Greek and Roman Studies Department

Chair: Rachel D. Friedman; Professors: Robert D. Brown, M. Rachel Kitzinger, J. Bert LottabAssociate Professor: Rachel D. Friedman; Assistant Professor: Barbara A. Olsen; Visiting Assistant Professor: Curtis Dozier; Blegen Research Fellow: John Starks.

Students who study in the Greek and Roman Studies department explore aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world with an emphasis on the cultures of Greece and Rome. This exploration is inherently multidisciplinary and as such encompasses not only the languages and literatures of the Greeks and the Romans, but also their history, art, philosophy, religion and politics. Central to these investigations are the relations of the ancient Greeks and Romans with the other peoples of the Mediterranean and their reception and interpretation by later cultures.

The story of "Classical" scholarship goes back to the Library of Alexandria in the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. The project that the scholars of the library undertook was to collect, copy and edit as many texts of Greek literature as they could find. Their goal was to preserve these texts for future generations. The study of classics still has at its core this act of preservation. But, like the Alexandrian scholars and perhaps more self-consciously, we acknowledge that we ourselves are also involved in an act of reinterpretation. Our goal is both to preserve the knowledge of ancient cultures but also to interpret that knowledge in the context of contemporary culture.

We bring to this project many different skills and many different methods. Our faculty includes scholars trained in philology and literary study, history and epigraphy, and archaeology. Students in our classes thus benefit from studying different facets of the ancient world with teachers who, though they share a broad area of inquiry, are interested in different sets of questions.

Common to all of our classes is an interest in using insights about the ancient world to enrich our understanding of the world that we inhabit. In the end what classicists develop is an intense self-consciousness about the nature of their own assumptions, assumptions which the study of antiquity allows us to question and which we must question in order to be able to focus our attention on the strange "otherness" of different cultures.


Requirements for Concentration in Greek and Roman Studies: 10.5 units of GRST courses, including:

  • GRST 100;
  • Either GRST 225 (intermediate Greek) or GRST 245 (intermediate Latin); (Successful completion of GRST 125-126 or GRST 145-146 or appropriate prior language work in Greek or Latin is required to elect 225 or 245);
  • Either GRST 216 or GRST 217 (Greek or Roman History);
  • 3 units at the 300 level, excluding GRST 360-363;
  • GRST 360 or 361-362 or 363 taken in the senior year. All majors must complete a senior project in their senior year. The senior project can be fulfilled either by the production of an independent thesis (360 or 361-362 for 1 unit) or by the completion of a senior project concurrently with another 300 level course elected in the senior year (363 for ½ unit);
  • 4 additional units at least two of which must be above the 100 level. With approval of the major advisor, up to 2 units of relevant work from outside the department may be counted towards the 4 additional units.

Requirements for a Correlate Sequence in GRST: 6 units of work in GRST at least 2 of which must be at the 300 level. Correlates should support or complement a student's concentration(s).

Recommendations: All students are strongly advised to study either Greek or Latin language at the 300-level.

Recommendations for graduate study: Students considering graduate work in Classics should at a minimum have at least 2 units of 300 level work in one ancient language and 1 unit of 300 level work in the other. Proficiency in at least one relevant modern foreign language (e.g. French, Italian, German) is also recommended.

Departmental honors: In addition to the senior project students must elect 300-level work in the department both semesters of their senior year to be considered for honors.

Advisers: The department.

Courses in English Translation

Courses in Enclish translation, numbered X00-X19 are taught entirely in English. No knowledge of Greek or Latin is required.

