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Acropolis of Lindos on the island of Rhodes

Classical Languages & Literatures

Classics is the study of ancient Greek and Roman civilization, which laid the foundation of the western tradition in literature, philosophy, history, art, science and mathematics. Classics is thus not confined to one field or method, but has always been inherently interdisciplinary. Classics students spend most of their time reading Greek and Latin texts in the original languages, but they can also take courses in English translation in a variety of disciplines in order to get a broader, interdisciplinary perspective. Classics makes a dynamic and rewarding stand alone major, but it can be (and often is) paired with a second major.
Above: Photo of Lindos, Rhodes.

Department Update

Welcome students!

The Department of Classical Languages and Literatures sends a warm welcome to Smith students, both returning and new. Best wishes for a great spring semester! 

Requirements & Courses

Goals for Majors in Classical Studies

The Department of Classical Languages and Literatures regards its principal mission as instruction of students in the languages and literatures of ancient Greece and Rome. We believe that the study of Greek and Latin provides students with a rigorous intellectual training that is transferable to other areas of learning and life. We practice the deep study of language on texts—literary, historical and philosophical—that we admire for the directness and vigor with which they confront central issues of the human condition: love and death, freedom and tyranny, justice and injustice. A sustained confrontation with classical texts not only heightens a student’s sensitivity to literature and involves her in a valuable cultural odyssey, but also prepares her for a life of thoughtful and engaged citizenship in the world of the 21st century.

Students majoring in classics or classical studies should be able to:

  • Translate with accuracy and understanding Latin and/or Greek texts from a variety of historical periods and genres.
  • Appreciate literary texts (epic, tragedy, elegy, oratory, history or philosophy) in relation to their historical frameworks, both diachronic (texts in dialogue with one another across a literary tradition) and synchronic (texts responding to specific historical conditions).
  • Have a working knowledge of the basic tools and resources, both print and electronic, for conducting research about ancient Greek and Roman culture.
  • Write clear, cogent interpretive arguments that demonstrate an ability to evaluate and engage critically with both primary sources and secondary literature.
  • Communicate ideas clearly and effectively in oral argument.
  • Develop an historical awareness of the enduring influence of the classics in the arts and culture of subsequent periods up to the present day.

Classical Studies Major

Requirements

Nine courses

  1. Four courses in the Greek or Latin languages
    1. Two courses at any level
    2. Two courses at or above the intermediate level
  2. At least two courses chosen from classics in translation in classics or First-Year Seminars
  3. At least two courses chosen from archaeology, art history, world literatures, government, ancient history, philosophy or religion, in accordance with the interests of the student and in consultation with the adviser. With the approval of the adviser, courses in other departments and programs may count toward the major.

Classics Major

Requirements

Nine language courses

  1. At least two courses in the Greek language at any level
  2. At least two courses in the Latin language at any level
  3. Six courses in Greek or Latin at or above the intermediate level
  • One classics in translation course in classics or First-Year Seminars may be substituted for one language course at the discretion of the student and with the approval of the adviser.

Greek Major

Requirements

Nine language courses

  1. Three courses in the Greek language at any level
  2. Six courses in the Greek language at or above the intermediate level
  • One classics in translation course in classics or First-Year Seminars may be substituted for one language course at the discretion of the student and with the approval of the adviser.

Latin Major

Requirements

Nine language courses

  1. Three courses in the Latin language at any level
  2. Six courses in the Latin Language at or above the intermediate level
  • One classics in translation course in classics or First-Year Seminars may be substituted for one language course at the discretion of the student and with the approval of the adviser.

Honors

Please consult the director of honors or the departmental website for specific requirements and application procedures.

Classics Minor

Requirements

Six courses (24 credits)

  1. Two courses in the Greek language at any level
  2. Two courses in the Latin language at any level
  3. Two courses in the Greek or Latin languages at or above the intermediate level

Greek Minor

Requirements

Six courses (24 credits)

  1. Two courses courses in the Greek language at any level
  2. At least two courses in the Greek language at or above the intermediate level
  3. At least one course from Greek history, art, ancient philosophy, ancient political theory, ancient religion or classics in translation

Latin Minor

Requirements

Six courses (24 credits)

  1. Two courses courses in the Latin language at any level
  2. At least two courses in the Latin language at or above the intermediate level
  3. At least one course from Roman history, art, ancient philosophy, ancient political theory, ancient religion or classics in translation

Classics Courses

Students planning to major in classics are advised to take relevant courses in other departments, such as art, English, history, philosophy and modern foreign languages.

