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Ancient and Classical Studies:
Beyond the Relics — Wrestling with Ethical Issues

Overview   |   Meet An Earlhamite   |   Our Faculty   |   Plan of Study   |   Courses  


Ancient and Classical Studies is the study of ancient Greece and Rome as well as of other cultures that influenced and impacted those societies. Our students examine the language, literature, art, history, religion and culture not only of ancient Greece and Rome but also of ancient Persia, Britain, Egypt and Gaul, among others.

Ancient Greece and Rome is important in that these civilizations have had a profound impact on the development of western culture, both positive (theatre, architecture, law, medicine) and negative (patriarchy, racism, classism). To study the ancient past is to study the roots of our own society. At the same time, there are deep differences between the ancient world and our own. Learning about the lives and experiences of others broadens one's intellectual horizons. This is especially true as scholars have sought to fill in the gaps of social history by focusing on those members of society who were traditionally marginalized, including women, children and slaves. Finally, it has become increasingly relevant for us to understand the ways in which Greece and Rome are actively being deployed today by those who would use these cultures as a basis for promoting their own moral or narratological authority (for example, the recent usage of Greco-Roman iconography by Neo-Nazis and other hate groups).


There are many ways of engaging with the ancient past beyond the traditional classroom. Our students can spend a semester abroad in Athens at Arcadia University studying Latin, Greek, archaeology, politics or art. In the Hiking with Hadrian EPIC Advantage research experience, they can hike all 84 miles of Hadrian’s wall in England, exploring along the way the affordances of digital storytelling and the politics of “place” and border walls. You can also use experimental archaeological techniques to test out the details of Roman military training in our on-campus May Term By the Spear, or dive into the ways in which Greek and Latin language still shape the technical language of the medical profession (Medical Terminology May Term).

What Can I Do with Classics?

Micky Jo Myers (1)
Tell Me a Story

In an Earlham classics course, Micky Jo Myers ’16 discovered her passion, stories. That discovery and a set of undergraduate research experiences launched her toward a Ph.D. in folklore at Indiana University.

Zach Bell
Education Coordinator

Zach Bell '16 is now an Education Coordinator at the Boys and Girls Club of Wayne County.

Brianna Brown
Teaching in NYC

Brianna Brown '16 is currently teaching English Language Arts at an all-girls school in New York City, and will be pursuing a second master's in teaching Latin.

Elena Johnson
Newspaper Writer

Elena Johnson '18 is a writer and correspondent for her hometown newspaper in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.


Our Faculty

Stephen Heiny
Research Professor of Classics

Charlotte Northrop
Adjunct Professor of Ancient Latin

Maxwell Paule
Associate Professor of Ancient and Classical Studies

Susan Wise
Professor of Ancient and Classical Studies

Cynthia Grinspan
Administrative Assistant

Plan of Study

What's a typical course of study?

In addition to taking at least three semesters of Latin, our majors have the option of exploring a wide variety of courses using different approaches, including historical (History of the Ancient Mediterranean), literary (Homeric Banquet), archaeological (Pompeii), and artistic (Greek Art History). Some of our courses offer a combined approach (such as our Words and Works of Greece/Rome series, which uses both archaeology and literature to study the past), while others focus more specifically on topics, like mythology (Damn the Gods) or sexuality (Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World). You also can set up an independent study with Max or Susan if we do not already offer a course you want.

General Education Requirements

The Department offers two courses that fulfill the Language component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, ANCS 112 and 113; six courses that fulfill the International component of the Perspectives on Diversity requirement, ANCS 130, 221, 222, 241, 315 and 371; and seven courses that fulfill the Writing Intensive Requirement, ANCS 155, 241, 350, 351, 356, 357 and 358. The Department also offers Earlham Seminars.

The Major

Eight of the following courses — at least one from section A and one from section B

  • Section A (Writing)
    • PHIL 155 Ancient Greek Philosophy
    • ANCS 350 Words and Works in Rome
    • ANCS 351 Words and Works in Ancient Greece
    • ANCS 356 Homeric Banquet
    • ANCS 371 Herodotus and the Persian War
  • Section B (Research)
    • ANCS 222 Greece and Rome in Film
    • ANCS 315 Pompeii: Life & Death
    • ANCS 346 Ovid's Metamorphoses
    • ANCS 357 Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World
    • ANCS 358 Greek and Roman Drama
  • Section C (Assorted)
    • ANCS 130 Damn the Gods
    • ANCS 241 Ancient Mediterranean History
    • Other related courses taken at Earlham or abroad, pending departmental approval.
    • A relevant internship or related experience (e.g., archaeological digs, EPIC Advantage programs, language workshops), pending departmental approval.

