Why take courses in this discipline?

In courses in English, Latin, and Greek, students of classics ask enduring and novel questions about the languages, literature, cultures, history, art, archaeology, mythology, and philosophy of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Our holistic approach to these areas informs our understanding of the modern world and Greco-Roman antiquity’s multifaceted influence on it. Students pursue these topics in classes, both at Grinnell and abroad, and through independent research mentored by faculty. Classics majors emerge well prepared for graduate study—in the humanities, law, and medicine—as well as for careers in business, education, service, technology, and many others.

How does this discipline contribute to the liberal arts?

Courses in classics involve language study and the study of culture, human behavior and society, as well as of creative expression. The study of Greek and Latin language and literature instills knowledge and cultivates skills important for communication/writing and contributes to the understanding of the terminology of natural sciences.

What kinds of questions are asked in this discipline?

The conception of liberal education had its origin and earliest development in the classical Greek and Roman worlds, and the study of classical civilization has held a central place in the subsequent history of liberal education. Because of their continuity and comparability, the ancient and modern worlds offer valuable perspectives on each other. Their continuity has long been recognized: many modern languages, institutions, values, and the forms and symbols in which we frame ideas are derived from the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome. But since our modern world differs in important ways from its origins, the study of classics also supplies a comparative perspective that promotes reflective examination of the current assumptions by which we speak, think, and act.

How does a student get started?

Entering students are invited to meet members of the department to discuss how Greek, Latin, and classics courses can constitute or complement their intended program(s) of study. Students who have not yet taken any Latin or Ancient Greek have ample time to complete a classics major.

Any student wishing to enroll in Greek or Latin above the 100 level should consult with a member of the department. Students can be placed into the level appropriate to their preparation as demonstrated in a brief diagnostic test.

For the interested student, there are two possible tracks in the classics major: classical languages and literature, and classical studies. Students who prefer an extensive study of ancient Greek and Latin may choose to read a wide selection of ancient authors on the classical languages and literature track; students who prefer to study Greco-Roman civilization more broadly on the classical studies track may choose from a wide array of courses in English in areas such as ancient history, archaeology and art, philosophy and political thought, as well as Greco-Roman mythology and Indo-European linguistics. The two tracks allow students flexibility to choose the amount of language and cultural studies that they take.

Students can take Elementary Greek (GRE 101) or Latin (LAT 103) every fall, Intermediate Greek (GRE 222) or Latin (LAT 222) every spring, and advanced courses on specific Greek or Latin authors, works, and genres every semester. In addition, from among a wider range of courses in English, students can study ancient philosophy and, with the focus alternating between Greece and Rome, art, archaeology, and history every year.

Humanities I: The Ancient Greek World (HUM 101) introduces students to the foundational authors in Greek literature in translation: Homer, the tragedians, Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle. The course is required for classics majors.

AP/IB Credit:

A 4 or 5 on the AP Latin Literature exam counts for four credits in the humanities division.

Courses in Classics

All Courses in Classics

Classics (in translation), Ancient History, Philosophy, Archaeology, and Linguistics

  • History of Ancient Philosophy
  • Classical Mythology
  • Greek Archaeology and Art
  • Roman Archaeology and Art
  • History of Ancient Greece
  • The Roman Republic
  • The Roman Empire
  • Political Theory I
  • Indo-European Language and Culture


  • Elementary Greek
  • Intermediate Greek
  • Homer
  • Plato
  • Greek Drama
  • Greek Prose Writers
  • Greek Poetry


  • Elementary Latin
  • Intermediate Latin
  • Cicero
  • Vergil
  • Roman Historians
  • Roman Lyric Poetry
  • Roman Thought

Recent Special Topics

  • In Latin: Ovid’s Metamorphoses; Petronius.
  • In English: Between Fact and Fiction: Greek and Roman Historians; Roman Religion, Ritual, and Identities; the Athenian Acropolis

Sample Four-Year Plans for a Classics Major

Language and Literature Track Four-Year Plan
Year Fall Spring

GRE 101 or LAT 103

HUM 101 (or IN SPRING)



begin second language (optional)


continue second language (optional)



or study in Athens or Rome


ARH 248 or 250 or GLS 242; or CLS 3XX

or study in Athens or Rome

Fourth GRE or LAT 3XX Capstone Research (CLS 495 or CLS 399 or 499)
Classical Studies Track Four-Year Plan
Year Fall Spring

LAT 103 or GRE 101

HUM 1O1 (or in spring)

GRE or LAT 222


HIS 255 or 257 or 258; or PHI 231


CLS 242 or 270 or PHI 263


GRE or LAT 3XX (optional)

HIS 255 or 257 or 258; or PHI 231

or study in Athens or Rome

CLS 3XX or GRE or LAT 3XX (optional)

ART 248 or 250 or GLS 242

or study in Athens or Rome


GRE or LAT 3XX (optional)

HIS 255 or 257 or 258; or PHI 231

CLS 3XX (if needed)

Capstone Research (CLS 495 or CLS 399 or 499)

Off-Campus Study

Recommended programs include:

  • College Year in Athens (semester or summer)
  • Intercollegiate Center in Rome (semester)
  • Trinity College’s Rome Campus (semester)
  • American School of Classical Studies (summer)
  • Greek and Latin Summer Workshops, University of California, Berkeley
  • Latin/Greek Institute, City University of New York (summer)
  • Courses taken off-campus count toward the major with the consent and approval of the department.

Contributions to Other Majors/Concentrations

Courses in classics contribute to majors in:

Courses in classics contribute to concentrations in:

Department Events and Opportunities

The McKibben Lecture in Classical Studies is held annually in the spring. Awards, fellowships, etc., include the Lalonde Fellowship for participation in summer academic programs off campus.

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