College of Arts & Sciences

Modern and Classical Languages - Classics Program

Why Study Classics?

There are many reasons, including:

Useful Skills For Future Employment or Graduate Study

The study of Latin and Greek broadens a student’s English vocabulary. Nearly two out of every three English words come from Latin, and many words, especially technical terms used in the sciences and mathematics, derive from Latin and Greek. Thus, Latin/Greek class is an arena or forum for meeting and deciphering challenging English vocabulary and root words.

The study of the rhetorical devices and complex grammatical structures found in Latin and Greek sentences improves not only one’s writing skills in English, but also encourages critical thinking. Being articulate in speech and precise in writing are attractive skills to employers, and studying classics helps develop these facilities. Moreover, these skills are not only useful for those seeking jobs after college, but also for those pursuing graduate study in law, medicine, engineering, etc. by helping raise scores on standardized tests (GRE, LSAT, MCAT). In fact, the study of Classics will look impressive to prospective employers and graduate school admissions committees, who are well aware of its challenges and benefits.

Careers Teaching Latin

For those interested in teaching careers, Latin is an excellent field to pursue. There is an abundance of teaching positions available at the secondary school level, both in private and public institutions. Here at Saint Joseph’s, one can gain excellent preparation for a career teaching Latin, and also complete the Latin state certification required for public school teaching. See http://www.aclclassics.org for a listing of the hundreds of Latin teaching positions available throughout the country.

The Interdisciplinary Nature of Classics

The study of Classics is by nature interdisciplinary. Many of our students find it especially rewarding to double major in Latin and another subject, or pursue a Latin or Classical Studies minor. Note the relevance of Classics in the following subject areas:

  • Language: Latin is the basis for the Romance languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. Study of Latin enhances and facilitates the study of these languages.
  • Literature: Classical literature was the inspiration for many great works of English literature, such as those of Shakespeare, Keats, Byron, and Shelley, among others, and Italian literature, such as those of Dante.
  • History: In the study of Greek and Roman history one finds the basis for many a modern government and system of laws. Also, the student of history will find interesting parallels between the political events of today and those of the ancient world. In addition, it is especially important to study the ancient Mediterranean world for its multicultural nature, from which we can reflect upon similar issues which face us today.
  • Art: Greek and Roman art and architecture have been influential for medieval and Renaissance art and architecture and the neo-classicism of the past few centuries. An obvious example is the impressive Philadelphia Museum of Art, which resembles Greco-Roman temple architecture.
  • Science: Those studying science may be interested in reading the about the inventions and discoveries of the Greek physicist Archimedes, the medical works of Hippocrates and Galen, or the Roman writer Lucretius’ description of the universe.
  • Mathematics: Those studying mathematics may be interested in the works of Pythagoras and Euclid.
  • Philosophy: No student of philosophy would wish to be unaware of the works of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, and of the many Roman philosophical works of writers such as Cicero and Seneca.
  • Religion: The study of Greek and Roman religion is interesting not only on its own merit, with its diverse cults and religious practices and the fascinating Greco-Roman pantheon of deities and their mythologies, but also as a context for the birth of Christianity.

Finally, it has long been a tradition of the Jesuits to study the Classics, and, as seen above, a tradition worth continuing.

For more on studying Classics, see the website of the National Committee for Latin & Greek.