Why Study Classics

Classics used to be conceived of the as the study of “Dead White Men by Live White Men.” Such a picture, however, describes neither the ancient Mediterranean world nor the modern discipline of classics. Classics is the study of the civilizations which flourished in and around the ancient Mediterranean Sea – a world characterized by extraordinary ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity. To study classics is to engage with the rich variety of the remains of these ancient civilizations: their art, literature, philosophy, music, theater, politics. Because Classics is a discipline that takes as its subject entire cultures, classicists engage with a variety of modern academic fields. In this sense, classics is among the most all-encompassing and flexible of disciplines in the humanities. 

But the best reason to study Classics is the material itself.  Ancient art, literature, architecture, science, philosophy and law have survived the millennia partly due to chance but also because of their enduring power to inspire thought.  The classical tradition is good to think with – engaging with the remains of the ancient world offers a means of thinking productively about issues which are timeless: mortality, desire, the nature of political communities, the difference between the human and the divine, the impact of the past on the present. What is more, through the study of Latin and/or ancient Greek, classics students develop linguistic and analytical skills which serve them well in a variety of future professional contexts.

So yes, majoring or minoring in classics might make you a better lawyer, doctor, investment banker, or web designer, but also, like all fields in the humanities, the study of the ancient world has unlimited potential to make you a more thoughtful, articulate, and critically astute human being.

Learning Objectives

A student who completes a B.A. in Classics at the University of Southern California should meet the following objectives of the major:

  • Have an understanding of the historical and cultural development of Greek and Roman civilizations in the broader context of the ancient Mediterranean world
  • Demonstrate familiarity with key texts, ideas, and physical remains of Greek and Roman antiquity
  • Gauge the relevance of classical studies to at least one other culture, discipline, or historical period; and, in particular, evaluate use of classical values and themes in contemporary political, moral, and aesthetic discourse
  • Know how to use research materials and apply scholarly and theoretical perspectives to independent study of Greek and Roman language, literature, and culture

If emphasizing language study as part of the major:

  • Be able to read simple texts of prose and poetry in Greek or Latin (or both) and to understand and evaluate information provided in lexica, commentaries, grammars, etc.
  • Department of Classics
  • University of Southern California
  • THH 256
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0352