The Classics

Statue of AchillesThe Department of Classics offers instruction across the range of Greco-Roman civilization from the Bronze Age through Byzantium and medieval Europe to modern Greece, and in all major areas, including language, linguistics, literature, archaeology, history, philosophy, and religion. Undergraduates may pursue a Concentration and Secondary Field.

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Naomi Weiss

Gateway Courses

Spring 2022

GENED 1110: Classical Mythology: Myth in Antiquity and Today
Brigitte Libby

The myths of ancient Greece and Rome embody both our worst nightmares and our most fabulous fantasies. Heroism, happy endings, and everlasting love blend with disturbing themes of parricide, cannibalism, incest, misogyny, and unthinkable violence. The resulting stories have fascinated generations of artists, writers, and thinkers, and this course will serve as an introduction to this distant but strangely familiar world. We will move from the very first works of Greek literature through the classic Greek tragedies and the Roman tales in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Along the way, we will ask these fundamental questions: What is “mythology”? What can these ancient stories tell us about ourselves as human-beings, and why are they still so resonant thousands of years later? And how does mythology both ancient and modern continue to reflect and shape our world view today? We will use examples from classical mythology to see how a society can re-remember and revise traditional stories to fit changing cultural circumstances and political ideologies. Our discussions will consider ancient rationalizations of myth, psychoanalytic approaches to myth, the use of myth in politics, and the reception of classical myth in the modern world.

GENED 1168: Tragedy Today
Naomi Weiss

“It’s a sad tale, it’s a tragedy / It’s a sad song…. We’re gonna sing it anyway.” So sings Hermes at the start of Hadestown, the hit broadway show that deals with capitalism, demagoguery, borders, and climate change. Based on the ancient artform of tragedy, this musical provokes its audiences to reflect on very modern concerns; it also, as the show’s creator Anaïs Mitchell says, “lets us cry.”

This course is about how and why ancient Greek tragedy provides such a powerful lens for exploring some of today’s most pressing sociopolitical issues. In Athens in the fifth century BCE, thousands would gather at the theater to grapple, through the medium of tragedy, with questions that continue to preoccupy us today: What happens if a woman is in power? How different are we from foreigners? Or what happens to the victims of war? 2500 years later, ancient Greek tragedy is all around us, from Broadway to hip hop to Game of Thrones to TV advertisements. Often it is used to expose societal problems that can be all too easy to ignore: Luis Alfaro’s play Mojada, for example, turns Euripides’ Medea into a story of undocumented immigrants in contemporary America. Often it provides a model for explorations of identity—as we can see when Freddie Mercury becomes Dionysus in Queen’s iconic video for “I Want to Break Free.” Often it provides a form of therapy, as the Theater of War project aims to do by using staged tragic readings as a springboard for discussing PTSD among military veterans. In this course you will read, watch, and listen to some of the most recent reincarnations of ancient Greek tragedies alongside the original plays. You will think about how such an old artform can change how we respond to 21st-century problems, and how it can make us think differently about ourselves.

CLS-STDY 97B: Introduction to the Ancient Roman World
Harry Morgan

This course has three components: a chronological survey of Roman history from the beginnings to Late Antiquity; thematic explorations of key features of culture and daily life in Rome as well as other parts of Roman Italy and the provinces (including religion, law and government, elite society, Romanization, urban topography, etc.); and an introduction to the tools and methods available for research on the Roman world, with an emphasis on material culture and documentary sources.

CLS-STDY 137/GREEK 137: Euripides as Anthropologist
Gregory Nagy

Euripides as anthropologist. The Hippolytus and the Bacchae, with selections also from the satyr-drama Cyclops. The texts are to be read in the original Greek by language-track students (GREEK 137) but with variations as to length of assignments for different students with different levels of preparation; also open to students who would read the dramas in translation (CLS-STDY 137). Students who chose the second option (CLS-STDY 137) would be encouraged to explore comparative or theoretical approaches to Euripides, and creative projects can be substituted for essay-writing. Students who are concentrators in non-Classics programs, not only Comparative Literature, History and Literature, and Social Studies but also any other program, are encouraged to join.

CLS-STDY 165: Medicine in the Greco-Roman World
Mark Schiefsky

Theories and practices of health and healing in the ancient Greco-Roman world, with special emphasis on the relationship of learned medicine to philosophy and other healing traditions.

GREEK 1X: Accelerated Introductory Ancient Greek 1
Ivy Livingston

Greek 1x is the first half of a two-semester intensive introduction to ancient Greek. Participants will begin to gain direct access to the literature and culture of Greece through its writings at a more rapid pace than Greek 1. The specific dialect studied is that of Athens, which is the language of, e.g., Plato, Euripides, and Thucydides, as well as the basis for the language of the New Testament.

LATIN 1X: Accelerated Introductory Latin 1
Ivy Livingston

Latin 1x is the first half of a two-semester intensive introduction to the Latin language. Participants will begin to gain direct access to the literature and culture of the Roman world through its writings at a more rapid pace than Latin 1.