A few people have asked me recently why I chose to minor in classics, specifically classical civilization. There seems to exist an idea that this area of study is “useless” or “won’t help me in finding a job.” Despite the obvious reply I could give, which would be, “I took it because I enjoy this study and it makes me happy,” I thought I would put together a list of some of the biggest things I took with this minor, not in regards to how it would help me find a job per se, but in what I learned and how this minor has strengthened my knowledge.
In any class, you take involved in classics, you will absolutely feel a refresh of history. Whether this be the history of the Roman Empire or a history of the Spartans, history is deeply ingrained in the classics course. The classics major or minor can feel a little strange, especially because of this detail. Why take the classics courses when you can take history courses, if they both seem so similar? This, of course, can be answered through the other great elements of classics that a history class might not be able to give you.
When considering the history of the classics, this cannot be done through a textbook. Most of what we have in regards to what life was like back then, especially for women and children, derives right from the writers and poets of the time. Much of the material read in class comes from poets like Virgil and Sappho, who use their words to discuss the trials and pleasures of what life was like in Rome or Athens. To say literature is a large part within this area of study would be an understatement. If you enjoy reading and writing in any capacity, classics would be sure to please you.
Language also plays a role when studying classics, and although you never have to learn Latin to obtain the degree, you become familiar with the language itself. From simply looking at original texts or analyzing pieces of art, you begin to understand a little more about the Latin language. As so many languages of our own today have deep connections to Latin, it is a helpful skill to have when learning new vocabulary in English or becoming a beginner in French. Classics gives you the chance to expand your knowledge through a language, and it becomes even more impressive when it’s using a language that has been dead for a very long time!
I took a classical archeology course out of the blue, but was shockingly surprised to enjoy myself every time I went to class. I had never thought that I would want to take a class in something as mundane (to me) as archeology, but I found myself so excited to learn a subject I had previously shown little interest in. I am so glad I took this class as it explained to me the importance of archeology in classics. By studying buildings, art, pottery and other structures, one learns so much of the ancient world, and once you begin to learn the patterns of design, you can pick up this ability to understand art and other structures, a skill not many people have.
As most people would agree, myths remain one of the most popular reasons to study classics. My first class in this minor was greek mythology, and nothing was more enjoyable in that class than listening to my professor tell us a story of Zeus or a story of the creation of a god. As the Greeks and Romans relied so heavily on mythical stories to explain their origins and other happenings of their time, myths are found everywhere in the ancient world, and even run into our own time as well. While it may seem the most enjoyable part of the study, it also gives great lessons and a better understanding of this group of people.
Running close besides myths, are the dramas of the ancient world. Dramas like "Prometheus" and "The Trojan Women" told stories that taught the audience lessons of their world, especially in regards to war and the power of the gods. Through reading these dramas, classic readers learn how the ancient world used drama to teach the people a world lesson and how often we still see this in today’s world. The dramas convey the importance of the arts and literature, something that can be studies and continued to be appreciated.