Ancient Studies

Laurel Brook, Tomson 368

Founded by the Department of Classics in 1971, ancient studies is one of St. Olaf’s oldest interdisciplinary programs. In scope it spans the more than two millennia between Greece’s Bronze Age and the fall of the Roman Empire. Combining art, history, language, literature, philosophy, religion, and theater, it encourages students to take a broad look at ancient Western culture, examining it from multiple perspectives.

The ancient studies program has no courses of its own; instead it relies on courses offered by individual departments. Students who major in ancient studies choose electives from the various departmental courses that deal primarily or entirely with the world of ancient Greece and Rome. Many of these courses also satisfy general education requirements. The required courses in Greek or Latin can simultaneously fulfill the college’s foreign language requirement.

It is common for St. Olaf students to combine an ancient studies major with a B.A. major like art history, English, history, philosophy, political science, or religion. Even mathematics or natural science majors often complete a second major in ancient studies. The major provides a useful background in the humanities for students interested in virtually any career.

Overview of the Major

The objectives of the major are competence in ancient Greek or Latin at the intermediate level, familiarity with ancient Greek and Roman civilization, and in-depth knowledge of one subject area within the major.

Any student interested in an ancient studies major should draw up a contract with the program’s director. The contract may be changed at any time up to second semester of the senior year.

Intended Learning Outcomes for the Major


To attain distinction in ancient studies, a student must demonstrate talent with ancient Greek or Latin, skill in conducting research on an ancient topic, and broad knowledge of ancient Western civilization. Specific guidelines are available from the director of ancient studies. Ancient studies majors who wish to pursue distinction should notify the director of the program no later than January 1 of their senior year.

Students majoring in ancient studies must complete the following:

Fourth semester (or higher) of ancient Greek or Latin 1.00
One ancient history course1.00
One classics course1.00
Four electives chosen from various departments 4.00
One independent research1.00
Total Credits8

The following courses have been approved for the major (seminars and topics courses are acceptable only when they focus on the ancient world):

ART 267 Ancient Near Eastern and Islamic Art

ART 275 Topics in Art History

CLASS 240 Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World

CLASS 241 Greek and Roman Myth

CLASS 243 The Golden Age of Greece

CLASS 244 The Golden Age of Rome

CLASS 260 Sports and Recreation in the Ancient World

GCON 113 The Tradition Beginning: The Greeks and the Hebrews

GREEK 253 New Testament Greek (or any other Greek course beyond 231)

HIST 101 Ancient Warfare

HIST 190 Europe from the Ancients to the Renaissance

HIST 201 Major Seminar: Ancient History

HIST 203 Ancient: Greece

HIST 204 Ancient: Rome

HIST 205 Ancient: Near East

HIST 299 Topics in History

HIST 302 Greek Civilization

HIST 303 Roman Civilization

LATIN 252 Vergil and Latin Epic (or any other Latin course beyond 231)

PHIL 235 Ancient Greek Philosophy

PHIL 374 Seminar in the History of Philosophy

PSCI 299 Topics in Political Science

REL 221 Jesus in Scripture and Tradition

REL 222 The Biblical God

REL 223 Paul: His Letters, His Gospel

REL 227 Moses and Jesus: Jews and Christians in Dialogue

REL 273 Hebrew Prophets in History and Christian Tradition

REL 276 The Ethics of Jesus

REL 302 History of Christian Thought I

REL 320 Interpreting Sacred Texts

REL 391 Biblical Seminar

REL 392 Studies in Religion Seminar

REL 393 Theological Seminar

REL 399 Thematic Seminar

THEAT 270 History of Theater up to 1700

298: Independent Study

398: Independent Research

Those who fulfill the major's language requirement with Latin may use one Greek course as an elective; those who fulfill the major's language requirement with Greek may use one Latin course as an elective.

Interim or summer courses such as the following:

CLASS 124 The Many Faces of Homer

CLASS 125 Dawn of Democracy

CLASS 126 Ancient Comedy: A Funny Thing Happened

CLASS 129 The Neverending Myth: Ovid's Metamorphoses

CLASS 251 Classical Studies in Greece (abroad)

CLASS 253 Classical Studies in Italy (abroad)

GCON 115 The Tradition Continuing: The Romans and the Christians

REL 271 Bible in Context:Hist/Geography/Culture in Israel & Palestine (abroad)

REL 272 Sacred Places in Greece and Turkey (abroad)

and other courses offered occasionally or only once (including courses at Carleton College) may also be used as electives.

See the director for information on courses offered in a particular year.

Director, 2020-2021
Anne H. Groton
Professor of Classics
Greek and Roman drama; classical languages and literature

A list of the Ancient and Medieval Studies Steering Committee members can be found here.