Classical studies have always been at the heart of a liberal education, because they afford unmatched perspectives from which to understand our own time. The faculty has gained a widespread reputation for consistently inspired and inspiring teaching, confirmed by excellent teaching evaluations and numerous University teaching awards. Our department is large enough to offer a full range of courses in Latin and Greek, as well as in history, religion, art, philosophy, legal systems, literature, mythology, social and cultural developments of antiquity. The curriculum covers 3,500 years of human experience in the Greco-Roman world, from the beginnings of Western civilization through the Christianization of Europe.
Three major programs are offered: Classical Civilization, Classical Languages and Classics. Students majoring in classical languages approach the ancient world primarily through its literature, read in the original language. Students majoring in classics integrate the ancient texts with other kinds of evidence. Students majoring in classical civilization receive the broadest introduction to the ancient world, and they read the primary sources in translation. Majors are encouraged to spend a semester at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome or a Maymester session in Greece or Rome led by one of our own professors.
Vanderbilt has been a member of the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, now sponsored through Duke University, since its inception in the late 1960's. Courses at the ICCS count for direct Vanderbilt credit, and students may use Vanderbilt scholarships for study there.
The Department sponsors numerous lectures and other opportunities for students. Several undergraduate scholarships are available for majors in classical studies. We offer an honors program in classics or classical languages.
Students who major in classical studies are unlimited in their post-undergraduate opportunities. Our majors have gone on to earn degrees in medical and law schools and in graduate schools of business and management. They have entered every possible type of career, often seemingly far removed from their major, from medical illustration to journalism to accounting. But the linguistic, analytical, and interpretive skills taught and refined in studying the classics are useful in all areas of life; and classics students, having explored the ever-changing world of the ancient Greeks and Romans, are fully able to adapt to the ever-changing world in which we live today. In addition, a few of our majors have entered teaching and thus relieved the national shortage of Latin teachers, and others have gone on into graduate studies in classics, archaeology, or anthropology, as well as other areas.
John Millstine, who completed his major in classical languages in 1996 and earned an M.D. from Vanderbilt in 2000, once commented, “In my experience as a classical languages major, I feel that I have acquired insight into human nature that those outside our discipline might only have acquired through many years of careful observation and experience. A respect for mankind and its accomplishments seems to follow naturally upon the heels of education. This gift is the one that I cherish most out of those derived from my studies. Classics have bestowed upon me a profound humanism. I exult in the accomplishments of my ancient predecessors and the firm foundation that they prepared for Western Civilization. Most importantly, though, I look to them as sources of inspiration and enlightenment as to how I might live a life that is consistent with the highest human ideals. In this sense, even though I have graduated and now move on to pursue other interests, I know that my classical education will never cease.”