Classics Department

Professors: Robert D. Brown (Chair), M. Rachel Kitzinger, Robert L. Pounder (Assistant to the President); Assistant Professors: Rachel Friedmana, J. Bertrand Lott; Blegen Research Fellow: Jacqueline Long (Loyola University, Chicago).

Students may major in Classical Studies, with a concentration in Greek, in Latin, or in Ancient Societies or elect a correlate sequence in Greek, in Latin, or in Ancient Societies.

Requirement for Concentration in Classical Studies: Greek: 11 units consisting of the following courses: 6 units of Greek, including two at the 300-level; Classics 102 and Classics 103; Classics 216; 1 unit of 200-level work from among Classics 212, 213, 214, 215, or Classics/College Course 101: Civilization in Question, or another relevant 200-level course from the college curriculum; Greek 305 or Greek 306-307: Senior Project.

Requirement for Concentration in Classical Studies: Latin: 11 units consisting of the following courses: 6 units of Latin, including two at the 300-level, Classics 102 and Classics 103; Classics 217; 1 unit of 200-level work from among Classics 212, 213, 214, 215, or Classics/College Course 101: Civilization in Question, or another relevant 200-level course from the college curriculum; Latin 305 or Latin 306-307: Senior Project.

Requirements for Concentration in Classical Studies : Ancient Societies: 11 units consisting of the following courses: 3 units of Greek or Latin; Classics 102 and Classics 103; Classics 216 or 217; 2 units from among 200- or 300-level Greek or Latin, or Classics 212, 213, 214, 215 or Classics/College Course 101: Civilization in Question, or another relevant course from the college curriculum; two 300-level courses, including 301 and/or 302 and another relevant 300-level course from the college curriculum; Classics 305 or Classics 306-307: Senior Project.

Requirements for Correlate Sequences in Greek or Latin: 6 units, to include 5 units of either Greek or Latin, of which at least one must be at the 300-level; 1 unit chosen from the Vassar curriculum in consultation with a departmental adviser. In addition to courses offered by the Department of Classics, possible choices include Art 210, 211, 310, Drama 221, Philosophy 101 and 320.

Requirements for Correlate Sequence in Ancient Societies: 6 units, to include one year of either Greek or Latin; one of either Classics 102 or Classics 103; either Classics 216 or 217; two other units from courses taught in translation above the 100-level, one of which must be a 300-level course.

Those interested in completing a correlate sequence should consult as soon as possible with a member of the department to plan their course of studies. 

Any course offered by the Department of Classics may be elected (by non-majors only) under the NRO. Courses elected under the NRO before the declaration of the major will be counted toward the major.

Recommendations: For graduate study, command of both classical languages is essential; a reading knowledge of French and German is also desirable.

Advisers: The department.

Courses in Classical Civilization


I. Introductory

 
101a. Civilization in Question
(1)
(Same as College Course 101)
 
102b. Reading Antiquity
(1)
From the great epics of Homer and Vergil to the intimate lyrics of Sappho and Catullus, the literature of Greece and Rome presents a vast array of forms, subject matter, and styles that played a formative role in the western literary tradition and continue to challenge the imagination. This course tackles the question of how to read classical literature, with an understanding of the cultural conditions and assumptions that went into its making. The topics focus on issues where a twenty-first century perspective may make it difficult for a reader to understand an ancient text. These include the roles of orality, literacy, tradition, and innovation in the composition of ancient literature; polytheism and the relationship of cult, ritual, and myth; ancient concepts of the community and its social constituents; the poet’s persona and the literary construction of individuality. Readings in English translation are selected from a representative variety of Greek and Roman texts by such authors as Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, Euripides, Catullus, Vergil, Livy, and Ovid. Ms. Friedman, Mr. Brown.
 
103a. Crosscurrents: History and Culture of the Ancient Mediterranean
(1)
The axiom of Ancient History that navigable water enables communication is nowhere so true as with the Mediterranean Sea, around which there grew up in antiquity the cultures of, e.g., Egypt, Greece, Rome, Asia Minor, Syria, and North Africa. This course provides an introduction to the ancient Mediterranean from the earliest cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt (c.3000 BCE) to the beginnings of the Christian Middle Ages. Topics such as trade, migration, immigration, conquest, and imperialism are used to illustrate both historical developments and complex cultural interactions. Through primary and secondary readings, students are asked to consider questions like: How do cultures ‘interact?’ What does it mean for one culture to ‘borrow’ from another? What ‘belongs’ to a culture? How do cultures conceive of their debts to, and interactions with, other cultures? Mr. Lott.
 
