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Classics and Ancient Studies

216 Milbank Hall
212-854-7491 (fax)
Department Assistant: Tynisha Rue

Chair: Kristina Milnor (Professor)
Professors: Helene Foley, Nancy Worman
Assistant Professor: Ellen Morris

Other officers of the University offering courses in Classics:

Professors: Kathy H. Eden, Carmela Franklin, Deborah T. Steiner, Katharina Volk, Gareth D. Williams, James E. G. Zetzel
Associate Professor: Karen Van Dyck (Modern Greek)
Assistant Professors: Vangelis Calotychos (Modern Greek), Marcus Folch, Joseph Howley, Elizabeth Irwin
Lecturer: Elizabeth Scharffenberger

Greek and Roman Language, Literature, and Culture; Ancient Studies; Modern Greek

Department of Classics and Ancient Studies (see below for Modern Greek)


The department of Classics and Ancient Studies aims to introduce students to a knowledge of the languages and an understanding of the literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome in a broader Mediterranean context, as well as to develop an appreciation of how Greco-Roman antiquity has been used and abused by later eras. The study of the languages enables access to a wide range of challenging and influential ancient texts, artifacts, and ideas and also makes the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of English and other modern languages more comprehensible. The study of these texts, in turn, develops analytical and critical thinking about both the past and the present, the ability to assess many different kinds of fragmentary evidence, as well as skills in writing, close reading and oral presentation, cultural awareness, and literary sensibility. Close cooperation between Barnard and Columbia enables ancient studies students to plan and implement an integrated, cohesive interdisciplinary study of the ancient world, including language, literature, mythology, history, religion, philosophy, law, political theory, comparative literature, medieval studies, gender studies, art history and material culture. The texts and  monuments of the Greco-Roman world served as the basis of Western education until the twentieth-century and  retain a core position in modern humanities and social thought that is currently expanding beyond the West. Exploring, analyzing, and assessing this legacy is the central goal of the program.


The department offers two majors. The majors in Classics (Greek, Latin, or Classics) center on work in the original languages, whereas the major in Ancient Studies has an interdisciplinary focus. All members of the department are available for major advising and students ideally choose an advisor who can help them develop their required senior essays.

The Major in Greek, Latin or Classics

Classics majors develop a knowledge of Greek and Latin as a gateway to the study of the literature, history, and culture of Greece and Rome. Students can start Greek and Latin at Barnard or build on skills acquired in high school. Second year courses introduce students to original texts in Greek or Latin by authors such as Homer, Plato, Herodotus, or the Greek orators or Vergil, Ovid, Horace, Cicero, Caesar, Livy or Sallust. A range of advanced courses in Greek or Latin focus on prose or poetic texts drawn from ancient epic, lyric poetry, philosophy, drama, history, rhetoric or the novel and introduce critical approaches and literary and historical scholarship. Students are encouraged to take more courses in ancient history and classical literature and civilization than the two required for the major. Students planning to go on to graduate work in Classics and related fields are advised to undertake at least three years in both languages as well as to begin acquiring the ability to read scholarship in French, German, or Italian. Study abroad for one semester in either Greece or Rome is common and encouraged.

Student Learning Objectives in Classics

Students successfully completing a major in Classics should be able to attain the following objectives:

  • Translate a range of Greek or Latin texts at a moderately advanced level and demonstrate an understanding of the grammar and syntax of ancient languages.
  • Read, analyze, and write about ancient texts persuasively and locate texts in their historical and cultural contexts.
  • Achieve familiarity with the methodologies and critical approaches and research tools deployed in classical scholarship that will be demonstrated in the successful completion of a senior research project.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the work of a variety of ancient writers, literary styles, genres, and periods and their later influences.

The Major in Ancient Studies

All students in the department are encouraged to take courses in history and classical civilization that require no knowledge of the languages. Students in the more fully interdisciplinary Ancient Studies major combine study of at least one ancient language with a range of courses in various departments focusing on language, literature, mythology, history, religion, philosophy, political theory, law, film, comparative literature, medieval studies, gender studies, art history and material culture. Each student develops a concentration in one geographical area or period, but is encouraged to focus on a set of related issues and questions. Ancient Studies students will encounter many disciplinary approaches and investigate Greek and Roman and related ancient cultures in Egypt and the Near East and their influences on later Western (and to the degree possible, non-Western) culture. From this perspective the major can complement work in other liberal arts majors. Study abroad for one semester in either Greece, Rome, Egypt, or the Near East is common and encouraged.

