Classics Department

Information on the Classics Department at Whitman

Classics is the study of Greek and Roman antiquity through the ancient languages, literatures, histories, arts, cultures, and thought of those periods. This is an area study which seeks to employ a variety of analytic tools in understanding the cultures which lie at the heart of the western tradition. The major program in classics draws on the offerings of the departments of classics, history, philosophy, politics, and rhetoric.

A student who enters Whitman without any prior college-level preparation in classics will have to complete 54 credits to fulfill the requirements for the classics major. Courses taken for the classics major will principally fulfill the distribution area of humanities. Note that some classics courses may also fulfill distribution in social sciences and fine art.

The Classics major

A minimum of thirty-six credits as follows:

  1. Latin 205, 206 (or equivalent) and
    Greek 205, 206 (or equivalent);
  2. four credits of Clas 390, Advanced Seminar in Classical Languages;
  3. four credits from among the following courses:
    • Classics 120 English Grammar via Latin and Greek,
    • Classics 130 Ancient Mythology,
    • Classics 140 Women in Antiquity,
    • Classics 200 Topics in Classical Studies,
    • Classics 221 Ancient and Medieval European Political Theory,
    • Classics 224 Greek and Roman Art;
  4. eight credits from among the following courses:
    • Classics 201 Ancient Philosophy,
    • Classics 377 Ancient Theatre,
    •  Classics 390 Advanced Seminar in Classical Languages, 
    • Greek 391, 392 Independent Study in Greek, 
    • Latin 391, 392 Independent Study in Latin;
  5. four credits from among the following courses:
    • History 326 The Hellenistic World and the Roman Empire,
    • History 327 The History of Ancient Greece;
  6. all classics majors must also complete either
    • Classics 497 Senior Thesis (2 credits) or
    • Classics 498 Honors Thesis (2 credits).

The senior assessment in classics consists of a three-hour written comprehensive examination, a senior thesis and a one-hour oral examination consisting of a defense of the thesis and, when appropriate, further response to questions from the written examination.

The Classics minor

Either Latin 205, 206 (or equivalent) or Greek 205, 206 (or equivalent) plus a minimum of 12 additional credits. Eight of those additional credits may be drawn from a full year of a second ancient language. Thus the student who completes Greek 205, 206 may count Latin 105, 106 toward the minor and the student who completes Latin 205, 206 may count Greek 105, 106. All or part of the twelve additional credits may be drawn from the following courses: Classics 120, 130, 140, 200, 201, 209, 221, 224, 367, 371, 377, 390, Greek 391, 392, Latin 391, 392, History 226, 326, 327.

Note: A course cannot be used to satisfy both major and minor requirements, e.g., History 226 cannot be used to apply toward the 36 credit requirement for the history major and the classics minor requirement.

Note: Courses taken P-D-F prior to the declaration of a language major or minor will satisfy course and credit requirements for the major or minor. Courses taken P-D-F may not be used to satisfy course and credit requirements for the major or minor after the major or minor has been declared.


120 English Grammar via Latin and Greek
x, 4 Burgess
Students will learn the structures of English grammar. The grammars of Ancient Greek and Latin will be introduced as tools for the understanding of contemporary English grammar. The history of the Indo-European language family will demonstrate the relations between ancient and modern grammars. Techniques of sentence diagramming will show the parts of speech and their syntactic relations. Types of clauses and the relations between clauses will dominate the more advanced sections of the course. Open to all students.

130 Ancient Mythology
4; not offered 2007-08
Through analysis of primary literary sources students will study the structures and functions of myth in ancient cultures, Greek, Roman and Mesopotamian. Modern theories of myth will also be examined critically, especially as they apply to specific categories of ancient myths. Open to all students. Offered in alternate years.

140 Women in Antiquity
4, x Vandiver
The role of women in public and private life in ancient Greece and Rome. Students will examine literary, documentary, archaeological, and visual sources as evidence for the lives of women in these ancient cultures. Students will explore modern theories of gender in conjunction with ancient evidence. This course is interdisciplinary and Open to all students. Offered in alternate years.

200 Special Topics in Classical Studies 4

200 ST: Going to Hell
x, 4 Burgess and Walters
Voyages to the land of the dead appear in the literatures of many cultures ancient and modern. This course concentrates upon the literatures of Indian and Greco-Roman cultures but also includes forays into Mesopotamian, European and East Asian civilizations. Much of the literature concerning these journeys is of a religious nature, and this course is grounded in techniques of comparative mythology which will facilitate a consideration of the intersections of religion and literary narrative. Team-taught by a professor of Classics and a professor of Religion this course will explore the ways in which tales of a journey to the land of the dead reveal what a culture values and fears. May be elected as Religion 200.

201 Ancient Philosophy
4, x T. Davis
A close reading of selected texts from Plato and Aristotle. May be elected as Philosophy 201.

221 Ancient and Medieval European
Political Theory
4, x Voorhees
This course introduces students to the history of European political theory through an investigation of classical Greek and pre-modern Christian writings. Texts to be explored include Aeschylus’s Oresteia, Thucydides’s Peloponnesian War, Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, St. Augustine’s City of God, and St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. May be elected as Politics 221.

224 Greek and Roman Art
4; not offered 2007-08
An exploration of the arts of ancient Greece and Rome, from the Bronze Age of Greece to the end of the Roman Empire. Particular emphasis will be placed on sculpture, painting, and architecture. We will also investigate the cultural contexts from which the art forms arise. May be elected as ArtH 224. Open to all students. Offered in alternate years.

371 Rhetoric in Early Western Culture
x, 4 Withycombe
Focuses on the principle rhetorical developments that occurred during the great periods of Western thought, beginning with the classical conflict between the Sophists and Platonists in Greece, to the emphasis on the liberally educated person in the Roman Empire, the rhetoric of the church in the Middle Ages, and concluding with the study of logic and argument during the Scottish Enlightenment. May be elected as Rhetoric and Film Studies 371.

377 Ancient Theatre
4; not offered 2007-08
The origin and development of ancient theatre, especially of Greek tragedy, through a close reading of ancient plays in English translation. In addition to ancient plays, we will read modern critical responses to those plays. May be elected as Theatre 377 or World Literature 377. Open to all students. Offered in alternate years.

390 Advanced Seminar in Classical
1-4, x Burgess
Using primary materials in Greek or Latin or both, according to prior work, each student will pursue advanced reading in a variety of authors and genres and will learn the techniques of Classical scholarship common to work in either ancient language. For a student enrolled for four credits, one of the three meetings per week concentrates on matters of Classical scholarship common to the two languages. Students familiar with only one of the Classical languages will pursue supervised advanced independent work in that language in place of a class meeting which would be inappropriate to their preparation. Prerequisite: Either Greek 206 or Latin 206 or the equivalent of either. May be repeated for credit.

497 Senior Thesis
2, 2 Staff
The student will prepare a thesis using primary materials in either Greek, Latin, or both languages. A senior thesis is required of all classics majors. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

498 Honors Thesis
2, 2 Staff
The student will prepare a thesis using primary materials in either Greek, Latin, or both languages. A senior thesis is required of all classics majors. This honors thesis is open only to senior honors candidates in classics. Prerequisite: admission to honors candidacy.