Department of Classics

A Journey of Discovery

Porter's Gate with Greek Inscription Welcome to the riches of Classics! Our students and faculty, a tightknit community, work closely together on a journey of discovery, exploring two of the most dynamic and fascinating civilizations in history. We delve into the past on a daily basis, always bringing new questions and new perspectives. From this interaction we gain fuller understanding of both the past and the present, and we learn how to shape the future. Tradition and innovation are two sides of the same coin.

Why Study Greek and Latin?

Greek and Latin provide unique skills. The modern languages commonly studied share grammatical structures that are similar to English, but Greek and Latin are different. By learning a different system for creating meaning, students of Greek and Latin learn how languages work, from the inside out. The study of Greek and Latin, therefore, is the study not only of a specific language, but of language in general.

Classicists have little trouble learning derivative languages (French, Spanish, Italian, modern Greek) but are also able to adjust to completely unrelated language structures (Arabic, Swahili, Russian, Chinese, etc.) with aplomb. That’s why so many classicists have worked for the CIA and U.S. foreign service (for instance).

Knowledge of different linguistic structures also provides students with a new appreciation for the particular limitations and unique capabilities of English. This fosters an innovative and developed English prose style and a finely-honed faculty for critiquing the gaps between language and reality. That’s why students of Greek and Latin often pursue careers in law, education, information science, theology, and publishing. Here are some of the most famous students of the classics of the past century: Sigmund Freud, C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Vince Lombardi, J. K. Rowling, Anthony Fauci. If we expanded to include famous classically-trained minds before 1900, the list would be absurdly long. [Read more on careers in Classics.]

How to get this: Add the A.B. program alongside your other major(s); take Greek or Latin to fulfill your Gen. Ed. language requirement; major or minor in Classics (A.B.)

Why Study Classical Civilization?

Many students study the classics without learning Greek or Latin. Like the language courses, this program of study enables an ascent from the particular to the universal. Classics students learn to recognize the patterns in human development—how societies form, function, and dissolve; how humans embed complicated messages (often untrue!) in compelling language; how arguments about abstract ideas (justice, democracy, freedom) shape human history; how the past has been used to shape the future, for good and for ill. You will gain a broad view of the foundations of American, European, and Mediterranean civilizations from multiple disciplinary perspectives and learn how to apply your knowledge to the present day. This extensive appreciation of the distinctive qualities of humanity, grounded in a particular historical tradition, prepares our students for participation and leadership in any human association. (Classics is, after all, the original “humanities” department. See our history page.)

That’s why the careers that students of Greek and Latin pursue are incredibly diverse: law, education, medicine, theology, information science, civil/foreign service, consulting, publishing, administration. Any field that requires high-level critical thinking, research, and communication is likely to have a few Classics majors in it. [Read more on careers in Classics.]

How to get this: take a Classics course to fulfill your Gen. Ed. Humanities requirement; major or minor in Classics (B.A.)

Interested in getting started? See our current offerings.

Department News

ClassiCasts Episode 5: Jules Riddle and MC Manning
Posted on 6 May 2020 | 10:12 pm
In this episode of ClassiCasts, Dr. Overholt speaks with current College of Charleston students and classics majors Jules Riddle and MC Manning about their experience at CofC and their thoughts about the field.   Musical Credits: Realizer by Kevin MacLeod … Continue reading
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ClassiCasts, Episode 4: Dr. Allison Sterrett-Krause
Posted on 24 February 2020 | 12:19 pm
In this episode of ClassiCasts, Dr. Overholt speaks with Dr. Allison Sterrett-Krause, an assistant professor in the Department of Classics. Dr. Sterrett-Krause is a specialist in the archaeological study of ancient glass here at the College of Charleston where she … Continue reading
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