Credit is not granted for the first semester of an introductory language course unless the second semester is completed successfully. Courses for the major may not be taken S/U.

CLS 150 Roots: Greek and Latin Elements in English (2 Credits)

Sixty percent of all English words are derived from Greek and Latin roots, yet most speakers of English are unaware of the origins and true meaning ("etymology") of the words they use to communicate with others every day. This course aims to fill that gap, with an eye to sharpening and expanding English vocabulary and enhancing understanding of the structures of language in general. Combines hands-on study of Greek and Latin elements in English with lectures and primary readings that open a window onto ancient thinking about language, government, the emotions, law, medicine and education. S/U only; one evening meeting per week. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

CLS 217/ ARH 217 Greek Art and Archaeology (4 Credits)

Offered as CLS 217 and ARH 217. This course is a contextual examination of the art and architecture of Ancient Greece, from the end of the Bronze Age through the domination of Greece by Rome (ca. 1100-168 BCE) and handles an array of settlements, cemeteries and ritual sites. It tracks the development of the Greek city-state and the increasing power of the Greeks in the Mediterranean, culminating in the major diaspora of Greek culture accompanying the campaigns of Alexander the Great and his followers. The course takes a broadly chronological approach, and the question of a unified Greek culture is stressed. Continuing archaeological work is considered. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

CLS 218 Hellenistic Art and Archaeology (4 Credits)

We will examine the art, architecture, and material culture of the Hellenistic period, spanning the years from 323 to 31 BCE and representing one of the most exciting and dynamic eras of Greek history. Beginning with the expansionist campaign of Alexander the Great and ending with the conquests of the future emperor Augustus, it is a time of fast-paced change, experimentation, and diversity. In addition to examining the archaeology of this period, we will explore ideas about the accessibility of archaeological material and how this may be facilitated through digital collections and virtual reconstructions. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

CLS 227 Classical Mythology (4 Credits)

The principal myths as they appear in Greek and Roman literature, seen against the background of ancient culture and religion. Focus on creation myths, the structure and function of the Olympian pantheon, the Troy cycle and artistic paradigms of the hero. Some attention to modern retellings and artistic representations of ancient myths. {A}{L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

CLS 233 Gender and Sexuality in Greco-Roman Culture (4 Credits)

The construction of gender, sexuality, and erotic experience is one of the major sites of difference between Greco-Roman culture and our own. What constituted a proper man and a proper woman in these ancient societies? Which sexual practices and objects of desire were socially sanctioned and which considered deviant? What ancient modes of thinking about these issues have persisted into the modern world? Attention to the status of women; the role of social class; the ways in which genre and convention shaped representation; the relationship between representation and reality. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

CLS 238 The Age of Heroes: Archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age (4 Credits)

For many of us, the Mediterranean Bronze Age is associated with mythological events like the Trojan War. But how did the people of the Bronze Age actually live? This course surveys the archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age, including Egypt and the Aegean, among others, from 3000 to 1100 BCE. We explore not only the pyramids and palaces of the period, but also the evidence for day-to-day living, from crafts production to religion. We also examine how these cultures interacted, and the Mediterranean networks that both allowed them to flourish and led to their collapse. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

CLS 260/ WLT 260 Colloquium: Transformations of a Text: Shape-Shifting and the Role of Translation (4 Credits)

Offered as CLS 260 and WLT 260. Whose work are you reading when you encounter a text in translation? How is the author’s voice modulated through the translator’s? What constitutes a "faithful" or a "good" translation? How do the translator’s language and culture, the expectations of the target audience, and the marketplace determine what gets translated and how? We consider different translations of the same text, including rogue translations, adaptations and translations into other forms (opera, musicals, film). Students produce their own translations or adaptations. WLT 150 recommended. Enrollment limited to 20.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

CLS 310et Topics: Advanced Readings in Greek Literature I & II-Euripides and Thucydides: Athens Destroys Itself (4 Credits)

A study of how a contemporary tragedian and a contemporary historian viewed Athens' loss of its empire in the Peloponnesian War. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

CLS 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

For majors/minors and advanced students who have had three classics or other courses on the ancient world and two intermediate courses in Greek or Latin. Admission by permission of the department.