Three Latin Courses, or demonstration of 300-level proficiency by passing ANCS 342

  • ANCS 112 Classical Latin I
  • ANCS 113 Classical Latin II
  • ANCS 342 Reading Latin

Two Capstone Courses

  • ANCS 486 Senior Research
  • ANCS 488 Senior Capstone Experience


The Minor

Language Courses

  • ANCS 112 Classical Latin I and ANCS 113 Classical Latin II


  • ANCS 342 Reading Latin

Additional Courses

  • Three ANCS courses at the 200-level or above


* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*ANCS 112 CLASSICAL LATIN I (5 credits)
Introduction to classical Latin that focuses on the grammar, vocabulary and structure of the Latin language, but also provides a general introduction to Roman history and culture. The course covers the first half of Wheelock's Latin. (D-L)

*ANCS 113 CLASSICAL LATIN II (5 credits)
A continuation of Latin I, covering the second half of Wheelock's Latin. Prerequisite: ANCS 112 or demonstrated equivalent. (D-L)

*ANCS 130 DAMN THE GODS (3 credits)
In spite of the terrible behavior demonstrated by the Greek and Roman gods, they remained the focus of religious attention for millennia. By closely analyzing these mythological narratives, students will consider what these myths have to say about Greek and Roman religion, and about Greco-Roman conceptualizations of the world around them. Also listed as REL 130. (D-I)

An examination of Greek philosophy beginning with the Presocratic period and emphasizing the works of Plato and Aristotle. Reading is mainly in the primary sources. Also listed as PHIL 155. (WI)

What is Roman erotic poetry? Who wrote it? Why? In answer to these questions, students will read English translations of some of the most famous Roman erotic poets — Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid — and in doing so, will engage with many important social issues from ancient Rome. Using erotic poetry as a springboard, the course will address conceptualizations and constructions of gender and sexuality in Rome, and the fallout from the civil wars that wracked the city of Rome in the 1st century BCE. The course will explore precisely what it meant (and still means) to write literature in the first person. (D-I)

Did you know that Disney's Beauty and the Beast is based on a Latin novel written almost 2,000 years ago? Or that Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club bears a striking resemblance to Sophocles' Oedipus Rex? Each week, students will read a selection of ancient literature and pair it with a screening of modern film to assess the continued influence that ancient narratives still exert across multiple genres. Also listed as FILM 222. (D-I, RCH)

In antiquity, the Mediterranean Sea united rather than divided cultures. This course surveys ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean basin, paying particular attention to the cultural interactions that shaped and transformed the earliest history of this region. The course focuses upon four key centers of civilization: the kingdoms of the Near East, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Among the topics we will consider: Hittite and Mycenaean relationships during the Bronze Age, Greek colonization and interaction with Egyptians, Phoenicians, Italians, and Near Eastern cultures during the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., the Persian empire and its clash with the Greeks in the 5th century, and Roman expansionism during the Roman Republic. Reading includes primary texts in English. Also listed as HIST 241. (WI, D-I)

In an iconic scene in Indiana Jones: Last Crusade, Indiana Jones mutters the famous phrase, “That belongs in a museum!” when a relic is forcibly taken from him. Though the scene is Hollywood fiction, it does serve to highlight real tensions surrounding antiquities. Simultaneously viewed as objects of material, cultural, and aesthetic value, ancient objects occupy a nebulous space in the modern world. Using both archaeological and museological perspectives, this course is designed to introduce students to the types of artifacts that survive from antiquity and to explore some of the special challenges associated with antiquities collections. Also listed as MUSE 270.

