Classical Studies & Latin

Major in the Classics

Classics is the study of the languages and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world, especially Greece and Rome. The Greeks and the Romans gave us tragedy and comedy, democracy and a theory of republican government, the greater share of the words in our English language, inspired the Italian Renaissance, and influenced the architectural vocabulary of many of the buildings that surround us every day. Spanning three continents, Classics not only provides insight into the history and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, but also offers some of the most valuable literary testimonia to the civilizations of the Near East and North Africa.


About The Program

The Classics Department offers students the opportunity to explore the Greek and Roman roots of European and American cultures. By taking courses in classical civilization, students understand the richness and diversity of the Greek and Roman cultures, while using the ancient world to gain wider perspectives on many elements of modern life. Through courses in Latin and Greek languages, students attain a more direct experience of the lives of the ancients in their own living words, while gaining valuable understanding of the roots and usage of English and other modern languages

Major: Classical Studies (BA), Latin (BA)
Minors: Classical Studies, Latin

Chair: Dr. Benjamin Haller
School: Susan S. Goode School of Arts And Humanities


Why Study at VWU?

A student majoring in Classics will conduct sustained research on a chosen topic for the completion of their senior seminar in Classics. The results of their research is documented in a substantial (20-30 page) piece of work. Upon completion of the project, students present their work in a public oral defense.

Virginia Wesleyan College has an active chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, the national honorary society for the study of the ancient Greek and Latin Languages.  Members have the opportunity to present their research at Eta Sigma Phi’s annual national conference.

In addition to their research on our campus, Classics students have opportunities to do research in Greece, Italy, England, and other far-flung parts of the globe. Classics and related disciplines have offered short-term faculty-led study away classes to Rome, Greece, and to Oxford, England.

Eta Sigma Phi and other private scholarships are available to help students attend the American School of Classical Studies at Athens or the American Academy in Rome.

For further information about Study Abroad in Europe, please visit the Lighthouse.

CLAS 360 Classical Virginia

Description: What do Captain John Smith and Odysseus have in common? How was Shakespeare’s The Tempest inspired by a real shipwreck on Bermuda suffered by would-be Jamestown colonists? How did English colonists at Jamestown misappropriate classical Greek and Roman ideas about slavery to justify one of history’s greatest and must unjustifiable crimes of man against his fellow man—the racially-based slavery in the American South? How did Thomas Jefferson draw on Polybian constitutional theory, the Greek New Testament, Epicurean empiricism, and Palladian formulations of Vitruvian architectural principles to articulate a vision for American personal liberty, spiritual life, agrarian economy, and architecture? How do the buildings we see around us every day appropriate the architectural vocabulary of Classical Greek and Roman temples and civic spaces to send a message about the function and sanctity of a space? Students will learn about how Greek and Roman literature, art, architecture, and political ideas helped to shape the U.S., with a special focus on Virginia. The course includes day-trips to Charlottesville, Williamsburg/Jamestown, and Norfolk.
Destination: Charlottesville, Williamsburg/Jamestown, and Norfolk.

Graduate Study:  Some students who major in Latin or Classical Studies go on to pursue a Ph.D. in the field with the intent of becoming college professors, librarians, or museum curators. Those wishing to attend graduate school in the field of Classics should choose the Latin major, and obtain at least basic proficiency in Ancient Greek as well as in Latin. The webpage of the Society for Classical Studies is a great place to begin investigating what graduate work in Classics entails.

Secondary School Teaching:  Others elect to obtain a degree of Master of Arts in Latin with the aim of teaching the language in secondary schools. Students interested in teaching Latin at a secondary level enjoy excellent job prospects in Southeastern Virginia: there is a consistent demand for teachers in the Tidewater area, with several jobs teaching Latin appearing in the American Classical League’s job postings each year. In recent years, Virginia Beach and Norfolk have consistently had job openings. The American Classical League compiles open job listings by state.

Business:  many employers in the business world value adaptability, critical thinking, and writing skills. There is an increasing literature on how Classics and other Liberal Arts majors are finding that they possess exactly the right skills set the business world requires:

Medicine and Law: Bucknell University has compiled a list of careers to which a major in Classics or Latin can lead you, including some surprising statistics:  according to one study, Classics and Math majors come in tied for highest success rate in Law School, and, in another study, students majoring in Classics in conjunction with a Science had a better rate getting into Med School than those who majored in Bio alone.   See here for more information.  Virginia has also always had a strong market for Latin teachers (see here).