What is a Classical Studies Degree?

Students of classical studies explore the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome and their remarkable impact on the world as we know it today. They study the religion, law, politics, mythology, art, literature, history, archaeology, philosophy, and language of Greek and Roman society. In doing so, they come to understand and appreciate some of the greatest accomplishments in human thought and art.

Program Options

Bachelor’s Degree in Classical Studies – Four Year Duration
Bachelor’s programs in classical studies provide students with the fundamental knowledge and skills to approach the ancient world from a variety of historical, philosophical, and linguistic perspectives. Some programs offer concentration options in Greek and Latin languages and Greek and Roman literature, culture, and history. Depending on their school, students may be able to participate in archaeological digs and take advantage of study abroad opportunities.

The classical studies curriculum at the bachelor’s level includes courses such as the following:

  • Elementary Classical Greek
  • The Ancient Greek Novel
  • Ancient Greek Tragic Drama
  • Greek Comedy
  • Greek Rhetoric
  • Elementary Latin
  • Roman Epic Poetry
  • Roman Rhetoric
  • The Worlds of Greece and Rome
  • Myth and Imagination in Ancient Greece and Rome
  • Egypt in the Greek and Roman Mediterranean
  • The Roots of Western Culture: The Ancient World
  • Plato and Aristotle
  • The World of the Ancient Greeks
  • Ancient Philosophy and Political Theory
  • Children and Childhood in the Ancient Mediterranean World
  • Eros and Amor: Sex and Gender in Greco-Roman Literature
  • Greek and Roman Biography
  • The Roman Revolution
  • Spectacle and Society in Ancient Rome
  • Sports and Games in the Ancient World
  • Inventing Barbarians: Race and Identity in the Ancient World
  • Egypt from Alexander to Cleopatra
  • Caligula, Claudius, and Nero: Roman Emperors between Myth and History
  • War and Society in Ancient Greece
  • Problems in Roman History: Augustus and the Augustan Revolution
  • Clash of Civilizations? Cross-Cultural Contacts between Ancient Greece and Persia
  • Socrates
  • Roman Spain: Archaeology and History
  • Food and Society in the Ancient World
  • Religion and Society in Ancient Greece
  • Roman Literature and Culture
  • Law and Culture in the Ancient World
  • Origins of Christianity

Master’s Degree in Classical Studies – Two Year Duration
Classical studies master’s programs offer a broad range of courses and research opportunities in literature, history, and material culture. Programs also provide strong Greek and Latin language training.

While master’s candidates have a great deal of freedom in choosing their courses, most schools require that all graduate students take a course in classical studies research methods, which serves as a basis for their ultimate research project or thesis. Elective courses focus on investigations of selected themes, topics, time periods, methods, genres, artistic media, or styles.

Here is a snapshot of a typical curriculum offered at this level:

Research Methods in Classical Studies – exploration of the various methodologies involved in studying the ancient Mediterranean, with a focus on Greco-Roman civilization and its transmission to the modern world

Sample Elective Courses

  • Studies in Greek Literature
  • Studies in Latin Literature
  • Studies in Ancient Literature
  • Studies in Greek Art and Architecture
  • Studies in Roman Art and Literature
  • Studies in Ancient Art and Architecture
  • Topics in Greek History
  • Topics in Roman History
  • Topics in Ancient History
  • Classical Studies Abroad – a combination of academic study and firsthand investigation of museums and ancient sites, normally in Greece and/or Italy
  • Topics in Greek Language – reading of original material in ancient Greek with a focus on the advanced study of the language itself; possible topics include Greek palaeography (the study of ancient and medieval handwriting) and epigraphy (the study of written matter recorded on hard or durable material); advanced Greek composition, grammar, and reading; Greek philosophy and poetry
  • Topics in Latin Language – reading of original material in Latin with a focus on the advanced study of the language itself; possible topics include Latin palaeography; Latin epigraphy; advanced Latin composition, grammar, and reading; Medieval Latin

