Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous.
There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium. Nothing is more needed to overcome the modernist's snobbishness.
Albert Einstein, 1954
The words of Einstein speak directly to the value of a classical education. At Denison University, the study of Classics entails an education in the languages, literature, history and culture of ancient Greece and Rome. Whether revealing the politics of empire or the art of poetry, Classics is a probative force for the value of the liberal arts: the study of classical philology inculcates a lucidity of expression and a predilection for reason; the study of ancient history teaches the archetypes for the patterns and development of western civilization; the study of the artistic, intellectual, and political achievements of classical antiquity inspire creativity, critical inquiry, and ethical behavior.
It is to the study of Classics that we owe the legacy of liberal education shaped by the humanist revival of the classical worldview during the Renaissance, in essence the capacity to bring to the interpretation of human experience a hierarchy of values based on the primacy of reason and logic. The humanist achievement was to rediscover in the Classics not simply the vast wealth of ancient ideas and literature, but its structures of thought, modes of expression, and the classical concern for the integration of individual and society. The place of Classics in a competitive curriculum should be weighed in the scale of human values by which the individual must measure the worth of an examined life. A university's commitment to establish and foster the study of Classics in parity with a diversity of traditional and modern disciplines is an affirmation of the liberal arts as the basis for an education both practical and meaningful.
A classical education enables the individual to confront our rapidly changing world in all of its complexity, with a firm sense of identity and a critical sensibility. As Cicero once stated, No other pleasure suits every occasion, every age, or every place. But the study of letters is the food of youth, the delight of old age, the ornament of prosperity, the refuge and comfort of adversity, a delight at home and no burden abroad; it stays with us at night, and goes with us on our travels, near and far. ( Pro Archia )
Departmental Guidelines and Goals
The Department of Classics offers courses in the languages of classical antiquity. The curriculum focuses on traditional elements of classical philology in Greek and Latin, but at the same time, through the study of major classical authors and literary genres, students are introduced to the intellectual, social, and cultural milieu of classical antiquity. As a discipline with a long tradition in the liberal arts, we encourage interdisciplinary approaches to understanding, and we emphasize the development of analytical skills applicable in universal situations. From the Homeric world of gods and heroes to the politics and society of Imperial Rome, students become engaged with a civilization both familiar and alien, as they confront the continuities and discontinuities of western society. To this end, the department offers majors and minors in ancient Greek (GRK), Latin (LAT), and in Classics (CLAS).