Why Classics? Some Reasons to Study Ancient Greece & Rome at Skidmore

To study antiquity is to study ourselves. The insights of Classical literature have shaped Western thought for the last two thousand years, and to read and study it first-hand allows for a deeper understanding of human psychology and thought – on issues as germane today as the intersections of politics and race, the roles of gender and status, and the meaning of the human experience.

Classics courses encourage us to confront our pre-conceptions about ourselves, inviting us to apply a critical eye to the values of the Greek and Romans and thus, ultimately, ourselves. For example, long before contemporary societies grappled with the roles of men and women, the morality of slavery, and attitudes towards individuals of different races and cultures, the Greeks and Romans were challenged by such issues. We may not agree with their solutions, but by understanding their moral and ethical principles we get a better handle on our own approaches.

We love to problem-solve: from working through a translation of a Latin poem to making sense of the cultural context of a Greek vase, we are presented with challenges that are fun to tackle and exhilirating to solve. The evidence is often fragmentary and we relish the opportunity to fill in the gaps and arrive at possible solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Bring it on!

A knowledge of Greek and Latin has been proven scientifically to raise students' test scores on such important exams as the SAT, LSAT, GRE, and MCAT. A good performance in standardized tests is often the first step toward admittance into the best colleges, graduate schools, law schools, and medical schools as well as for financial aid awards. If you can master the Greek verb, you can master anything.

The whole idea of a "liberal arts education" is itself a Classical one, and no truly educated person should be lacking a knowledge of the societies that formulated many of our most cherished and central ideals: Plato’s Academy, democratic and republican forms of government, the Olympic games, philosophy, the theater, and spectacular works of art and architecture are just a taste of the Classical legacy that continues to inform our world.

Students who major in Classics are well prepared to pursue a variety of courses after graduation, since studying the languages and literatures of ancient Greece and Rome teaches a student how to read carefully, to write in grammatically correct and elegant English and to think logically and critically, and it provides a student with a broad base of knowledge from which he or she can draw in any number of professions.

The number one reason to study Classics at Skidmore? It is a rigorous interdisciplinary major that opens the door to studying the languages from which our own are derived but also to read the literature, poetry, drama, history and philosophy in the original tongues. A major in Classics involves the study of one or two foreign languages, history, political science, cultural diversity, literature, philosophy, theater, art history and archaeology! A Classics student at Skidmore achieves precisely what the College imagines for all of our students – a liberal education.


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