Through a variety of courses, we seek to investigate the hallmarks of classical Greece and Rome, and to understand the role of these ancient cultures in the formation of the modern West.

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Our faculty are scholars and researchers, who publish widely, translate texts, and guest lecture at conferences and other educational institutions. They work closely with students to develop their scholarship, critical thinking skills and capacity to understand how ancient cultures and civilizations influence contemporary society.

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Department Overview

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. The 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.

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.

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Curriculum Overview

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. 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 Lecture, an annual series that ranks among the most distinguished in the field of classics in the United States. The series has featured Richard Martin, David Frankfurter, Alessandro Barchiesi, Victoria Wohl, Simon Goldhill, and Christina Kraus, among others. 

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, offering our students the chance 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 Special Collections in the main library to peruse Byzantine manuscripts or Greek papyri. The Allen Memorial Art Museum 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).

Louis E. Lord Creativity Award in Classics

Beginning in 2016, the Department of Classics will be awarding the Louis E. Lord Creativity Award in Classics, thanks to a generous gift from Joel Dean (OC '64) and his family; the award will go "to one senior Classics major who will be most likely to use their classical education at Oberlin College in a highly creative and innovative way at the outset of their career. Classical skill sets could include: historical world perspective, linguistic novelty, critical analysis of texts or objects, and close reading with attention to detail, which together tend to nurture a realistic entrepreneurial spirit."  

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Upcoming Classics Events

Classics News

downtown oberlin ohio

Q&A with “What is Sanctuary?” Panelists

February 8, 2018
The concept of sanctuary is often part of today’s discussions about immigration, but the idea of providing sanctuary has ancient roots. Learn about the different meanings and practices during “What is Sanctuary?” on Tuesday, February 13.
Portrait of Chris Trinacty

A Conversation with Chris Trinacty

November 30, 2017
Assistant Professor of Classics Chris Trinacty on falling in love with Seneca’s tragedies, teaching the discipline through digital humanities, and his favorite Latin expressions.