and travel. The rigorous analytical training of a Classics degree helps to develop skills that are valued in a wide variety of careers. Only classes passed with a C– or better may be applied to the classics major. One course must yield a seminar paper of at least 4000 words.
The Classics major offers four tracks:
- Classics (combined Latin and Greek emphases)
- Classical Civilization
Interested in majoring in Classics but not sure which track is right for you? Please contact Director of Undergraduate Studies Professor Caitie Barrett who will be happy to discuss them with you.
Careers for Classics Majors
Classics majors will graduate with skills in close reading, detailed research, and writing, well prepared for a wide range of careers. Medical schools and law schools alike strongly favor Classics majors because the major imparts rigorous analytical skills as well as language and communication skills, all developed through coursework that encourages students to think broadly as well as deeply about complex questions and ideas. Classics majors also go on to careers in politics, financial consultancy firms, publishing, and graduate school in a wide range of fields.
Classics students went on to...
- Study Classics at graduate schools including Oxford, Columbia, and Princeton
- Teach in Washington, D.C. public schools
- Professor of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai Medical Center
- Chief Financial Officer of a Manhattan investment company
- Financial and Real Estate Law
There are two tracks for Classics Minors: Classics, which has a language requirement, and Classical Civilization, which does not. Both tracks offer the same areas of concentration: Classical Literature, Ancient History (with emphasis on either Greek or Roman), Ancient Philosophy, Classical Art and Archaeology.
The Minor in Classics consists of five Classics courses at the 2000-level or above, of which at least two must be at the 3000-level or above, and all of which should cohere with the student’s chosen area of concentration, as determined by the student in consultation with the Classics Minor advisor (chosen by the student). The Classics Minor language requirement is fulfilled by passing a 3rd semester class in either Ancient Greek or Latin. Only courses passed with a C- or better may be applied to the Classics minor.
The Minor in Classical Civilization consists of six Classics courses at the 2000- level or above, of which at least two must be at the 3000-level or above, and all of which should cohere with the student’s chosen area of concentration, as determined by the student in consultation with the Classics Civilization Minor advisor (chosen by the student). It does not include a language requirement. Only courses passed with a C- or better may be applied to the Classics minors.
The Arts & Sciences Language Requirement: Latin and Greek
You can use Latin or Greek classes to satisfy your foreign language requirement. Here’s how:
Option 1 is satisfied by taking LATIN 2201 or above. Students can place into LATIN 2201 through placement exams or with an A- or better in LATIN 1202 or 1204. Upon completing 2201, students satisfy Option 1.
Option 2 is satisfied by taking LATIN 1201, 1202, and 1205. The sequence LATIN 1204-1205 does not satisfy Option 2. LATIN 1204 overlaps with LATIN 1202 therefore cannot be taken (or counted toward the degree) after completing LATIN 1202.
Option 1 is satisfied by taking GREEK 2101 or above. Students can place into GREEK 2101 through placement exams or by satisfactory completion of GREEK 1102. Upon completing 2101, students satisfy Option 1.
Option 2 is satisfied by taking GREEK 1101, 1102, and 2101.
Email email@example.com for more information or to schedule a placement exam.
Classics Major Learning Outcomes:
- Demonstrate knowledge of Greek and Latin languages and literatures
- Identify and analyze characteristics of different types of texts and other primary evidence
- Situate evidence about critical concepts, sites, events, and figures within their own historical and cultural context, and in connection or contrast with the contemporary world
- Synthesize and evaluate arguments from secondary scholarship, and compose sustained, evidence-based written work
- Discuss the goals, methods, and disciplinary history of Classical studies
The honors course in Classics gives you the opportunity to research in detail a subject that intrigues you and to write up your results in an extended paper (40–80 pages). You will work independently (with some guidance from your advisor) and thus experience the trials and rewards of research. If you are well prepared and serious in your work, writing a thesis can be the most interesting, fruitful, and probably demanding academic experience of your undergraduate career. For these reasons, the department strongly encourages suitable candidates to consider taking honors.
Before proceeding, however, decide whether this is the best option for you. You need deep interest, even passion, for your topic; mere desire for honorific notation on the transcript seldom sustains honors work. In some cases, two 3000-level courses on central authors or subjects you have not yet studied may be more rewarding than an independent honors project. We hope you will discuss your options with your advisor, the director of undergraduate studies, and other members of the faculty.
Harry Caplan Travel Fellowship
Two Harry Caplan summer travel fellowships are awarded annually to outstanding juniors, not necessarily Classics majors, to support travel or other projects that enhance serious study of the classical cultures of the Near East, Greece, Rome, and Latinate medieval Europe. Harry Caplan was one of Cornell's most renowned and beloved professors of Classics.
Students apply by submitting a short essay describing how they plan to take advantage of the fellowship and demonstrating appropriate background for the project.
Summer Language Study Fellowship
Up to three fellowships are available for summer study in ancient languages. Each fellowship will cover up to $6000 of the costs incurred, and will be funded by a generous donation from the Beatrice R. Kanders Memorial Scholarships. We particularly recommend the courses taught at CUNY, in New York, and at UC Berkeley. You can find out more information about these at the Graduate Center, CUNY's Greek/Latin Institute and Greek/Latin Summer Workshops at UC Berkeley.
Students apply via a brief letter explaining your interest in summer language study, which course you would like to take in the summer and the deadline of the program. Include a brief statement of support based on coursework experience from your language instructor or your advisor if your instructor is not available. Summer funding is contingent on acceptance into an approved program.
Cornell University participates in the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, which offers courses in Latin, Greek, ancient history, art, archaeology, and Italian.
Another opportunity for a semester's study abroad is the College Year in Athens, where courses in Greek, ancient history, art, and archaeology are offered.
In addition, Cornell University is a member institution of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, whose summer sessions are open to advanced undergraduates, and of the American Academy in Rome, which sometimes offers summer programs for mature undergraduates
Detailed information on these programs is available through Global Learning.