An understanding of the rich Classical past gives students a keen lens through which to view the modern world. Many issues confronting us now were experienced in the ancient Mediterranean and discussed with great insight by people of the time: questions of cultural identity; abuses of political power and the rise of demagogues; the nature-nurture debate; the plight of refugees and asylum seekers; the problematic nature of empire and colonialism, among others.
The very words by which we know such important concepts as democracy, philosophy, theatre, rhetoric, and psychology are Greek in origin, indicating that they are 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.
Study of pre-industrial cultures such as ancient Greece and Rome affords many insights into the lives and experiences of indigenous peoples today. While differences persist, important parallels in myths, attitudes to warfare, and social structures can also be recognised between ancient and some contemporary indigenous cultures.
Breadth of learning
UC Classics teaches courses on:
- the drama, poetry, and philosophy of writers like Homer, Euripides, Vergil, and Plato (in both the original languages and translation)
- the artistic and architectural achievements of the Greeks and Romans including masterpieces such as the Parthenon and Colosseum
- the world of politics, warfare, and government of leaders like Pericles, Julius Caesar, and the Roman emperors
- Ancient Greek and Latin languages
- ancient sport, slavery, sex and gender, daily life, and ancient views of art.
The Logie Collection and the Arts Centre
The UC Classics Department hosts the James Logie Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman artworks – one of the finest collections of antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere – located in the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities in the Arts Centre. The collection spans more than 2,500 years from about 2,000 BCE, and includes hundreds of artefacts from Bronze Age cultures onwards.
Students studying most courses in Classics will have an opportunity to work with many high-quality artefacts ‘up close’, including research projects based on items from the collection.
The Classics Department has relocated to Te Matatiki Toi Ora | Arts Centre. This location amid 19th century neo-Gothic buildings is right in the heart of town, close to Hagley Park, the Canterbury Museum, and Art Gallery, as well as numerous cafés, bars, and shops, making for an enriched experience of student life. The Centre provides a social hub for students combined with top research facilities and resources.
The UC Classics community
UC and Ōtautahi Christchurch enjoy a rich Classical-oriented community. This features:
- Internationally regarded Classics staff include recipients of prestigious visiting fellowships to Oxford and Cambridge Universities, UC Teaching Awards, and internal and external research awards such as a major Marsden grant for the ground-breaking study of Greek drama. Classics staff and students regularly present at conferences all over the world.
- Classoc, the student club, organises social and academic events like toga night, the annual quiz night, and meet-and-greets with Classics staff and students. Classoc also offers Latin and Greek support for beginners.
- The Classical Association of Christchurch hosts guest speakers from all over the world at public lectures and events.
Classical studies at school is an excellent preparation for Classics at UC, however this is not a required background for study at first-year level.
Students with previous experience of studying Greek or Latin may be able to proceed directly to 200-level courses.
All our 100-level courses are designed to introduce a variety of aspects of the ancient world and to build on any previous study. Courses cover the mythology of the Greeks and Romans in a wide range of art and literature, ancient history, as well as beginners' courses in two of Europe's oldest languages.
The study of ancient languages
An important way to get to grips with any culture is to understand its language. A knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin is not required for the BA or BA(Hons), however taking at least one language course will greatly enhance the understanding of all aspects of the Greco-Roman world, including:
- increased enjoyment of some of the greatest works of poetry, prose, rhetoric and philosophy ever created
- greater command of the English language – around half of the words we use today come from Latin and Greek
- assistance in learning modern languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, and other languages descended from Latin.
If you have any questions about studying Latin and/or Greek, please contact the Head of the Department.
200-level and beyond
200 and 300-level courses are offered in:
- Some of the greatest literary works to survive from the ancient world: classical drama, ancient epic poetry, as well as Roman satire
- The history of Greek and Roman civilisation, including Imperial Rome, Alexander the Great, Roman social history, and the Hellenistic World
- Greek philosophy, ancient sport and leisure, Greek and Roman sexuality, slavery, and Roman law
- Developments in Greek and Roman art (sculpture, vase painting, and architecture) and how these media related to the broader ancient world
- Greek language and literature such as Homer, Euripides, Aristophanes, Plato, and Thucydides
- Latin language and literature such as Cicero, Pliny the Younger, Vergil, Horace, and Petronius.
Classics students can conduct internships as part of their studies, for example on material from the Logie collection, enhancing research skills and developing skills central to areas in museums, curatorship studies, and arts management.
The successful study of Classics cultivates highly desirable skills employers want in the 21st century: critical and rigorous thinking, evaluating evidence, constructing arguments, reasoning, analysis, and a well-formed awareness of others’ viewpoints and cultural identity.
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, administration, public policy, library science, and business. Manatū Aorere | Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs, and Kaitohutohu Kaupapa Rawa | Treasury are always on the lookout for good graduates in Classics.
Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Classics.
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University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha
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