401 Cabell Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400788
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4788
(434) 924-3008 Fax: (434) 924-3062
Overview In 1800, Thomas Jefferson wrote to the renowned scientist Joseph Priestly, “To read the Latin and Greek authors in their original is a sublime luxury… . I thank on my knees him who directed my early education for having in my possession this rich source of delight.” Accordingly, in his plan for the University of Virginia, Jefferson established the School of Ancient Languages as one of its ten divisions. The Department of Classics carries on the same mission today.
Mr. Jefferson, who valued the useful no less than the sublime, knew that the classics provide both. Greek and Latin languages, literature, and culture formed the core of education until the middle of the nineteenth century, and for good reason. First, the Greek and Latin languages are themselves a training in clear thought and forceful style. Second, many of the most important ideas, principles, methods of investigation and analysis, and modes of government in use today occurred first to the Greeks and the Romans, and found their most memorable expression in that culture; and to understand where our civilization is today, it is necessary to know where it has been. Third, Greco-Roman antiquity can be approached both as like ourselves, the recognizable ancestor of modern civilization, and as a civilization quite markedly “other” than ourselves, instructive because of its difference. Fourth, ever since the Renaissance, when the word “interdisciplinary” had not even been thought of, a classical education has been an education that stretches the mind by combining literature, history, philosophy, art, architecture, government, and religion. For these reasons and many others, students today major in classics or take Latin or Greek or civilization courses to complement their other studies. Our majors find it a useful preparation for fields as diverse as business, law, medicine, or a career in the arts, in addition to the more obvious careers in teaching at the high school or college level.
Faculty The interests of the faculty include the varied aspects of Greek and Roman literature, Greek religion, and Greek and Roman history. The faculty has published texts and commentaries on major classical authors, interpretive works on Ovid, Homer, and other ancient writers, and studies of Greek religion and mythology. The Department has a wide-ranging and intellectually diverse group of professors, whose expertise extends from archaic Greece to the Latin Middle Ages. Their particular interests include Greek and Roman religion, Homer and Hesiod, Greek lyric and Hellenistic poetry, tragedy, Latin poetry of the Republic and Empire, Late Latin and medieval literature, textual criticism, Greek epigraphy and papyrology, and the Greek and Roman historians. Since classics is an interdisciplinary program, the classics faculty is joined by faculty from other departments, such as archaeology, ancient history and political theory, ancient religions, and philosophy. A total of sixteen faculty members work with students to provide a thorough and wide-ranging view of ancient culture and its effects on our lives.
Students Approximately thirty students are majoring in the classics program. Many of them combine a major in classics with another major, an option which makes them exceptionally strong candidates for selective graduate schools and educational posts. With the exception of intermediate Latin, most language courses are taught by a faculty member. Also, since the department offers both master’s and doctoral programs, undergraduates with advanced skills can take upper-level coursework at the graduate level. The interaction among undergraduates, graduates, and faculty provides an atmosphere exceptionally conducive to the learning process.
Senior Classical League The Senior Classical League is an organization of students who are interested in the ancient world; the league sponsors scholarly and social activities.
Classics Club The Classics Club is a University organization of students interested in classical antiquity. The Club sponsors social and academic events for the classical community.
Anne Marye Owen Prize The best student each year in GREE 101-102 and the best first-year student enrolled in the fall 300-level Latin course receive the Anne Marye Owen Prize, which carries a substantial cash award.
J. P. Elder Award The J.P. Elder Award is given each year to an outstanding graduating major in Classics.
Marian Stocker Award The Marian Stocker Award is presented at the graduation ceremony to a deserving Classics major about to embark on a career in high school teaching of Latin.Study Abroad The University of Virginia is an institutional member of the Center for Intercollegiate Studies (the Centro) in Rome, and students regularly avail themselves of this connection to spend a semester or a year abroad. For Athens there is a College Year in Athens program. There are several other programs that arrange for the study of classics in the United Kingdom or on the continent.