I. Introductory

100b. Then and Now: Reinterpreting Greece and Rome (1)

Here we are at the beginning of the 21st century, yet all around us we continue to see allusions to and creative engagements with Greek and Roman antiquity. From the bestseller list which features a novel claiming to reveal recently discovered books of the Odyssey to an HBO series that takes place in ancient Rome and comparisons of the post 9/11 United States to the Roman Empire in the news, the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome continue to be viscerally alive and compelling as sources for artistic and cultural production. Why is this so? In this course we examine the ways that the legacies of classical antiquity continue to be felt today and invite us to explore the cultures of Greece and Rome. The course serves as an interdisciplinary introduction to the study of Greek and Roman languages, literature, history, and archaeology and the interpretation of these cultures by subsequent civilizations. The course addresses both the complex political, social, intellectual, and cultural settings of the ancient world and the ways in which the study of antiquity can challenge and enrich our experience of the present. To pursue these questions we read ancient texts, examine material artifacts, study linguistic evidence, and engage with creative contemporary responses to antiquity and recent theoretical work on the study of the ancient world. In serving as an overview of the kinds of questions that contemporary culture inspires us to ask of and about antiquity and the materials and approaches that scholars use for their inquiries, the course prepares the student for further work in the department.

Ms. Friedman.

Two 75-minute periods.

101a. Civilization in Question (1)

(Same as College Course 101)

Not offered in 2011/12

181a. Satire from Archilochus to the Daily Show (1)

Satire is flourishing, as can be seen from the popularity of television shows such as The Daily Show, websites such as The Onion, and films such as Borat. This course explores the relationship of such contemporary satires to the ancient origins of the genre, the formal roots of which are to be found in ancient Rome, with thematic roots stretching back to some of the earliest poetry of ancient Greece. Attention is paid to the development of satire from antiquity to the present with particular emphasis on early-modern English language satire. Topics include the differences between Horatian and Juvenalian invective, the persona of the satirist, the place of satire in discussions of freedom of speech, and the role of satire in society in different time periods. Our ultimate goal is to deepen our understanding of this traditional genre???s continuing popularity and relevance in our own world. Students will have the opportunity to create their own satire of life at Vassar College. Mr. Dozier.

Two 75-minute periods.

Fulfills the Freshman Writing Seminar Requirement.

II. Intermediate

201b. Ancient Warfare (1)

This course examines the phenomenon of war in Greek and Roman antiquity. While not neglecting traditional military topics such as arms and armor, organization, tactics, and strategy, we seek a wider cultural understanding of war by exploring its social ideology, the role of women and other non-combatants, and its depiction in art and literature. Wars for discussion include the fictional Trojan War as well as historical wars such as the Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian War, the Punic Wars, and the Roman Civil War. Readings in English translation are selected from Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Caesar, and others. Mr. Brown

Not offered in 2010-2011

Prerequisite: any 100-level course in Classics, Greek, or Latin, or the instructor's permission.

202a. Myth (1)

This course examines ancient myth from a variety of theoretical perspectives. It compares Greek and Roman myth with other mythic traditions and explores different versions of the same myth within Greek and Roman culture. We also consider transformations of ancient myths into modem versions. Literary, artistic, and archaeological evidence provide ways to understand the function of myth in ancient Greek and Roman society. Mr. Dozier.

203a. Women in Antiquity (1)

(Same as Women's Studies 203)

Greek and Roman literary and historical accounts abound with vividly drawn women such as Helen, Antigone, Medea, Livia, and Agrippina, the mother of Nero. But how representative were such figures of the daily lives of women throughout Greek and Roman antiquity? This course investigates the images and realities of women in the ancient Greek and Roman world, from the Greek Late Bronze Age (c. 1200 BCE) to the Roman Empire (up to the III c. CE) by juxtaposing evidence from literature, historical sources, and archaeological material. Throughout, the course examines the complex ways in which ancient women interacted with the institutions of the state, the family, religion, and the arts.

Not offered in 2011/12

204a. Greek Archaeology (1)

This course examines sites and monuments of the ancient Greek world from the Bronze Age to the Classical period. We introduce archaeological methods, examine the history and developement of Greek archaelology from the origins of the field in the 1870's to the present, and trace the chronological development of Greek art and architecture across several major sites including Knossos, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, and Athens. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding and interpreting monuments in terms of their political, social, and economic contexts.

Ms. Olsen. Alternative years.