Fall, Spring

CLS 430D Honors Project (4 Credits)

Fall, Spring

Greek Courses

GRK 100Y Elementary Greek (5 Credits)

A year-long course in the fundamentals of Attic Greek, the dialect of Greek spoken in antiquity in the region of Attica and its capital, Athens, and used by canonical writers such as the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, the historian Thucydides and the philosopher Plato. This course prepares students to read the works of these authors and a wide range of others through a combination of grammatical study, composition and graded reading practice, while learning about the history and culture of classical Greece. It also prepares them to make the transition to both the early Greek of Homeric epic and the later Greek (koine) of the New Testament. This course cannot be divided at midyear with credit for the first semester.

Fall, Spring, Annually

GRK 214 Greek Poetry of the Archaic Age (4 Credits)

An exploration of the poetic masterpieces of the Archaic period. We will study some of the songs bards performed to the accompaniment of the lyre, stories of war, exile and homecoming, monsters and divinities, love and lust. Readings will be chosen from works such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days, the Homeric Hymns. Prerequisite: GRK 110Y or equivalent. {F}{L}

Fall

GRK 215 Greek Prose and Poetry of the Classical Age (4 Credits)

An introduction to different genres of prose and poetry in the Classical period with attention to linguistic differences over time and region. Readings are from works such as Herodotus' History of the Persian War, the poetry of Solon the wise Athenian lawmaker, the philosophical dialogues of Plato, the Athenian courtroom speeches of Lysias, the tragedies of Euripides. Prerequisite: three semesters of Greek or equivalent. {F}{L}

Spring

GRK 310 Topics: Advanced Readings in Greek Literature (4 Credits)

Topics course. Authors vary from year to year, but they are generally chosen from a list that includes Plato, Homer, Aristophanes, lyric poets, tragedians, historians and orators depending on the interests and needs of the students. May be repeated for credit, provided the topic is not the same. Prerequisite: GRK 213 or equivalent.

Fall, Spring, Annually

GRK 310dd Topics: Advanced Readings in Greek Literature: Demeter & Dionysus (4 Credits)

A study of two important divinities and their place in Greek religion through readings of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and Euripides’ Bacchae, the two principal literary sources for study of these gods. The Hymn is our major source for knowledge of Demeter and the Eleusinian Mysteries, the oldest mystery cult in the Greek world. Euripides’ play is a deep and far-ranging meditation on the nature of the most complex of all Greek gods. Our approach will be both literary and historical. Prerequisite: GRK 213 or equivalent. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GRK 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

For majors and honors students who have had four advanced courses in Greek. Admission by permission of the department.

Fall, Spring

GRK 430D Honors Project (4-8 Credits)

Fall, Spring

Latin Courses

LAT 100Y Elementary Latin (5 Credits)

The Latin language has had an extraordinarily long life, from ancient Rome through the Middle Ages to nineteenth-century Europe, where it remained the language of scholarship and science. Even today it survives in the Romance languages that grew out of it and in the countless English words derived from Latin roots. This course prepares students to read Latin texts in any period or area of interest through a study of the fundamentals of classical Latin grammar and through practice in reading from a range of Latin authors. Some attention will also be given to Roman culture and Latin literary history. This is a full-year course and cannot be divided at midyear with credit for the first semester. Enrollment limited to 30.

Fall, Spring, Annually

LAT 212 Introduction to Latin Prose and Poetry (4 Credits)

Practice and improvement of reading skills through the study of a selection of texts in prose and verse. Systematic review of fundamentals of grammar. Prerequisite: LAT 100Y or equivalent. {F}{L}

Fall

LAT 214 Introduction to Latin Literature in the Augustan Age (4 Credits)

An introduction to the "Golden Age" of Latin literature which flourished under Rome's first emperor. Reading and discussion of authors exemplifying a range of genres and perspectives such as Virgil, Ovid and Horace, with attention to the political and cultural context of their work and to the relationship between literary production and the Augustan regime and its program. Practice in research skills and in reading, evaluating and producing critical essays. Prerequisite: LAT 212 or equivalent. {F}{L}

Spring

LAT 330 Topics: Advanced Readings in Latin Literature (4 Credits)

Topics course. Authors vary from year to year, but they are generally chosen from a list that includes epic and lyric poets, historians, orators, comedians and novelists, depending on the interests and needs of the students. May be repeated for credit with different topics. Prerequisites: two courses at the 200 level or equivalent.