Doctoral Degree in Classical Studies – Six Year Duration
The Doctoral Degree in Classical Studies prepares students to be teachers and scholars of classical antiquity. Programs are centered on the study of the classical languages, Greco-Roman culture, and methods of research for the classical world. Typically, successful applicants have a minimum of three years of Greek and Latin. Qualifying exams commonly test candidates’ proficiency in the following:

  • Translation of passages from Greek authors
  • Translation of passages from Latin authors
  • The history of Greek literature
  • The history of Latin literature
  • A special topic or author in an area of study different from that chosen for the doctoral thesis

Degrees Similar to Classical Studies

The focus of archaeology degree programs is the study of how people lived in the past. Students of this social science learn about the culture and evolution of extinct civilizations. They attend lectures and work in labs and on research projects. They get a sense of archaeology degree jobs by conducting excavations to recover artifacts like tools, clothing, decorations, and ancient ruins.

Art History
Students of art history study the history and development of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, filmmaking, and architecture.

Comparative Literature
This field studies the literature and literary traditions of two or more different countries, cultures, or languages. Examples of courses in comparative literature are literature of the Americas, literature of China and Japan, romanticism, and tragedy.

History is the study of change over time. Degree programs in the field examine political history, diplomatic/international relations history, cultural/ideological history, social/living standards history, economic history, intellectual/philosophical history, and military/armed conflict history.

Linguistics explores the nature of language variations and dialects, how language evolves over time, how it is processed and stored in the human brain, and how it is acquired. It is the scientific study of language and communication, both within a single language and across language groups.

The primary sub-areas of linguistics are phonetics – the study of the production, acoustics, and hearing of speech sounds; phonology – the patterning of sounds; morphology – the structure of words; syntax – the structure of sentences; semantics – meaning; and pragmatics – language in context.

Medieval Studies
Medieval studies exposes students to the medieval civilizations of Europe and the Middle East. That simple definition, however, does not begin to articulate its breadth. Medieval studies is not a narrow field. To understand its diverse subject matter, students of the discipline draw on the multiple perspectives of history, religion and philosophy, language and literature, and fine arts. Because each of these perspectives plays a part in defining societies, cultures, nations, empires, evolutions, and revolutions.

Museum Studies
Students who complete a ‘museology’ or museum studies degree program acquire the skills needed to conserve, preserve, organize, and exhibit artwork, artifacts, and other objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest. They learn about the four basic types of museums – art, history, science, and nature – and how to manage their collections.

Philosophy encourages the asking of big questions and the formulation of arguments to attempt to answer them. Who are we? Why are we here? What do we believe? Why do we believe it? What is right and wrong in life? What is true and false? What is real and unreal? Philosophy is concerned with the nature of existence and knowledge.

Religious Studies
The focus of religious studies degree programs is the nature and origin of religious belief and traditions. Coursework includes the study of specific religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Catholicism, as well as religious history, politics, and anthropology.

Skills You’ll Learn

In addition to developing knowledge in Ancient Greek and Roman cultures and languages, students of classical studies gain these very transferable skills:

  • Ability to learn and understand challenging subjects
  • Ability to research, classify, and analyze materials, including statistics
  • Ability to critically evaluate resources to help formulate arguments
  • Ability to articulate arguments both orally and in written form
  • Ability to think and write under pressure, to manage workload, and to meet deadlines
  • Ability to work creatively and collaboratively with others
  • Ability to identify problems and their possible solutions
  • Broad historical and cultural knowledge
  • Curiosity

What Can You Do with a Classical Studies Degree?

Classical studies spans art, history, archaeology, architecture, language and literature, and philosophy and religion. The field attracts people who are passionate, curious, innovative, and socially engaged. Classical studies grads can apply these qualities to a variety of careers in many areas, from education and business to non-profits, the arts, and communications.

Some of the roles listed below may at first appear at odds with this degree. But it is important to realize that earning a classical studies degree lays a strong academic foundation, one that can be a launching pad to diverse opportunities in the world of work – sometimes with, and sometimes without, additional education.


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