152b. Ancient Mythologies
(1)
(Same as Jewish Studies 152) In searching for the roots of western culture, we must turn back both to Homer and the Bible, Athens and Jerusalem, Greece and Israel. In this course we devote ourselves to a comparative look at the mythologies of the ancient Greeks and the ancient Israelites with a view toward understanding both the convergences and divergences of these two foundational traditions. Among the topics we consider are: creation myths, family dynamics, the hero’s journey and the idea of homeland, in addition to readings from Homer and the Hebrew Bible, Greek tragedy, Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Library of Appolodorus. Ms. Friedman.
       Open to freshmen only.
 

II. Intermediate

 
[210a. Greek Art and Architecture]
(1)
(Same as Art 210)
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[211 b. Roman Art and Architecture]
(1)
(Same as Art 211)
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[212a. Tragedy and the Athenian Polis]
(1)
This course studies a number of plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides to understand tragedy both as a dramatic genre and as a critique of the social, religious, political, and familial structures of Athens in the fifth century BCE. All materials are in English translation. Ms. Kitzinger.
       Prerequisite: Classics 101, 102 or 103 or special permission.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[213b. The Culture of War]
(1)
An exploration of the ideals, practices, and moral problems engendered by war. The course focuses on two Greek wars—one mythical, one historical. We begin with the legendary Trojan War and the ensuing conflict of Aeneas with the native peoples of Italy, as described in Homer’s Iliad and Vergil’s Aeneid. Turning to historical Greece, we study the ruinous Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta (431-404 BCE). Our main text is the classic account of Thucydides, whose treatment of causation, enmity, leadership, heroism, morality, and other aspects of war we compare with the epics of Homer and Vergil. For a different perspective on the Peloponnesian War, we also read at least one of the “peace” plays of the comic dramatist Aristophanes (The Archarnians Peace, and Lysistrata). Finally, we examine the complex interplay between fictional and real war in Euripides’ Trojan Women, an Athenian tragedy set in Troy but composed during—and partly in response to—the Peloponnesian War. Mr. Brown.
       Prerequisite: Classics 101, 102 or 103 or special permission.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
214a. Male and Female in Greek and Roman Literature and Myth
(1)
This course explores the way male and female roles are defined and viewed in ancient literature in both the private sphere of the family and in the public sphere. In addition to discussing literary texts where gender roles are central to the content, we put the definitions and points of view expressed in these texts next to the evidence for the actual conditions of daily life, as far as they can be reconstructed, and next to the constructions of gender which emerge in myths about divine figures. We read literary texts from a number of genres: examples of texts we read are parts of the Odyssey, poems of Sappho and Alcaeus, Aeschylus’ Oresteia and Euripides’ Hippolytus, comedies of Aristophanes, poems of Catullus, Propertius and Tibullus, plays of Plautus and Terence, and Ovid’s Art of Love and love poems. In addition, we look at speeches from law courts and archaeological remains as evidence for daily life and the Homeric Hymns and Ovid’s Metamorphoses for the comparative evidence of divine models. Ms. Kitzinger.
       Prerequisite: Classics 101, 102, or 103, or special permission.
 
215b. The Rome of Caesar Augustus: Politics, Art, and the Creation of the Empire
(1)
The rise and reign of the first Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus (43BCE-14CE), was an age of complex contradictions, nuanced evolutions, and ongoing experimentation. It stood between Republic and Empire, when “liberty” became dynastic monarchy. It was marked by domestic harmony, economic growth, and government sponsored cultural excellence in the arts; it was also a time of imperial conquests, book burnings, and the brutal repression of political opponents, including Augustus’ own daughter and granddaughter. This class approaches the Rome of Augustus from several directions, considering history, literature, art, architecture, religion, the economy, and politics. We read Augustus’ autobiographical epitaph; the works of Vergil, Horace, and Ovid; and the historical and biographical treatments of Velleius, Tacitus, and Suetonius. More humble inscriptions left to us by the urban populace are also an important source for the period. Finally, we evaluate the claim that Augustus “found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble” by considering his major building projects and the programmatic reshaping of Rome into a capital city for the Emperor and the Empire. Mr. Lott.
       Prerequisite: Classics 101, 102, or 103, or special permission.
 