Fall, Spring

LAT 330mr Topics: Advanced Readings in Latin Literature-Myths of Rome (4 Credits)

A study of the tradition of Roman story-telling, stressing the connections among myth, legend and history in narratives of the early city. Discussions include the extent to which early Rome is part of the world of Greek myth, the process by which key statesmen and generals in the early legends came to represent the character of the noble families of later ages and then to symbolize central Roman virtues, the development of these legendary and quasi-historical narratives into a "myth" of the Roman national character, and the manipulation of traditional stories in the political and cultural disputes of later eras. Readings from Livy, Ovid, Vergil and Horace. Prerequisites: two courses at the 200 level or equivalent. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

LAT 330om Topics: Advanced Readings in Latin Literature-Ovid's Metamorphoses (4 Credits)

A study of Ovid’s transmission and adaptation of Greek myths in the Metamorphoses. Attention is paid to Ovid’s Augustan milieu and to the extraordinary afterlife of the Metamorphoses, particularly in Renaissance art. Prerequisites: two courses at the 200 level or equivalent. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

LAT 330rn Topics: Advanced Readings in Latin Literature-The Roman Novel (4 Credits)

Though the genre of the novel is usually identified with the modern era, many argue that its origins lie in works of prose fiction by Greek and Roman authors. This course examines the two such Latin works that survive, the Satyricon of Petronius, arbiter elegantiae in the court of Nero, and the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, a provincial form of what is now Algeria writing in age of the Antonines. Topics will include the genesis and features of the genre; literary precedents and literary allusion; prose style; and how the distinctive cultural background of each work frames the worlds that they conjure. Prerequisite: LAT 214 or equivalent. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

LAT 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

For majors and honors students who have had four advanced courses in Latin. Admission by permission of the department.

Fall, Spring

LAT 430D Honors Project (4-8 Credits)

Fall, Spring

Crosslisted Courses

CLS 260/ WLT 260 Colloquium: Transformations of a Text: Shape-Shifting and the Role of Translation (4 Credits)

Offered as CLS 260 and WLT 260. Whose work are you reading when you encounter a text in translation? How is the author’s voice modulated through the translator’s? What constitutes a "faithful" or a "good" translation? How do the translator’s language and culture, the expectations of the target audience, and the marketplace determine what gets translated and how? We consider different translations of the same text, including rogue translations, adaptations and translations into other forms (opera, musicals, film). Students produce their own translations or adaptations. WLT 150 recommended. Enrollment limited to 20.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ENG 202/ WLT 202 Western Classics in Translation I: Homer to Dante (4 Credits)

Offered as ENG 202 and WLT 202. Considers works of literature, mostly from the ancient world, that have had a significant influence over time. May include: epics by Homer and Virgil; tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; Plato’s Symposium; Dante’s Divine Comedy." Enrollment limited to 20. WI {L}

Fall

FYS 107 Women of the Odyssey (4 Credits)

Homer’s Odyssey presents a gallery of memorable women: Penelope above all, but also Nausicaa, Calypso and Circe. Helen plays a cameo role, while Clytemnestra is regularly invoked as a negative example. Together these women define a spectrum of female roles and possibilities: the faithful wife, the bride-to-be, the temptress, the adulteress, the murderer. The course begins with a careful reading of the Odyssey, then studies the afterlife of its female characters in the Western literary tradition. Readings are drawn from authors both ancient (Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Ovid) and modern (H.D., Robert Graves, Louise Glück, Margaret Drabble). This course counts toward the classics, classical studies and study of women and gender majors. Enrollment limited to 16 first-years. WI

Fall, Spring, Variable

FYS 147 Power Lunch: The Archaeology of Feasting (4 Credits)

Throughout history, food and dining have formed some of the most fundamental expressions of cultural identity--in a very real sense, people are what they eat, and how they eat. This cross-cultural examination of the topic begins by exploring the various roles that feasting played in the world of the ancient Mediterranean, particularly the cultures of Greece and Rome. The class examines comparative material from contemporary societies. How does food define and create culture? In what ways does dining express or reinforce inequalities? These and other questions are tackled through the use of primary literature, anthropological studies and archaeological material, along with hands-on approaches. Enrollment limited to 16 first-years. WI {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 230 “Unnatural” Women: Mothers Who Kill their Children (4 Credits)

