Classics

  • Degree Type Bachelor of Arts
  • Department Classics
  • Academic Division The College
  • Offerings Major Minor

The wide scope of the classics field, and its emphasis on close study, analysis and critical thinking, makes it an excellent preparation for a wide range of professions.

Classics

Classics is the original “interdisciplinary” study. A student concentrating in classics can study not only the language, but the art, history, religion and law of the ancient world. The study of classics at Washington and Lee provides exceptional opportunities for students to conduct professional work such as excavating in the Athenian Agora or participating in an international scholarly project, collecting and digitizing graffiti from the ancient world.

About the Program

Students may earn a major or minor in classics by taking classes in Greek, Latin or Classical Civilization. No knowledge of Latin or ancient Greek is necessary for courses in Classical Civilization. All department courses count toward the major in classics.

We encourage student majors to explore offerings in philosophy, history, art history, religion, theater and archaeology. The literature, philosophy and history of the Greeks and Romans are not only fascinating in their own right, but they have stimulated some of the finest achievements of subsequent thinkers and writers. 

Outcomes

Classics graduates of W&L have gone on to graduate study in classics and related fields, to law school, to medical school, to careers in consulting, and to positions teaching in private and public high schools.

Opportunities

Study Abroad: Classics majors have many opportunities to study abroad, including the International Center for Classical Studies in Rome (Centro), College Year in Athens, Oxford University, and St. Andrew’s University in Scotland.

W&L is a member of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, and our students actively participate in the ongoing dig at the Athenian Agora during the summer under the direction of professor Michael Laughy.

Students also have the opportunity to travel to Italy under the direction of Professor Rebecca Benefiel to identify and gather graffiti in the ancient site of Herculaneum, and to participate in an international project digitizing the graffiti and producing critical editions.

In addition to these formalized institutional programs abroad, students may earn classics credit by participating in one of the trips to Italy or Greece offered and led by members of the classics faculty during Spring Term.

Honors in Classics: Classics majors who have achieved distinction in the major may be eligible to write an Honors Thesis during the senior year and should begin conversations with faculty during Winter Term of the junior year.

Student Conferences: The Classics Department is a member of Sunoikisis, a national consortium of classics programs. Students have the opportunity, among others, of participating at undergraduate conferences sponsored by Sunoikisis.

We are also a member of Eta Sigma Phi, the national collegiate Honor Society for students of classics.

Michael Laughy

Department Head

Kerri Ritter

Administrative Assistant

News


W&L Alumnus Benji Hess ’23 Earns U.S. Teaching Assistantship to Austria

Hess will teach English in Austria and prepare for a career as an educator.

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2024 Distinguished Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee University is proud to announce this year's Distinguished Alumni Award winners

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W&L Presents Senior Recital with Gabriella Kogan ’24

Kogan’s piano recital will be held on March 24 at 3 p.m.

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2024 Five-Star Distinguished Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee University is proud to announce this year's Five-Star Distinguished Alumni Award winners

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W&L’s Rebecca Benefiel Cited in Smithsonian Magazine Article

The classics professor’s Ancient Graffiti Project digital resource was also mentioned in the article that focuses on ancient graffiti works.

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2023 Distinguished Young Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee University is proud to announce this year's Distinguished Young Alumni Award winners

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Meet a Colleague: Matthew Loar

Matthew Loar serves as director of fellowships and student research.

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Caleb Dance

W&L’s Caleb Dance Awarded Prestigious Margo Tytus Visiting Fellowship

Classics professor will use the fellowship to research his project “Annotated Amores” at the University of Cincinnati this spring.

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W&L’s James Dixon ’23 Awarded Fulbright to Taiwan

Dixon has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to teach English in Taiwan.

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Padget Sutherland '17

Catching up with Padget Sutherland ’17

Sutherland's advice for current students: "Don’t take yourself too seriously!"

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2023 Distinguished Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee University is proud to announce this year's Distinguished Alumni Award winners

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Hannah Puckett '23

Hannah Puckett ’23 Earns David G. Elmes Pathfinder Prize in Psychology

The Elmes Pathfinder Prize recognizes a student who has shown extraordinary promise in psychological science through outstanding scholarship in basic or applied psychology.