[216a. History of the Ancient Greeks]
(1)
(Same as History 216) This course examines the history and culture of the ancient Greeks from the emergence of the city-state in the eighth century BCE to the conquests of Alexander the Great in 335 BCE. In addition to an outline of the political and social history of the Greeks, the course examines several historical, cultural, and methodological topics in depth, including the emergence of writing, Greek colonialism and imperialism, ancient democracy, polytheism, the social structures of Athenian society, and the relationship between Greeks and other Mediterranean cultures. Students both read primary sources (for example, Sappho, Tyrtaios, Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristophanes, and Plato) and examine sites and artifacts recovered through archaeology; the development of students’ critical abilities to evaluate and use these sources for the study of history is a primary goal of the class.
       Prerequisite: Classics 101, 102, or 103, or 1 unit in History or special permission.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
217a. History of the Ancient Romans
(1)
(Same as History 217) This course examines the history of the ancient Romans from the foundation of their city around the eighth century BCE to the collapse of their Mediterranean Empire in the fifth century CE. The course offers a broad historical outline of Roman history, but focuses on significant topics and moments in Roman history, including the Republican aristocracy, the civil and slave wars of the Late Republic, the foundation of the Empire by Caesar Augustus, urbanism, the place of public entertainments (gladiatorial combats, Roman hunts, chariot races, and theater) in society, the rise of Christianity, the processes of Romanization, and barbarization, and the political decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Students read primary sources such as Plautus, Cicero, Livy, Tacitus, and Suetonius, and secondary accounts dealing with important issues such as slavery, religious persecution and multiculturalism. Students also examine important archaeological sites and artifacts. The development of students’ critical abilities to evaluate and use these sources for the study of history is a primary goal of the class. Mr. Lott.
       Prerequisite: Classics 101, 102, or 103, or 1 unit in History or special permission.
 
298a or b. Independent work
(1/2 or 1)
 

III. Advanced

 
301b. Seminar in Classical Civilization
(1)
Daily Life in Antiquity: Akrotiri and Pompeii. The volcanic eruptions that buried the Roman resort city of Pompeii in 79 CE and the Aegean port town of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini/Thera in the seventeenth century BCE resulted in the preservation of these two important sites to such an extent that their houses, their property, their neighborhoods and even their graffiti remained nearly intact across the centuries. This course focuses on the ways in which these archaeological finds illuminate the practice of daily life within each of these cities by examining the physical and social contexts occupied by the inhabitants of Akrotiri and Pompeii. Topics explored include public and domestic architecture, wall-paintings, religious practice, and trade and economic production. We address in particular the impact of urban life upon the individual and the family. Ms. Olsen.
 
302a. The Blegen Seminar
(1)
The course is offered by the Blegen Distinguished Visiting Research Professor or the Blegen Research Fellow in Classics, appointed annually to pursue research and lecture on his/her scholarly concerns in classical antiquity. We encourage students to take note of the fact that each Blegen Seminar is uniquely offered and will not be repeated. Since the topic changes every year, the course may be taken for credit more than once.
       Topic for 2003/04: Biography and Scandal. This cross-cultural seminar explores the pleasures of biography, focusing especially on the late-antique collection of imperial biographies known as the Historia Augusta. How do the Lives of state leaders draw our, readers’, interest? How do rulers’ lives inform ours, so that their biographies map a heritage we share? How do researched fact and imagined re(-)creation intersect when Lives are told? The Historia Augusta combines sober truths with unbridled fancies in various ways concerning emperors ranging in time from Hadrian to Cams and his sons and in character from Marcus Aurelius to Elagabalus. Scandal and humor periodically spice both the facts and the inventions. We endeavor to recover a sense of what these Lives meant to late antique Roman readers, concerned with their Roman heritage in a changing world, by studying them in conjunction with selections from important Classical models of biography. Ms. Long.
 
305a or b. Senior Project
(1)
 
306a-307b. Senior Project
(1/2, 1/2)
 
[310b. Seminar in Ancient Art]
(1)
(Same as Art 310)
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
399. Senior Independent Work
(1)
 

Courses in Greek Language and Literature


I. Introductory

 
105a-106b. Elementary Greek
(1)
Introduction to the language. Readings in the New Testament and Plato. Ms. Olsen.
       Open to all classes; four 50-minute periods.
 

II. Intermediate

 
215a. Fifth- and Fourth-Century Literature
(1)
Authors may include Sophokles, Euripides, Xenophon, Lysias, and Plato. In addition to consolidating knowledge of grammar, the selection of passages brings into focus important aspects of Athenian culture. Mr. Brown.
       Prerequisite: Greek 105-106 or by permission of the instructor.
 
230b. Archaic Literature
(1)
Authors may include Homer and Homeric Hymns, Hesiod, lyric poets, and Herodotus, as the first prose writer. Selections allow discussion of the interrelationship of poetic form in this period and the growth of prose out of oral poetry. Social, religious, and political issues surrounding the texts are discussed. Ms. Friedman.
       Prerequisite: Greek 215 or by permission of instructor.
 
