Classics is a subject at the very heart of the Humanities. Classicists are students not only of language and history but also of art, literature, philosophy, religion, and almost every other area of human interest and achievement. Classics therefore has something to offer all Humanities students no matter what their particular fields of study. Classical Civilisation courses such as Introduction to the Ancient Greek World and Introduction to the Ancient Roman World afford students the opportunity to explore various aspects of the civilisations of ancient Greece and Rome. This in itself can be fascinating to those who have a general interest in foreign cultures, but it also has a more direct relevance to modern students, for Greece and Rome developed the prototypes of many of the institutions and concepts of the modern world. The study of Classics not only helps us to understand the ancient world but also deepens our understanding of the modern world and of our own heritage by showing how and why these institutions developed and why they are regarded as important and useful to society. Classics provides a good foundation for any broad academic education and will prove especially interesting to students who wish to broaden their knowledge of the world, but is also of use to those with more specific academic interests.
Since much of what is known of the ancient world is learned from what the Greeks and Romans wrote, the study of ancient literature naturally forms an important part of most Classics courses. Greece and Rome produced a remarkably large and varied body of literature, which Classicists can examine in a number of different ways depending on their specific interests. Classicists may study the work of ancient writers on a purely literary level, analysing the ideas of those writers and how they expressed them in works which have been read, studied, translated, admired and imitated for many centuries by figures of very different times and widely divergent characters, from Dante to Karl Marx. A knowledge of Classical literature enhances our understanding and enjoyment of the literature of later times and indeed of the modern world■for many authors in all periods have looked back to ancient times, some only for the occasional reference, others for the whole subject-matter or concept of a work. The authors of Greece and Rome were, in fact, among the founders of many literary genres that still flourish today, such as the novel, satire, historiography and tragic and comic drama. A course such as Literature and Thought of Greece and Rome affords students the opportunity to examine the early beginnings of these genres.
Classics courses can be combined profitably with other studies in literature, whether the interest of students is in the historical, comparative or purely critical aspects of the study of literature, but they will also be of use to those whose interest in literature is less strictly literary. A large part of the extant body of ancient literature is concerned with the discussion of philosophical questions and the narration of classical myths. While the thought of ancient Greece (and to a lesser extent of Rome) is widely regarded as having laid the foundations of the Western philosophical tradition, mythological stories and figures have fascinated thinkers, writers and artists from antiquity to the present. Literature and Thought of Greece and Rome deals with the ancient examination of such questions as the nature of the world and the problem of how best to live■still the subjects of lively debate among thinkers today. Oral Poetry and Mythology and Mortals and Immortals in Ancient Greece examine ancient myths and consider their social, cultural, and historical significance in classical antiquity and post-classical cultures.
Historiography is another prominent genre of the ancient world. Ancient historians discussed biographical subjects and examined events ranging in time from a few days to periods of several centuries. Their work is interesting not only for what can be learned from it about the course of history but also because of the great amount of non-historical material such as folktales, legends, and geographical, ethnographical and even philosophical excursuses that they included. The beginnings and development of historical thought and of historical methods comprise an fascinating area of study. The related field of ancient history is an important branch of Classical studies. For those interested in history, Ancient History will prove to be an absorbing course. The study of ancient history is important not only for understanding the context of ancient art and literature but also because it enables us to understand many aspects of more recent history by explaining ancient population movements, cultural links and other factors that have had a bearing on the post-Classical world. While ancient history allows us to see how and why certain political and other institutions such as democracy and law came into being, the comparative study of ancient and modern events can often give the historian valuable new insights into both. A knowledge of ancient history enables us to place the events of the present age and those preceding it in the broader context of the universal history of the human race. Courses in this area can be very rewarding to students attracted by the problems of reconstructing and interpreting the past.
But Classics is more than just literature and history. Since the material remains of a people can tell us much about their character, history and way of life, the study of ancient art, architecture and artefacts is an important part of Classics. In Greek and Roman Art and Archaeology students study the chronological development of Greek and Roman art and discover how the artists of the ancient world developed and applied various techniques and principles, some of which are still in use. One of the aims of this and other Classical Civilisation courses is to put the monumental ruins, numerous statues and decorated pots, which are the most tangible reminders of the Classical world, into a historical, artistic and cultural framework in order to enable students to understand better the remains that have had so profound an effect upon the architecture and art of more recent ages. Such courses are valuable for those who are interested in architecture, art or art history.
Most of the areas mentioned above are the concern mainly of courses in Classical Civilisation, but the linguistic aspect of Classics must not be forgotten, since it has much to offer prospective students. The main emphasis of courses in Greek and Latin is on developing a knowledge of the languages sufficient to allow one to read the literature of ancient Greece and Rome in the original languages. Good translations are available of many of the major works of Classical literature, but even the best of translations can never fully capture the spirit of the original; no matter how hard translators try to be objective, their interpretations of the works are bound to influence their translations. By learning Greek or Latin (or both) students can encounter ancient writers on their own terms and come to understand and appreciate their works and their thoughts in a way no translation, however good, can enable them to do so. Through the way they spoke and the things they wrote, the ancient Greeks and Romans also afford us an insight into their cultures as a whole; therefore, the Classical languages aid greatly in understanding two civilisations that have had a profound effect on subsequent cultures.
The study of language necessarily involves the learning of grammar, syntax and vocabulary; in the case of Greek and Latin, this has a value beyond that of merely giving one the ability to read works of literature. English and many other languages such as French, Italian and Spanish have been heavily influenced by Latin (and to a lesser degree by Greek) in the formation of their academic and technical vocabulary. The study of Latin and Greek increases our awareness of the importance of grammar and therefore enables us to improve our own use of language. Moreover, it enables us to expand our vocabulary and to understand many words that otherwise would have escaped our understanding at first sight. The strong Latin base of the so-called `Romance' languages means that a student with even an elementary knowledge of Latin will usually find it easier to learn those languages. Some of the language skills acquired through Greek and Latin can also be learned through a specialised course such as Words and Ideas, in which students are introduced to the principles of etymology and study many modern words and concepts that have their origin in the ancient world.
Greece and Rome may have ceased to be great nations many centuries ago. Greek and Latin may be `dead' languages in that they are rarely spoken today. Classics, however, is very much alive! No matter what you are studying, it has something to offer you!