Not offered in 2011/12

205b. From Homer to Omeros (1)

No poet since James Joyce has been as deeply and creatively engaged in a refashioning of Homer than Derek Walcott, the Caribbean poet and 1992 Nobel Laureate. He has authored both a stage version of the ODYSSEY and a modern epic, OMEROS, and in both of them he brings a decidedly post colonial and decidedly Caribbean idiom to Homer's ancient tales. In this course we devote ourselves to a close reading of these works alongside the appropriate sections of Homer's ILIAD and ODYSSEY. Our aim is both to understand the complexities of Walcott's use of the Homeric models and to discover the new meanings that emerge in Homer when we read him through Walcott's eyes. Ms. Friedman.

Prerequisite: Any 100 level GRST course or 1 unit of related work or special permission.

Two 75 minute meetings.

210b. Greek Art and Architecture (1)

(Same as Art 210) Mr. Abbe.

Alternate years.

Not offered in 2010/11.

211a. Roman Art and Architecture (1)

(Same as Art 211) Ms. D'Ambra.

Not offered in 2011/12

216b. 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. Ms. Olsen.

Prerequisite: Classics 101, 102, 103, or 104, or 1 unit in History or special permission.

Not offered in 2011/12

III. Advanced

301a. Seminar in Classical Civilization (1)

This course examines the connections between economy and culture in the ancient world from two different points of view: First it considers one particular kind of material artifact, coins stamped in bronze, silver and gold. We investigate coins from economic, political, historical, and artistic points of view, proceeding historically from Archaic Greece to Imperial Rome, but focusing on the transition from Roman Republic to Roman Empire. We use a collection of 1,500 coins in the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center as the basis for our work, and students learn to handle, identify and catalog coins as artifacts. Second, we will examine the economy of the ancient world from a theoretical perspective, examining from an economic standpoint specific topics, such as shipping trade, agricultural production, and role of non-industrial cities. Mr. Lott

302b. 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.

310b. Seminar in Ancient Art (1)

(Same as Art 310b) Ms. D'Ambra.

381a. Urbanism in the Ancient Mediterranean World: Pompeii, Akrotiri, Constantinople (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 381) Daily life in the ancient Mediterranean world revolved around urbanism, as cities defined and delineated the geographic and ideological landscapes of Greece and Rome. Incorporating contemporary urban and anthropological theories of the preindustrial city, this course draws on a multidisciplinary approach using archaeology, art, historiography, and literary and documentary evidence to investigate forms and expressions of urbanism in three highly disparate cities from the ancient world: Aegean Akrotiri, Roman Pompeii, and Late Antique Constantinople. Pompeii, richly documented through documentary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence, occupies the course's theoretical and practical center as a type-site for exploring ancient urbanism and the mechanisms of daily life. The course then addresses two other important cities and the unique methodological challenges they pose for ancient urban studies: Akrotiri, the 2nd millennium BCE port on the island of Santorini (Thera) was preserved by a 17th century BCE volcanic eruption and is now accessible only through study of its archaeological remains, and the Late Antique (4th-7th century CE) city of Constantinople which can be recovered now primarily through literary and documentary sources. Topics include city planning, politics and social organization, public and domestic space, infrastructure, religious practices, and trade and economic production. (All readings in English.) Ms. Olsen

Courses in Greek Language and Literature

Courses numbered X20-X39 require appropriate reading ability in ancient Greek.

I. Introductory

125a. Elementary Greek (1)

Introduction to the language. Readings in the New Testament and Plato. Ms. Friedman.

Year-long course, 125-126.

Open to all classes.

Four 50-minute periods.

126. Elementary Greek (1)

Introduction to the language. Readings in the New Testament and Plato. Ms. Friedman.

Year-long course, 125-126.

Open to all classes.

Four 50-minute periods.

II. Intermediate

225a. 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. Ms. Olsen.

Prerequisite: Greek 105-106 or by permission of the instructor.

226b. War and Peace (1)

(Same as CLGR 301b) Mr. Brown.

This course should be elected by students before electing any advanced Greek course in the department.

Prerequisite: Greek 225 or by permission of instructor.