Some cultures give the murdering mother a central place in myth and literature while others treat the subject as taboo. How is such a woman depicted--As monster, lunatic, victim, savior? What do the motives attributed to her reveal about a society’s assumptions and values? What difference does it make if the author is a woman? We focus on literary texts but also consider representations in other media, especially cinema. Authors to be studied include Euripides, Seneca, Ovid, Anouilh, Christa Wolff, Christopher Durang, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and others. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

Additional Programmatic Information

Honors Director: Nancy Shumate

Requirements: A 3.7 average for courses within the major through the junior year. Honors candidates will complete a yearlong, 8-credit thesis and will take an examination in the general area of the thesis.

Evaluation: In determining the final honors evaluation the department weights the thesis at 60%, grades at 30%, and the examination at 10%.

Faculty

Susan B. Levin

Philosophy

Roe/Straut Professor in the Humanities; Professor of Philosophy; and Chair, Department of Philosophy

Susan Levin

Nancy J. Shumate

Classics

Professor of Classical Languages & Literatures and Department Chair, Classical Languages & Literatures

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Emeriti

Scott A. Bradbury
Professor Emeritus of Classical Languages and Literatures

J. Patrick Coby
Esther Booth Wiley 1934 Professor Emeritus of Government

Justina Winston Gregory
Sophia Smith Professor Emerita of Classical Languages and Literatures

Why Study Classics?

Resources

Display case at the Van Buren Antiquities room, Smith College

The Van Buren Antiquities Collection

This archeological collection of artifacts from Ancient Greece and Italy was originally the personal study collection of Albert William Van Buren (1878–1968), whose career as professor of archaeology and curator of the Archaeological Study Collection at the American Academy in Rome spanned more than five decades. He introduced generations of American students to the monuments of Rome, Latium and Etruria. The collection was sold to the Smith College Latin department in 1925.

VIEW THE ANTIQUITIES COLLECTION ONLINE

Adviser: Thalia Pandiri

Programs in Greece

College Year in Athens
Smith's approved program for students who want to study classics in Greece.

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Summer Session
This site contains a list of fellowships and school programs/sessions; look through it to find a program that will work for you.

Programs in Italy

The American Academy in Rome, Classical Summer School
The description states that high school teachers and graduate students may apply, but advanced undergraduates are also eligible.

The Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome (ICCS)
Smith's approved program for students who want to study classics in Italy.

Smith students also study abroad in Florence, Paris and the United Kingdom.

John Everett Brady Prize

The John Everett Brady Prize is open to all classes and is awarded for excellence in the translation of Latin at sight; a second prize is awarded for the best performance in the beginning Latin course.

Julia Harwood Caverno Prize

The Julia Harwood Caverno Prize is awarded for the best performance in the beginning Greek course.

Alice Hubbard Derby Prize

The Alice Hubbard Derby Prize is awarded to a member of the junior or senior class for excellence in the translation of Greek at sight; a second prize is awarded to a member of the junior or senior class for excellence in the study of Greek literature in the year in which the award is made.

George E. Dimock Memorial Prize

The George E. Dimock Memorial Prize is awarded for the best essay on a classical subject submitted by a Smith College undergraduate.

The Rhorer Fund

The Department of Classical Languages and Literatures has limited funds available from the Catherine Campbell Rhorer Fund, to be awarded:

  1. For travel and enrichment purposes to classics or classical studies majors who have been accepted to study classics abroad during their junior year.
  2. In support of summer course work taken at another college or university, after approval by the classics department, by classics or classical studies majors sufficiently advanced in the field, or by graduating seniors.

Normally, successful applicants will have a record of A- or better in Greek and/or Latin courses taken at Smith. Financial need will be taken into consideration in determining awards. Application may be made at any point during the academic year. To compete for an award from the Rhorer Fund, a student should submit a letter of application to the chair of the department consisting of (a) one or two paragraphs describing her projected plan of study and/or travel and explaining how it would enhance her education in classics and (b) a budget.

Contact Classical Languages & Literatures

Pierce Hall 105
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3302 Email: jroberts@smith.edu

Administrative Assistant: Jennifer Roberts

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.