Classics, Greek, and Latin are all academic programs within the Department of Classics.
Undergraduate degree: BA in classics
Undergraduate minors: Classical civilization, Greek, Latin
Learning from the Ancients
Say goodbye to your high school textbooks and start turning the pages of ancient manuscripts. Discover how Alexander the Great shaped the Mediterranean’s food scene. Recreate scientific experiments that were conducted by ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. Analyze how gender and sexuality in ancient Greece shaped the societal perceptions of today. The study of classics embraces all aspects of Greek and Roman culture from the prehistoric to the medieval periods, including study of the languages relevant to these societies. But the influence of classical thought did not disappear with the fall of the Greek and Roman empires; many contemporary Western ideas, from atomic theory to democracy, are rooted in the developments of the era.
The UO’s Department of Classics introduces students to the foundational concepts of Western culture and literature through the study of key classical texts of antiquity in Greek and Latin and in translation. The primary mission of the classics department is to examine the classical world using language as a microscope. “Language is a window into the past and when you are reading something in its original text, the words resonate with multiple associations, bringing the past alive in a way that is lost in translation,” says Lowell Bowditch, department head.
You have the flexibility to choose among several majors and concentrations that fit your interests and skills. You might focus on Latin language and literature with a Latin major or concentration, Greek language and literature through a Greek major or concentration, or combine both by choosing a classics major. The precision, concentration, and discipline involved in mastering these languages will train you to think on new and deeper levels. The classical civilization concentration allows you to study the literature and culture of the ancient civilizations using secondary sources and translated texts.
Peel back the layers of time and view the world around you in a new way. Whether you pursue a career in medicine, education, or computer science, the study of classics will transform the way you look at the world. In everything from love to law, you will see the influences of ancient cultures on modern Western concepts.
Points of Interest
- The classics department offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in four concentrations: Greek, Latin, classical civilization, and classics, a combination of Greek and Latin language and literature.
- The classics program aims for all undergraduate students in the department to learn Greek, Latin, or both well enough to read the canon of ancient authors in their original languages.
- Glean knowledge from guest lecturers such as Andrew Dalby, who researches ancient foods, spices, and the gastronomical influence of Alexander the Great on the Mediterranean. Other speakers have presented on topics such as Stonehenge, Greek myth, Cleopatra’s rise to power, and more.
- The classics department is very active in the Archaeological Institute of America, which presents an annual series of presentations from visiting archaeologists and historians.
- Present your work to like-minded peers, faculty members, and professionals in the field at an undergraduate classics conference in Salem at Willamette University.
- Art and Politics in the Ancient World looks at art and architecture by leading figures and states in Egypt and Rome to discern the political environment and ideologies of the ancient world.
- Gender and Sexuality in Antiquity explores the construction of norms of Western sexuality through study of Greek and Roman attitudes toward gender roles, homo- and heterosexuality, the family, and privacy.
- Early China, Ancient Greece examines the relationship between knowledge and wisdom in literature produced by two different ancient civilizations, Greece and China, from 1000 BCE to 86 CE.
- The Age of Alexander covers Greek history from the end of the Peloponnesian War through the rise of Philip of Macedon and on to the career and conquests of Alexander the Great. The course focuses especially on the political, intellectual, and religious history of the ancient world through the Roman conquest and the spread of Christianity.
- Culture and Food delves into the study of food in the ancient Greco-Roman world using historical, literary, and practical approaches.
See more courses offered by the Department of Classics
Dig into the Past
The study of classics is one of the original interdisciplinary majors. You’ll explore history, language, literature, culture, and art. Examine the architecture of ancient Greece with an archaeology class. Plumb the secrets of the ancient Mediterranean world by studying agricultural production and patterns. Everything from the Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius to the study of food and wine is fair game. The variety of subjects gives you a comprehensive understanding of the ancient civilizations that have shaped our world.
Many students take advantage of study abroad opportunities to enhance their in-class learning. Walk the streets of Rome and imagine the intensity of the crowds at the Coliseum. Ponder ancient discourse while sipping coffee across the street from the Acropolis of Athens. The UO study abroad program can help you organize a trip that suits your interests, whether it’s helping on an archaeological dig or visiting temples on the Greek islands. Travel to the places where Western civilization put down its roots and flourished.
The Student Experience
After her first taste of Latin in high school, Molly Milne developed an appetite for all things ancient. With guidance from supportive faculty and a challenging and engaging curriculum, the classics department provided the experience Milne was craving. She tackled critical analyses of multiple texts while absorbing ancient Greek, Latin, and Portuguese before studying abroad in Brazil. If she isn’t reading about ancient artwork at Marche Café, she may be out discovering more of Eugene’s great outdoors or blowing off steam with friends at one of the numerous events on campus. Vickers is interested in pursuing graduate school and art conservation.
Peter Kinzig has been in love with ancient Greek and Roman history since the early years of high school. He is especially interested in how ancient cultures have affected elements of modern-day society such as gender and sexuality. The supportive community of peers and faculty members within the classics department has helped Kinzig tackle challenges like learning languages that haven’t been spoken for centuries. “The classics department has been like a family for me, and I will never forget the field trips to the Portland Art Museum and debating the importance of classics with law students at Rennie’s,” says Kinzig who is looking forward to a future in teaching Latin.
Latin has fascinated Professor Mary Jaeger since her first years in college. “Modern issues in politics, imperialism, geography, and more are relevant to the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations,” says Jaeger. She teaches courses that delve into ancient Greek and Roman culture such as the Food in the Ancient World class, where students make sourdough bread, cheese, and a Roman meal using ancient methods. She has also published books and articles on how Romans wrote about themselves and the importance of mushroom hunting in Latin literature.
Professor Christopher Eckerman’s specialty in ancient Greek lyric poetry grew from the inspiration of a charismatic mentor in college. Now, Eckerman strives to inspire the students in his classes. “I enjoy every class I teach because each has its own challenges and rewards,” says Eckerman, who teaches a variety of classes ranging from popular ancient literature and mythology to ancient Greek and Latin grammar. His recent research includes topics on papyrology (the study of ancient papyrus) and the architecture of ancient sanctuaries and their depiction in ancient poetry. Eckerman is currently writing an article about Pindar’s representation of Olympia.
With strong liberal arts training in classics, you can go on to study law, finance, education, medicine, or a number of other professions. High school Latin teachers are in high demand, and many prestigious professional schools look for students with the kind of broad-based liberal arts training offered by the UO classics department. A bachelor’s degree in classics is excellent training for work in museums, galleries, auction houses, and other storehouses of antiquity. You can prepare for graduate studies and a career in Greek or Roman archaeology through interdisciplinary course work in classics, art history, and history.
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