Classical and Mediterranean Studies
The Program in Classical and Mediterranean Studies offers students an interdisciplinary perspective on the culture and history of a region at the crossroads of civilization since antiquity. The study of the Mediterranean world examines the influential achievements and legacy of the Greeks and Romans alongside the emergence and spread of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the East. It also explores the premodern to modern development of southern Europe, North Africa, and western Asia, which have variously responded to the ancient and medieval past.
In teaching and research, our faculty promote the integrated study of past and present through both written and material sources—textual, artifactual, visual, spatial—and they embrace analytical techniques in the digital humanities. Students thus have the opportunity to learn several ancient and medieval languages of Europe and the Middle East and to pursue experiential learning overseas, from intensive modern language study to archaeological fieldwork to the investigation of evolving cultural and natural landscapes.
Tracks within the Major
Majors in Classical and Mediterranean Studies are introduced to the distinctive geography and history of the region but choose their courses in one of three tracks. These tracks have shared content but offer different viewpoints and training. Majors who expect to apply for graduate study should work closely with an adviser to devise an appropriate curriculum.
Students who pursue Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures investigate one or more ancient to medieval cultural tradition(s) in the Greco-Roman and Near Eastern spheres through the study of original texts and their historical setting, such as Greek tragedy, Latin oratory, Hebrew scripture, the Qur’an, or early French romance.
Students who pursue Mediterranean Archaeology explore human diversity and experience from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages through the study of material and visual culture. They too learn to read textual sources while acquiring the skills of archaeological and art-historical research.
Students who pursue Mediterranean Studies, the most flexible track for a broad range of interests, can choose to engage with a variety of ancient, medieval, or modern topics through focused or comparative study.
The Program also offers a minor in Mediterranean Archaeology and a minor in Mediterranean Studies.
Course Work/Recently Offered Courses
The Program offers courses in the history, religion, philosophy, art, literature, society and culture of the Mediterranean world. Each year we offer courses in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic language at all levels; introductory surveys of Greek and Roman Civilization and Mythology; and broad overviews of Mediterranean History and Art. We also offer more focused explorations of an aspect of Mediterranean culture that aligns with a faculty member’s areas of specialization; some recent examples include Ancient Warfare, Greek Sanctuaries, Late Antiquity, and Alexander the Great. There are no prerequisites for our Classics courses; unless otherwise indicated, they are open to beginners and majors alike.
Honors Program and Undergraduate Research
Our honors program enables our most accomplished and ambitious majors to spend their senior year writing an Honors Thesis and then presenting it to the faculty. Honors candidates must have completed a set number of courses in an ancient Mediterranean language, and they must meet minimum grade point averages as outlined in The Undergraduate Catalog. In the Spring semester of their junior year, they identify a faculty member whose areas of specialization apply to the proposed thesis topic, and in consultation with this adviser they present a brief prospectus to a faculty committee (examples are available in our program office upon request); only upon faculty approval of the prospectus are candidates recommended to the Associate Dean for Special Programs for admission to our Honors program. Candidates will meet with their adviser regularly over two semesters, and they will generally consult with a second reader within the Program as well. This project thus provides an unparalleled opportunity to conduct independent research at a graduate level.
Other Special Opportunities
Our students are strongly encouraged to pursue study abroad in the Mediterranean or an adjacent region. The Program has long supported the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, the American Academy in Rome, and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. 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.
Many different international experiences are possible through Vanderbilt’s study abroad programs, Maymesters, research projects, and summer study, for example, in France, Italy, Greece, and Israel. The Program encourages students to participate in local and regional conferences, where they can share the results of collaborative or independent work. Students concentrating on Greece and Rome who qualify academically are invited to join Eta Sigma Phi, the National Classics Honor Society.
The Program sponsors numerous lectures and other opportunities for students. Several undergraduate scholarships are available for majors in classical studies. And every year we organize a contest in Latin declamation, in which students learn to recite a set passage in Latin prose and another in Latin poetry.
Students who major in Classical and Mediterranean studies are unlimited in their post-undergraduate opportunities. Our Program has traditionally provided a thorough preparation for the rigor of medical and law schools. But our students have entered every possible type of career, often seemingly far removed from their major, from medical illustration to journalism to accounting. 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, Romans and their neighbors, 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.
The nine full-time faculty members of our Program are committed to the interdisciplinary study of Mediterranean antiquity, integrating the ancient texts with material and visual culture, both in their teaching and in their research. Faculty members have recently published books brothels and taverns in ancient Greece, on the effects of imperial government upon average citizens in Roman Egypt, and on Roman and Byzantine graves; they lead summer programs for students overseas; and one colleague directs the Kenchreai Excavations, a long-term archaeological project in southern Greece.
The faculty has gained a widespread reputation for consistently inspired and inspiring teaching, confirmed by excellent teaching evaluations and numerous University teaching awards. Furthermore, not only do we all serve as major advisers, we also allow our majors to choose their adviser, thus giving our students even more opportunities to discuss questions outside class and to develop professional relationships with their teachers.
Dr. Daniel Solomon
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Classical and Mediterranean Studies
303 Cohen Memorial Hall
PMB 92, 230 Appleton Place
Nashville, TN 37203-5721
Phone: (615) 322-3303