Classics—the study of the ancient Greek and Roman cultures in all their manifestations—is an interdisciplinary field deploying a variety of methods and approaches from art and archaeology; history; language, linguistics, and literature; philosophy, religion, and science; and reception studies.
The wider worlds of ancient Greece and Rome—whether textual or material, conceptual or tangible—are worthy of study in their own right, demanding careful analysis and criticism. More than that, if we are to understand the world in which we live, a deep familiarity with our Classical legacy is vital. Today, the engagement of the Classics matters more than ever, as the Humanities everywhere rally to extend our knowledge and our values—the building blocks of human civilization—to curate our future as fellow occupants of a rapidly degrading planet.
At Harvard, Greek is covered from its beginnings to the modern day, and Latin from its origins into the Middle Ages and beyond. Undergraduates may concentrate in Classical Languages and Literatures, where the emphasis is on reading Greek or Latin texts at an advanced level, or in Classical Civilizations, where students cover more material in translation, or they may pursue the joint concentration in Ancient History, which is taught jointly in the History and Classics Departments. All concentrators become familiar with at least one of the ancient languages. Candidates for the secondary field in Classical Civilizations have the option of doing so, too.
The curriculum is enriched by contact with the unparalleled collections in the Harvard Art Museums and the Harvard Library, including the papyri, manuscripts, and early printed editions in Houghton Library. Students learn how to handle complex evidence, while acquiring an appreciation for key aspects of the cultural legacy of two civilizations that have played a crucial role in shaping the modern world. Upon graduation, concentrators pursue highly successful careers in fields as diverse as medicine, law, business, journalism, film, publishing, and landscape design—the list is almost endless.
Graduate students in our seven programs—Ancient History, Byzantine Greek, Classical Archaeology, Classical Philology, Classical Philosophy, Medieval Latin, and Modern Greek—join a cohort of approximately five each year, and are encouraged to pursue a broad range of interests in connection with other programs and departments, while deepening their mastery of Greek and Latin and the world in which those languages were the currency of thought. Afterwards, with the support of the Placement Committee, they enter a broad range of careers, some in the academic sphere, some far beyond it.
Welcome to the Department of the Classics, and please don’t hesitate to get in touch! We look forward to meeting you.