III. Advanced

321b. 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 2011/12: Athens at the End of the 5th C. Two Views. In this course we read Aristophanes' BIRDS and Plato's APOLOGY. Both texts can be seen as responses to late-5th C. Athenian politics and the fear of a city-state in decline after years of war and political upheaval. The BIRDS is a fantasy of escape; the APOLOGY is Socrates' attempt to speak the truth about his city, as he sees it. Throughout the course we will consider parallels to late 20th, early 21st C. America.

Prerequisite: 2 units in 200 level courses in the language or by permission of instructor.

322a. 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. Ms. Friedman.

Offered in Alternate years

Prerequisite: 2 units in 200 level courses in the language or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2011/12

323a. Homer (1)

Extensive selections from the Iliadthe Odyssey, and/or Homeric Hymns with attention given to oral theory, thematic structure, and social issues raised by the poems. Ms. Friedman.

Prerequisite: 2 units in 200 level courses in the language or by permission of instructor.

Courses in Latin Language and Literature

Courses numbered X40-X59 require appropriate reading ability in Latin.

I. Introductory

145a. Elementary Latin (1)

Introduction to the language. Readings in classical prose and poetry. Mr. Dozier.

Year-long course, 145-146.

Open to all classes.

Four 50-minute classes.

146b. Elementary Latin (1)

Introduction to the language. Readings in classical prose and poetry. Mr. Dozier.

Year-long course, 145-146.

Open to all classes.

Four 50-minute periods.

II. Intermediate

245a. Republican Literature (1)

Selected readings from authors such as Plautus, Cicero, Catullus, Caesar, Sallust, and Virgil. 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. Mr. Starks.

Prerequisite: GRST 145-146 or permission of the instructor or chair

III. Advanced

341. b Topics in Latin Literature (1)

Traditional accounts of Roman literary history have divided Latin literature into two periods, a "golden" age encompassing the authors of the Republican and Augustan periods, and a "silver" age comprising later authors. This course attempts to move beyond the obvious value judgment of these designations and examine the distinctive features of the poetry of the so-called silver age. After studying the poet Ovid, who occupies a transitional and contested place between the two periods and thus offers a fruitful ground for defining the questions at stake, we will survey poetry by Lucan,Seneca,and Statius. Topics to be considered include the role or poetry under an imperial monarch, the influence of rhetorical training on poetic style, the indebtedness of late authors to their more celebrated predecessors, and the influence of the Roman narrative of its own cultural decline on our evaluation of Latin poetry.

Topic for 2010-2011: Ovid. This course will survey the Roman poet Ovid's voluminous and miscellaneous work; we, of course, sample his familiar Metamorphoses, but the primary emphasis is on his elegiac works: the early Amores, and the late letters from exile. Topics to be investigated include the influence of rhetorical training on Ovid's style, ancient criticisms of that style, his creative reworking of earlier poetry, and his modernity, which accounts for much of the scholarly interest in Ovid in recent years. Mr Dozier

342a. Virgil (1)

Selections from the Eclogues, Georgics, or Aeneid. Subjects of study include the artistry of the Virgilian hexameter, the relationship of Virgil’s works to their Greek models, and general topics such as his conception of destiny, religion, and the human relation to nature. Mr. Brown

Offered every third year

Prerequisite: 246 or permission of instructor.

343a. 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. Lott.

Offered every third year.

Prerequisite: GRST 246 or permission of instructor.

344a. 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. Dozier.

Prerequisite: GRST 246 or permission of instructor.

Independent Work

Independent work may be pursued in Greek, Latin, or English translation.

II. Intermediate

290. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

Special Permission

297. Readings Greek & Roman Studies (1/2)

298. Independent Study (1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced

360. a or b Senior Thesis (1)

One semester senior thesis. Seniors only

361a. Senior Thesis (1/2)

Full Year Thesis (1/2 unit per semester). Seniors Only.

362b. Senior Thesis (1/2)

Full Year Thesis (1/2 unit per semester). Seniors Only.

363. a or b Senior Project (1/2)

Extended writing or other project elected concurrently with a seminar in GRST. Seniors only.

Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor of the concurrent seminar

399. Senior Independent Study (1/2 or 1)