298a or b. Independent Work
(1/2 or 1)
 

III. Advanced

 
301b. Topics in Greek Literature
(1)
This course involves close reading of texts from a single genre or author or texts which have a common thematic interest. Study of the texts and of secondary material allows us to explore various features of ancient society; for example, the course might take as its topic a genre such as Greek history or comedy, the oeuvre of a single author such as Pindar or Plato, or a theme such as the depiction of foreigners, the Greek sophists, or the tradition of the funeral oration. Since the topic changes every year, the course may be taken for credit more than once.
       Topic, for 2003/04: Psyche. In this course we explore the development of the concept of psyche in Greek literature. Readings include Homer, Heraclitus, and other Presocratic philosophers, Aristophanes’ Clouds, and Plato’s Phaedo. We also look at the evidence for definitions of psyche arising out of cults like Pythagoreanism, Orphism, and the Eleusinian Mysteries. The questions we address range from the development of the concept of the immortal soul, the intersection of the term psyche with the definition of the individual, and the political and moral implications of the growth of the “private self” that arises from the changing understanding of psyche. Ms. Kitzinger.
 
[302a. Greek Tragedy]
(1)
A reading of a play by Sophokles or Euripides. Careful study of the text helps us to understand the playwright’s style. We also consider how the play examines and responds to the historical, social and political conditions of Athens in the fifth century BCE.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
303a. Homer
(1)
Extensive selections from the Iliad, the Odyssey, and/or Homeric Hymns with attention given to oral theory, thematic structure, and social issues raised by the poems. Ms. Olsen.
 
305a or b. Senior Project
(1)
 
306a-307b. Senior Project
(1/2, 1/2)
 
399a or b. Senior Independent Work
(1/2 or 1)
 

Courses in Latin Language and Literature


I. Introductory

 
105a-106b. Elementary Latin
(1)
Introduction to the language. Readings in classical prose and poetry. Mr. Brown.
       Open to all classes; four 50-minute periods.
 

II. Intermediate

 
210a. Reading Latin
(1)
A thorough review of Latin grammar followed by an introduction to the reading of continuous, unadapted Latin prose and poetry of the Republican era. Readings are selected to illustrate a variety of literary forms and styles as well as significant aspects of Roman culture. Successful completion of the course qualifies students for Latin 220. Mr. Lott.
 
215a. Republican Literature
(1)
Selected readings from authors such as Plautus, Cicero, Catullus, Caesar, Sallust, and Vergil. The selection of readings is designed to consolidate knowledge of grammar, provide an introduction to the translation of continuous, unadapted Latin, and highlight interesting features of Roman culture in the last two centuries of the Republic. Successful completion of the course qualifies students for Latin 220. Ms. Olsen.
 
220b. Literature of the Empire
(1)
Authors may include Horace, Livy, Ovid, Seneca, Petronius, Suetonius, and Vergil. Readings are selected to illustrate the diversity of literary forms that flourished in the early Empire and the interaction of literature with society, politics, and private life. Ms. Long.
 
298a or b. Independent Work
(1/2 or 1)
 

III. Advanced

Greek 301 is offered every year, 302 and 303 in alternation; the topic of 301 changes annually. Prerequisite for all advanced courses: 2 units in 200 level courses in the language or by permission of instructor.

 
301b. Topics in Latin Literature
(1)
The course involves close reading of texts from a single genre or author or texts which have a common thematic interest. Study of the texts and of secondary material allows us to explore various features of ancient society. For example, the course might take as its topic a genre such as Roman satire or the Roman novel, the relationship between the diverse works of a single author like Horace or Seneca, or a theme such as the depiction of slaves, the revolution of love poetry, or Roman attitudes toward death. Since the topic changes every year, the course may be taken for credit more than once.
       Topic for 2003/04: Latin Letters. This course introduces the genre of Latin letters. Students read from the collected letters of Cicero and Pliny; the poetic epistles of Horace and Ovid; personal and public letters preserved on papyrus, stone, and wood; and letters from the early Christian epistolary tradition. Epistolary correspondence involves a significant physical and social infrastructure to move delicate pieces of property from one location to another with any security and regularity. What this infrastructure was for the Romans and how it affected the genre of letter writing is one of the central questions this course seeks to address. Mr. Lott.
 
[302a. Vergil]
(1)
Selections from the Eclogues, Georgics, or Aeneid of Rome’s greatest poet. Subjects of study include the artistry of the Vergilian hexameter, the relationship of Vergil’s works to their Greek models, and general topics such as his conception of destiny, religion, and the human relation to nature. Mr. Brown.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[303a. Tacitus]
(1)
Close readings from the works of the imperial historian and ethnographer Tacitus. In connection with further developing students’ reading skills, the class focuses on particular literary, cultural, or historical issues. Mr. Brown.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
304a. Roman Lyric and Elegy
(1)
Poems of Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, Catullus and Ovid with attention given to poetic form, the influence of poets on each other, and the view they give us of Roman society in the first century BCE. Mr. Brown.
 
305a or b. Senior Project
(1)
 
306a-307b. Senior Project
(1/2 , 1/2 )
 
399a or b. Senior Independent Work
(1/2 or 1)