Student Learning Objectives in Ancient Studies

Students successfully completing a major in Classics should be able to attain the following objectives:

  • Read, analyze, and write about ancient texts persuasively and locate texts in their historical and cultural contexts.
  • Achieve familiarity with the methodologies and critical approaches and research tools deployed in classical scholarship and in related disciplines studied by each individual student that is demonstrated in the successful completion of a senior research project.
  • Achieve familiarity with the work of a variety of ancient writers on a range of interdisciplinary topics.
  • Engage in detail with the methods needed to analyze the range of fragmentary evidence, both written and material, required in an interdisciplinary study of the ancient Mediterranean world.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with one geographical area or period in the Greek, Latin or related ancient Mediterranean worlds.
  • Assess differences among and relations between ancient cultures and analyze the use and abuse of evidence about the ancient world by later cultures.

The Greek or Latin play

The Classics Department is the beneficiary of the Matthew Alan Kramer Fund, whose principal purpose is to support the production of plays in Ancient Greek or Latin. Students of the department have produced Antigone, Medea, Alcestis, Persians, Eumenides, Cyclops, Electra, Clouds, Trojan Women, Rudens, Helen, Trachiniae, Bacchae, Hippolytus, Heracles, Birds, and Persa, which have provided an exciting and different learning experience for the participants.

Classics in New York

Every effort is made to introduce students to considerable resources for the study and influence of the Classics in New York City, including plays, films, and museum and gallery visits.

Careers undertaken by Classics and Ancient Studies Majors

Our majors graduate well prepared for graduate careers in Classics and related academic fields such as history, philosophy, archaeology, art history or comparative literature. They also enter successful careers in secondary school teaching, museum work and arts administration, as well as law, medicine and biological sciences, business, politics, public service in both the government and non-profit sectors, journalism and creative writing, publishing, library science, and the arts (especially theater, film and dance).

Study Abroad

The following three programs are pre-approved, but students may discuss other options with their advisors.

ICCS in Rome

Barnard College participates in the program of the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome. Majors in Classics or Ancient Studies are eligible to apply for admission to the program of the Rome Center for one semester, preferably in the junior year. Courses taken at the Rome Center may be used in the major and, in some cases, may be used to satisfy distribution requirements. The program provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to study ancient history and archaeology in Rome, Greek and Latin literature, and ancient and renaissance art. Students planning to apply to the ICCS should plan to take Roman history before applying and preference is given to those with two or more years of Latin and Greek. Applications for the spring term are due in mid-October and for the fall term in mid-March. Because of Sicily’s ancient connections to Greece, the program focuses more on the Hellenic culture of Magna Graeca and Sicily’s place as a cultural crossroads in the ancient Mediterranean. 

ICCS in Sicily

The focus of ICCS Sicily, as in the original program in Rome, will be on classical languages as well as on local manifestations of history and civilization in the ancient Mediterranean world. Based at the University of Catania, in a city with a rich ancient, medieval and Baroque history, this program offers extensive local academic resources and close proximity to both the mainland and other towns on the island. 

CYA: College Year In Athens

The College Year in Athens (CYA) program offers either one semester or a full year of courses in ancient and modern Greek languages, history, art, and archaeology, as well as advanced Latin and courses in postclassical and modern Greek culture, politics, and history. Almost 200 colleges participate in the CYA. Applications for the spring term must be received by mid-October and by mid-May for the fall term.

Amheida: Excavation in Egypt’s Dakhleh Oasis

The department also maintains a relationship with NYU’s project at Amheida in Egypt, which combines archaeological fieldwork with academic studies. The program runs from early January through mid-March and students will receive a full semester’s worth of credit for their participation. The academic curriculum focuses on the archaeology, history, and environment of ancient Egypt, combined with hands-on training in archaeological methods. Students are also required to take a basic course in Arabic.

Summer Study

Students interested in summer programs in archaeology should consult the website of the American Institute for Archaeology (AIA) under fieldwork.

The CUNY Greek and Latin Workshops in midtown Manhattan offer special intensive summer language programs in Greek and Latin. Other institutions including Columbia offer summer language courses. The American Numismatics Society in Manhattan offers courses in the study of ancient coins.

Barnard College is a Supporting Institution of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the American Academy in Rome, and certain privileges of those schools are open without fee to graduates of the College.