Classics

Professor David Elmer, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Classics as an intellectual discipline embraces the study of ancient Greece and Rome, two civilizations whose legacy has played a major role in shaping our modern world. The Greeks and Romans produced literature and philosophy of enduring power and impact; they created art and architecture of unsurpassed grace and beauty; they made discoveries in science and math that anticipate principles and theorems re-discovered in the Renaissance; they grappled with problems of economics and governance that still challenge us today. In short, the Greco-Roman world provides the modern student with a laboratory of the human condition. Hence, the Department of the Classics encourages its students to explore the whole range of Greco-Roman civilization from the Bronze Age through Byzantium and medieval Europe to Modern Greece.

To study Classics at Harvard, no prior knowledge of an ancient language is required. Students may either start Greek and/or Latin from scratch, or build upon prior knowledge by taking more advanced courses. Two concentration options are offered within the department: Classical Languages and Literatures, for students wishing to emphasize the study of Greek and Latin literature in the original languages; and Classical Civilizations, for those primarily interested in exploring Greco-Roman culture through an archaeological, historical, or philosophical lens. Classics is essentially inter-disciplinary, combining the study of language, linguistics, and literature; archaeology, art, and architecture; history; philosophy, science, and medicine; and myth and religion. Hence, in addition to its dedicated Joint Concentration in Ancient History (Greek and Roman), which is offered in conjunction with History, the department welcomes joint concentrators combining Classics with a large number of allied fields.

As well as requirements in Greek and/or Latin, all concentrators take at least one of the department’s foundational courses in Greek culture & civilization and Roman culture & civilization (Classical Studies 97a and 97b); in the junior year they choose one of a suite of small-group tutorials in advanced research methods (Classics 98); and in their senior year, all Classics concentrators have the option of writing a thesis under faculty supervision (Classics 99, mandatory for joint concentrators). Beyond these requirements, students have a wide range of courses to choose from, including courses in translation. Furthermore, courses from related departments are regularly cross-listed with Classics, so that students can craft the concentration to accommodate their individual interests.

Classics concentrators have at their disposal the resources of the Herbert Weir Smyth Classical Library, and they are encouraged to conduct primary research on ancient artefacts, coins, manuscripts, and papyri in the unparalleled collections of Houghton Library and the Harvard Art Museums. During the summer, students are given the chance to complement their experience in the classroom by undertaking an internship at one of Harvard’s classical institutes in Washington DC (the Center for Hellenic Studies and Dumbarton Oaks); participating in an archaeological dig; learning to speak Latin in Rome or Greek in Athens; taking summer courses in Italy or Greece; or traveling to Europe (or elsewhere) to learn one of the modern languages that are fundamental for classical scholarship—typically French, German, or Italian.

By mastering Greek and/or Latin and acquiring the skills necessary to analyze and interpret the remains of Greek and Roman culture, students learn to make sense of material that is both dauntingly complex and disconcertingly fragmentary. The effort of trying to understand the thoughts and actions of people who are separated from us by a gulf of two millennia teaches our students to test their assumptions in every human situation. The challenge of finding out about an aspect of Greco-Roman civilization for which no substantial evidence appears to survive develops resourcefulness and flexibility—research skills that can be transferred to any walk of life. Concentrators in Classics learn to think rigorously and to express themselves precisely in both speech and writing. They go on to excel in fields as varied as business, diplomacy, education, finance, journalism, law, and medicine. In short, a training in Classics is applicable to everything.

 

REQUIREMENTS
Classical Languages and Literatures
Basic requirements: 12 courses (48 credits)

  1. Two courses providing a broad introduction to Classical civilization, normally Classical Studies 97a and 97b.
  2. Six courses in Greek and/or Latin, at least two of which must be numbered 100 or above (H and K are considered 100-level), and at least one of which must be selected from the following list: Greek 112a, Greek 112b, Latin 112a, Latin 112b (or equivalent in the case of Byzantine/Modern Greek and Medieval Latin).
  3. One semester of Classics 98, a small-group tutorial, is required of all concentrators in the junior year. The tutorial emphasizes the development of research skills through a close examination of a topic in Greek and Roman literature and/or Greco-Roman civilization.
  4. Three additional courses from among those listed under Classics in the course search in courses.my.harvard.edu including cross-listed courses. Other courses may be counted with approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  5. Note: Two courses counted for concentration may be taken Pass/Fail or, in the case of approved Freshman Seminars, SAT/UNS. Classics 98 must be taken for a letter grade.
  6. Honors: Students wishing to be considered for honors must fulfill the basic requirements as specified above, as well as the following:

-Either-
 

    1. A senior thesis, together with two semesters of the senior tutorial, Classics 99. The thesis must be submitted to the department office on or before the Friday before the spring recess. The length of the thesis should be decided upon by the student and the thesis adviser but should not ordinarily exceed 60 pages of text.

      -Or-
       
    2. Two additional courses in Greek or Latin, both of which must normally be letter-graded with a grade of A- or better:
      • 1. Candidates for High Honors: Two of the following courses: Latin H, K; Greek H, K.
      • 2. Candidates for Highest Honors: Both Latin K and Greek K.
      • 3. Candidates for Honors: Any 100-level course in Greek or Latin, plus one of the following courses: Latin H, K; Greek H, K.

Note: if a student pursues both routes to Honors, the Department's honors recommendation shall be based upon the higher result in the eligible category.

