In today’s world everything from Coca Cola to cars can be called ‘classic.’ But in its earliest sense this word, Latin in origin, was used to describe the literatures of Greece and Rome because they were ‘first-class’, the best of their kind. As an academic field today, Classics is the study of these languages and literatures and of the cultures of which they were a part, as well as the study of the continuing impact that antiquity has had on the modern world. Although Latin and ancient Greek are seldom spoken today, they have left an indelible impact on modern languages such as English, Spanish, and French. Furthermore, the ideas given voice in the Greek of Homer or Plato and in the Latin of Ovid or Cicero have shaped the Western tradition from which America emerged. Indeed, America is a product, in part, of the renaissance or ‘rebirth’ of ancient culture that characterized the years after 1400.
Even if you do not have time to study Latin or Greek or to major in Classics, you can continue your study of antiquity through courses taught in English on a wide range of topics. Many academic fields today have their roots in classical antiquity (even ‘cybernetics’ derives from a Greek word!). So it shouldn't be surprising to find that Classics is an interdisciplinary field which has contributed to the development of fields such as politics, psychology, and literary criticism. Or that Classics applies to its own work the latest approaches developed in new fields such as reception studies, women's studies and archaeology. In the Classics Department you can study such diverse topics as ancient technology, Hollywood's continuing fascination with ancient Greece and Rome, or Thomas Jefferson's love for ancient architecture and the role he played in turning Washington, D.C. into a modern ‘classical’ city.
The Department offers instruction under three different headings: CLAS, GREK, and LATN. CLAS courses deal with various aspects of the ancient world utilizing English language texts and works of Greek and Latin literature in English translation. CLAS courses do not provide instruction in the ancient languages nor will they satisfy the Global Engagement requirement in the College of Arts and Humanities. GREK and LATN courses utilize English language texts as well as material in Greek or Latin. They are designed to help students to master the Latin or Greek language and can be used to satisfy the College's Global Engagement requirement.