ANCS 315 POMPEII: LIFE & DEATH (3 credits)
On August 24, AD 79, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, burying several Roman towns in the region of Campania, Italy, with a thick layer of volcanic ash and pumice. This event was a great tragedy for the people who lived in the area, causing vast destruction and considerable loss of life. For modern scholars, though, the event has proved an unusual blessing. Encapsulated within the volcanic debris is an unparalleled glimpse into the lives of the ancient inhabitants. This course explores the archaeological remains of Pompeii in order to learn about Roman life and culture in the early part of the Roman Empire. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or above. (D-I, RCH)

ANCS 342 READING LATIN (3 credits)
Students who have completed Latin I and II or the equivalent may take this course to continue their study of Latin. Texts are chosen to accommodate student interests and aptitudes, and have included works from Caesar, Catullus, Cicero, Horace, Petronius, Virgil and Ovid. Since texts change from year to year, students may take this course multiple times. Offered only in the Fall semesters. Prerequisites: ANCS 113 or demonstrated equivalent.

Explores specific topics of ancient literature in greater depth. Topic offerings depend upon interest and staff availability. Knowledge of a classical language not required. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor.

Ovid’s fifteen book epic, Metamorphoses, has been described as many things: a mythological handbook, pointed political commentary, an extended experiment with literary genre, and simply a self-involved display of Ovid’s overinflated sense of genius. Students in this course will read the translated work in its entirety, along with relevant scholarship, in an effort to better understand this enigmatic epic. The course will culminate in a final research project. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or above. (RCH)

This courses focuses on the literary and artistic works from successive periods in the history of ancient Rom to provide students with a broad overview of Rome's development and culture. Our sources include a wide range of texts (poetry, drama, history) and artifacts (architecture, sculpture, painting, daily objects). As we examine these "words" and "works" we seek to uncover the attitudes, values, and ways of seeing and thinking about the world that make each period of Roman history unique. Knowledge of Latin is not required. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as HIST 350. (WI)

This course focuses on the literary and artistic works from successive periods in the history of ancient Greece to provide students with a broad overview of the cultural and intellectual trends of ancient Greece. Our sources include a wide range of texts (poetry, drama, history) and artifacts (architecture, sculpture, painting, daily objects). As we examine these "words" and "works" we seek to uncover the attitudes, values, and ways of seeing and thinking about the world that make each period of Greek history unique. Knowledge of Greek is not required. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. (WI)

*ANCS 356 HOMERIC BANQUET (3 credits)
Epic poetry is one of the oldest and most revered literary genres from the ancient world. This course focuses on the careful reading and interpretation of the three epic masterpieces of Greek and Roman antiquity: Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid. In the process of studying these texts, we analyze the features that made epic poetry distinctive, and put these works into dialog with other texts in the epic tradition. Knowledge of Greek or Latin not required. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. (WI)

This course explores ways in which the ancient Greeks constructed notions of gender and sexuality. Students examine a wide range of primary evidence (such as drama, poetry, philosophy, scientific or medical treatises, court documents, art, architecture, and daily artifacts) in order to uncover Greek attitudes and practices. By confronting the assumptions of a culture that was in many ways radically different from our own, we address some of the fundamental ways that ideas about gender and sexuality inform and shape societal expectations and institutions, from personal identity and forms of self expression to the legal, medical, and political mechanisms that govern society. Knowledge of a classical language is not required. Also listed as WGSS 357. (WI)

A study of Greek and Roman tragedies and comedies including canonical texts (e.g., Plautus' Menaechmi) alongside lesser-taught ones (e.g., Seneca's Oedipus). We consider the literary/historical aspects of each piece alongside their performative natures. Knowledge of Greek or Latin is not required. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as THEA 358. (WI)

The defiant bravery of king Leonidas as he and his famous band of 300 Spartan soldiers held the pass at Thermopylae against the might of the Persian Empire is a familiar one, celebrated in popular memory as an act that transcends history to become legend. Did it really happen that way? Or is this image largely a product of the imagination of Greece’s first historian, Herodotus, considered by many to be “the father of history”? This course explores the way that Herodotus immortalized the conflict between the Greeks and Persians during the 5th century B.C. Students trace the forces that shaped this famous clash of cultures, and look at Herodotus’ account in conjunction with other archaeological and historical evidence in order to talk about how history is created. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing. Also listed as HIST 371. (D-I, RCH)



ANCS 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
Investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty supervisor. Culminates in a comprehensive report prepared in the style of a thesis or research paper.

ANCS 486 SENIOR RESEARCH (3 credits)
Ancient and Classical Studies majors are required to enroll in this course in the fall of their Senior year. Students identify a topic and conduct extensive research in preparation for writing their senior thesis.

Senior thesis writing and revision.

Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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