Joint concentration: Classical Languages and Literatures and Allied Field
Basic requirements: Seven letter-graded courses (28 credits) in Classics

  1. Classical Studies 97a or 97b.
  2. Classics 98.
  3. Four courses in Greek and/or Latin, at least two of which must be at the 100 level or above (H and K are considered 100-level), and at least one of which must be selected from the following list: Greek 112a, Greek 112b, Latin 112a, Latin 112b (or equivalent in the case of Byzantine/Modern Greek and Medieval Latin).
  4. One additional course from among those listed under Classics in the course search in courses.my.harvard.edu, including cross-listed courses and either Humanities 10a or Humanities 10b. Other courses may be counted with approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  5. Additional coursework as required by the allied field.
  6. Honors: Thesis required. Two semesters of either Classics 99 or the equivalent in the allied field, as appropriate.

Classical Civilizations
Basic requirements: 12 courses (48 credits)

  1. Two courses providing a broad introduction to Classical civilization, normally Classical Studies 97a and 97b.
  2. Four courses in Greek and/or Latin.
  3. One semester of Classics 98, a small-group tutorial, is required of all concentrators in the junior year. The tutorial emphasizes the development of research skills through a close examination of a topic in Greek and Roman literature and/or Greco-Roman civilization.
  4. Classical Studies 112 Regional Study, a multi-disciplinary and problem-based in-depth survey of a region of the ancient Mediterranean world, to be taken at any stage in the Concentration, provided that both 97a and 97b have been completed or the second of these is being taken concurrently.
  5. Four additional courses from among those listed under Classics in the course search in courses.my.harvard.edu, including cross-listed courses and either Humanities 10a or Humanities 10b. Other courses may be counted with approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  6. Note: Two courses counted for concentration may be taken Pass/Fail or, in the case of approved Freshman Seminars, SAT/UNS. Classics 98 must be taken for a letter grade.
  7. Honors: In addition to the basic requirements set out above, all concentrators in Classical Civilizations who wish to be considered for honors must write a senior thesis by completing two semesters of the senior tutorial, Classics 99. The thesis must be submitted to the department office on or before the Friday before the spring recess. The length of the thesis should be decided upon by the student and the thesis adviser but should not ordinarily exceed 60 pages of text.

Joint concentration: Classical Civilizations and Allied Field
Basic requirements: Seven letter-graded courses  (28 credits) in Classics

  1. Classical Studies 97a or 97b.
  2. Classics 98.
  3. Two courses in Greek and/or Latin.
  4. Classical Studies 112 Regional Study, a multi-disciplinary and problem-based in-depth survey of a region of the ancient Mediterranean world, to be taken at any stage in the Concentration, provided either 97a or 97b has been completed or is being taken concurrently.
  5. Two additional courses from among those listed under Classics in the course search in courses.my.harvard.edu, including cross-listed courses.
  6. Additional coursework as required by the allied field.
  7. Honors: Thesis required. Two semesters of either Classics 99 or the equivalent in the allied field, as appropriate.

Joint Concentration in Ancient History (Greek and Roman)
Basic requirements: Fourteen courses (56 credits)

  1. Concentration requirements for the Joint Concentration in Ancient History (Greek and Roman): 14 courses (56 credits)

  2. Classical Language Courses (4 courses): Four courses of study of one or two classical languages.
  3. Additional Coursework (8 courses)
    1. History 97.
    2. Classical Studies 97a or 97b.
      History 97 is offered in the spring term only; if combining with Classical Studies 97b (on Rome), also offered in the spring, students may choose either to take both during their sophomore spring, or to take one in the sophomore spring and the other in the junior spring.
    3. Classics 98. Must be completed by the end of the junior spring, in preparation for the senior thesis.
    4. Classical Studies 112.
    5. One non-Western History course.
    6. One modern History course.
    7. Two additional electives within Ancient History.
      Additional note: One of the four history courses should be a seminar that results in a research paper of at least 20 pages and involving primary source research and that is completed before the end of the junior year.
  4. Senior Thesis (2 courses): either History 99 or Classics 99. Students may select either seminar.

Please also note the following information:

Students who complete the thesis will be eligible for honors; the department in which the student chooses to take the senior tutorial will be responsible for making the final determination of honors.

Two types of courses count toward Ancient History (Greek and Roman) concentration requirements:

  1. Courses listed in the course catalog's "History" section and "Classics" section, including cross-listed courses.
  2. Courses taught in the General Education and/or Freshman Seminar programs by full members of the History or Classics Department faculty. Students wishing to count such courses toward their concentration requirements should request approval from the relevant Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students may also apply to do an independent study, History 91r or Classics 93r, with a member of the relevant Department; History 91r/Classics 93r can be used to fulfill one of the elective course requirements.

ADVISING

At the beginning of each semester concentrators meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to discuss their Plans of Study and their progress through the concentration. In addition, junior and senior members of the department are available throughout the year to offer advice on particular academic matters as the need arises.

For up-to-date information on advising in Classics, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

RESOURCES

The Smyth Classical Library, on the top floor of Widener Library, is open to all concentrators in the department. It contains an extensive and up-to-date collection of Greek and Latin authors, principal commentaries, works of reference, corpora of inscriptions, and major books on classical archaeology, history, literature, and philosophy. The library is locked at all times because there is no regular attendant. Key-card access will be granted to any concentrator upon request. Items from the McDaniel collection of antiquities illustrating Greek and Roman life, together with an extensive collection of ancient coins, are housed in the Harvard Art Museums. The antiquities are available for study by qualified students.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

For further information about the concentration, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor David Elmer (classicsDUS@fas.harvard.edu, 617-495-4019).

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Classics 34 41 42 36 39 38 37 24 26 25
Classics + another field 4 4 4 4 1 6 5 6 9 7
Another field + Classics 1 0 2 3 5 7 6 4 5 9