Laurel Brook, Tomson 368

Long ago the Greeks and Romans conceived the idea of the liberal arts and made them the basis of higher education. Today the Department of Classics keeps that classical tradition alive at St. Olaf by offering courses in the languages, literature, and culture of Greece and Rome. The study of Graeco-Roman civilization in its ancient Mediterranean context gives students perspective on their own place in history while increasing their understanding of the world into which Christianity was born.

Many students satisfy the world language requirement with three semesters of ancient Greek or Latin. (Modern Greek is not offered at St. Olaf.)  Greek is especially helpful for pre-seminary and pre-medicine students, Latin for pre-law students. Either language makes a good match with the Enduring Questions program.

In addition to Greek and Latin courses, the department offers a variety of Level I and Level II classics courses that require no knowledge of Greek or Latin and fulfill OLE Core curriculum requirements.  

Students often combine a major in Greek, Latin, or classics with another major in the humanities, mathematics, sciences, or fine arts.  A classical background enriches one’s experiences in college and in later life, while the verbal and analytical skills acquired by learning classical languages are of lasting benefit in whatever career one chooses.

Overview of the Majors

Three different majors in classical language are available to St. Olaf students: Greek, Latin, and classics. The classics major combines Greek and Latin and is the most rigorous. All three majors have as their objectives competence in classical language at an advanced level, skill in translating and analyzing classical literature of different genres, and familiarity with classical civilization.  Ancient studies and medieval studies, two interdisciplinary majors administered by the Department of Classics, are described elsewhere in this catalog.

Intended Learning Outcomes for the Greek Major

Intended Learning Outcomes for the Latin Major

Intended Learning Outcomes for the Classics Major


See Academic Honors

To attain distinction in classics, a student must demonstrate talent with classical languages and literature, skill in conducting research on a classical topic, and broad knowledge of classical civilization. Specific guidelines are available from the Department of Classics. Classics majors who wish to pursue distinction should notify the department chair no later than January 1 of their senior year.

Special Programs

For more than forty-five years the Department of Classics has offered students the opportunity to study in Greece and/or Italy during January. CLASS 251 Classical Studies in Greece (study abroad) now alternates with CLASS 253 Classical Studies in Italy (study abroad). Both courses focus on ancient history and art.  Students who have taken Greek, Latin, or other courses in ancient studies receive priority in the selection process.    

Students may choose to use their classical language courses as the foundation for a Latin, Greek, or classics major or as the core of an interdisciplinary major in ancient studies or medieval studies.

St. Olaf's Latin Education program has been discontinued. Students interested in obtaining a K-12 Latin teaching license are encouraged to complete an undergraduate major in Latin or classics and then apply to a graduate program that offers a Master's degree combined with teaching certification in Latin.   

Recommendations for Graduate Study

A doctorate in classics requires a reading knowledge of German and French (or Italian) as well as advanced proficiency in both Latin and ancient Greek. Students who do not reach the advanced level in Latin and Greek before they graduate from St. Olaf have the option of applying to a post-baccalaureate program that will help prepare them for further graduate study. 

Recent St. Olaf graduates have been accepted into post-baccaulaureate, M.A., and Ph.D. programs in classics at Indiana University, Penn State, the University of Arizona, UCLA, the University of Colorado, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the University of Minnesota, the University of Missouri, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Texas, the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Washington University in St. Louis, and William & Mary. Others have been accepted into graduate programs in classical archeology at Cornell University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Bristol, and the University of Vienna, and into medieval studies programs at the University of Limerick, the University of Minnesota, the University of Oslo, the University of Southampton, and the University of Toronto.