Why study the ancient Mediterranean civilisations when we live in New Zealand in the twenty-first century? The question scarcely needs answering in an age that is so conscious of cultural heritage and background. The brilliantly creative eras of Greek and Roman culture from c 800 BC – AD 400, and the periods of growth and decline which flank them, laid the foundations of Western society as we experience it today in its entirety, warts and all.
The very words by which we know such important concepts as democracy, philosophy, theatre, rhetoric, psychology (to name just a few) are Greek in origin, indicating that they are, essentially, ancient Greek inventions. Likewise, the cultural legacy of Rome is far-reaching, especially in architecture, administration and law-making, in addition to its literature and art.
We study the creations in drama and poetry, and philosophy of writers like Homer, Aeschylus, Virgil and Plato; we examine the achievements in the world of politics, warfare and government of leaders like Alexander, Julius Caesar and the Roman emperors. The list is almost endless of those who shaped our thinking about key issues which still concern us today.
We also study the exquisite visual art and culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans, using as our hands-on teaching tool – the objects in the famous Logie Collection housed within the UC's Classics Department.
The teaching in Classics takes two major directions. On the one hand instruction is given in the study of the ancient world through the medium of the original languages, Latin and Greek, while, on the other hand, a wide range of classical studies courses is also offered. These courses examine the history, literature, philosophy, religion and art in the ancient world through translations of the original texts or through material culture.
A degree in Classics is stimulating and wide-ranging, enabling students to understand modern as well as ancient Western culture, since the legacy of the Greeks and Romans is so widely felt today.
Though work in classical studies at school is a fine preparation for Classics at UC, there are no prerequisites for study at first-year level.
All our 100-level courses are designed to introduce a variety of aspects of the ancient world and to enhance any study in the area students may have already done. Our 100-level courses do not presuppose any knowledge of the ancient world.
Classics courses are grouped into three streams: classical culture, ancient history, and the study of Greek and Latin language.
If you have enjoyed classical studies at school you might like to consider doing CLAS 104 Greek Mythologies or CLAS 105 Roman Mythologies for deeper insights into heroes, legends and epic tales by authors you have already encountered, as well as many new ones.
First-year courses are also available in ancient history, and these are of interest to both classicists and those who plan to major in History, Law or Political Science.
Students majoring in Classics are strongly encouraged to study at least one of the ancient languages from early on in their undergraduate careers. Although study of an ancient language is not required for a BA in Classics, it is a requirement for the BA(Hons) programme in Classics (though not for Ancient History or Classical Studies).
No previous knowledge of Greek or Latin is required for those taking the 100-level language courses. However, potential students of languages should contact the department as early as possible. They will find it helpful if they can make a start on the basic structure of the language before the semester begins.
Since the 100-level Greek and Latin courses are beginners' courses, some students may proceed directly to 200-level Greek and Latin. This will depend on the individual's suitability and a qualification of at least Year 13 Latin.
First-year courses are also available in ancient history, and these are of interest to both classicists and those who plan to specialise in History, Law or Political Science.
The first-year courses are followed by 200 and 300-level courses in literature, history, art and philosophy. In literature there are offerings that cover classical drama (tragedy and comedy), ancient epic poetry, as well as Roman satire.
The history courses are devoted to a detailed study of key areas of Greek and Roman civilisation. Topics include Imperial Rome, Alexander the Great, Roman social history and ancient Israel. Courses in Greek philosophy, ancient sport and leisure, slavery and Roman law look at important aspects of ancient culture.
The interests of students with a taste for art history are served in courses on Greek and Roman art which emphasise ancient art and the way the ancients lived. The department has at its centre the famous Logie Collection, and students can examine well-preserved pieces of Greek pottery and other artefacts first-hand.
Greek and Latin
Courses in Greek at 200 and 300-level continue the language study along with work on set authors such as Homer, Euripides, Aristophanes, Plato and Thucydides.
Courses in Latin at 200 and 300-level study the work of certain authors such as Cicero, Pliny the Younger, Virgil, Catullus, Horace and Ovid. The works of Tacitus, Petronius, Juvenal and other authors may also be included in 300-level Latin.
Graduates with good grades in the required courses (including Greek and/or Latin) can continue through to the Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)) in Classics, Classical Studies or Ancient History, the Master of Arts (MA) and the PhD. Some of our honours courses are also suitable for combining with BA(Hons) and MA courses in English, French, History, Philosophy, Linguistics, and other subjects.
Many students who have majored in Classics have gone into teaching and academic careers, while others have branched off into other professions such as art conservation, museum curatorship, music, law, nursing, administration, public policy, library science and business. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Internal Affairs and Treasury are always on the lookout for good graduates in Classics.
For further career information, please go to www.canterbury.ac.nz/careers