Professor Kirk Ormand and students at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi (Jan. 2006)
Study of the classics has been a standard element of higher education since the foundation of the first degree-granting university in Bologna, Italy, in 1088. At Oberlin, we are committed to the study of ancient Greek and Roman language, literature, culture, and history. Through a variety of courses, we seek to investigate the hallmarks of classical Greece and Rome, to understand the role of these ancient cultures in the formation of the modern West.
If you plan to engage in research and teaching at the university or college level in such fields as classics, classical archeology, comparative literature, ancient religion, or ancient Western history, the classics major at Oberlin provides an excellent preparation.
We offer a minor in Greek or Latin and courses toward completion of three separate majors:
- Classical civilization
- Latin language and literature
- Greek language and literature
We have placed graduates in top-tier master’s and PhD degree programs at the University of California at Berkeley, Brown University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Oxford University, and Stanford University, among others. Many pre-law and premed majors also choose this field of study. Students of the classics have also launched successful careers in social work, publishing, library science, and field anthropology.
The South porch of the Erechtheum in Athens
We offer courses in classical civilization that cover literature, history and society, as well as Greek and Roman contributions to philosophy, religion, and government. No knowledge of Greek or Latin is required for these courses. Rather, we have designed these classes to provide a broad background for students interested in all areas of literary, humanistic, and historical study.
A series of courses in Greek and Latin language and literature develops a deeper understanding of the works of ancient Greece and Rome and enables students to make independent judgments about ancient society through the study of source documents in their original languages. Acquisition of the languages is a prerequisite for advanced work, however, many students begin at Oberlin with neither Latin nor Greek. We provide basic courses in the languages to enable you to approach significant material as soon as possible. Advanced seminars aim at close study of one or two ancient authors.
You will have opportunities to learn from visiting scholars through the Charles Beebe Martin Classical Lectures, an annual lecture series that ranks among the most distinguished in the field of classics in the United States. Professor of Greek Simon Goldhill of Cambridge University served as the Martin lecturer for 2009-10.
Oberlin sponsors the national John J. Winkler Memorial Prize, awarded annually to the best undergraduate and graduate essay in any risky or marginal field of classical study. The cash award honors the former classics scholar, teacher, and political activist who died of AIDS in 1990. The Winkler Prize recognizes unconventional and innovative work that has not yet proven itself in traditional venues. Each year’s graduate student winner gives the Winkler Memorial Lecture at Oberlin, providing opportunities for our students to hear the most innovative work in the field, and to learn first hand about top graduate programs in classics.
Outside the classroom, you can hone your language and research skills by visiting the Mudd Learning and Library Center Special Collections to peruse Byzantine manuscripts or Greek papyri. The Allen Memorial Art Museum, one of the top five college art museums in the nation, has a small but significant collection of ancient Greek and Roman art, as well as an outstanding set of works from the Renaissance and later periods that reflect the classical tradition.
We highly recommend study abroad as part of our curriculum. Oberlin College is a participating member of the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, which offers undergraduates opportunities to study ancient history and archaeology, Greek and Latin literature, and ancient art. We also cooperate with the Instituto Internazionale di Studi Classici di Orvieto and the College Year in Athens programs. We are a participating institution in the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, allowing Oberlin students to apply for their outstanding summer program in archaeology. You may also take part in the Sangro Valley Project, an archaeological field school directed by Oberlin and Oxford University (UK).
Winter term in Greece
This past WT (2013) Professor Kirk Ormand took 18 Oberlin students to Greece for a 16-day tour of archaeological sites and museums. You can visit the tumblr (blog) of our trip here.
In the spring of 2009, a few of our enterprising majors liberated the bust of Homer, our unofficial departmental mascot, for a journey around the Oberlin campus. View a photojournal of his local odyssey.