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Sample Courses

Many of our courses are cross-listed with other departments, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of classics.

CLAS 201

Classical Mythology

An introduction to the study of Greek mythology, with an emphasis on the primary sources. The myths are presented in their historical, religious and political contexts. The course also includes an introduction to several major theories of myth, and uses comparative materials drawn from contemporary society and media.

CLAS 221

Plato

An in-depth examination of the philosophy of Plato. We look at Plato’s epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, ethics and political philosophy through a careful analysis of several dialogues, including some or all of the following: Euthyphro, Laches, Apology, Gorgias, Meno, Phaedo, Symposium, Phaedrus and Republic. In addition, we consider certain challenges posed by Plato’s use of the dialogue form, such as whether we are justified in assuming that Socrates is a mouthpiece for Plato’s own views, and how we should interpret Plato’s frequent appeal to myths and other literary devices within his dialogues.

CLAS 338

Pompeii

The site of ancient Pompeii presents a thriving Roman town of the first century AD, virtually frozen in time by the devastating eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. In this course, we examine Pompeii’s archaeological remains — public buildings, domestic architecture, painting, artifacts, inscriptions and graffiti — in order to reconstruct the life of the town. We also consider religion, games and entertainment, politics and the structure of Roman society.

CLAS 247

The Athenian Acropolis

In this course, we study the art and architecture of the Acropolis, from the Neolithic period to today, with a particular focus on the Archaic and Classical periods. Our study is based upon a detailed and chronological survey of the buildings, dedications and religious practices conducted on the Acropolis. We conclude the course with a discussion of the Acropolis in the post-Classical period, and the meaning of the Acropolis for Greeks today.

LATN 350

Latin Epigraphy

Study of the monuments of the Roman Empire and the importance of text in Roman culture. From religious offerings to building dedications, from wax tablets to statue bases listing an individual’s career, inscriptions were a central part of Roman culture from the time of the emperor Augustus through the fourth century. Laws, catacombs, dedications to the emperor, and other topics provide a view into Roman culture and civilization.

CLAS 326

The Trojan War

The Trojan War ranks among the greatest tales ever told. But is the story real? In this course, we begin with the literary evidence, including the epics of Homer, as well as contemporary accounts from the Bronze Age Greeks, Hittites and Egyptians. We then follow the archaeological evidence, from the palaces of mainland Greece to the presumed site of Troy itself. Our search leads not just to the truth that lies behind the destruction of Troy, but reveals a long-lost international community of world superpowers whose cities were nearly all destroyed at the same time that Troy fell, an international cataclysm on a scale never before seen in ancient history.

Meet the Faculty

At W&L, students enjoy small classes and close relationships with professors who educate and nurture.

Michael Laughy
Michael Laughy

Michael Laughy

Boetsch Term Associate Professor of Classics and Department Head

Laughy teaches courses in ancient Greek religion, history, art and archaeology. His research interests are Greek religion, Greek epigraphy and ancient Athens.

Rebecca Benefiel
Rebecca Benefiel

Rebecca Benefiel

Abigail Grigsby Urquhart Professor of Classics

Benefiel teaches classics and Latin courses such as Pompeii, Classics in a Digital Age, and The Poetry of Ovid. She studies Latin epigraphy, Roman social and cultural history, Latin literature and Roman archaeology.

Alexandra R. Brown
Alexandra R. Brown

Alexandra R. Brown

Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor in Bible

Brown teaches courses on the New Testament and other ancient Christian texts, Bible and film, gender and religion, Christian mysticism, and theory and method in the study of religion. Her primary research is in New Testament, particularly the Pauline letters.

Curriculum Vitae

Kevin Crotty
Kevin Crotty

Kevin Crotty

Professor of Classics, The J. Donald Childress Professor in Foreign Languages

Crotty’s courses include Classical Mythology; Homer; and Law, Litigation and Justice in the Ancient World. His research interests include myth, archaic Greek poetry, Plato and legal theory.

Caleb Dance
Caleb Dance

Caleb Dance

Associate Professor of Classics

Professor Dance teaches courses on topics in ancient literature as well as Greek and Latin language courses at all levels. His research focuses upon comic theory and laughter in ancient poetry.

Matthew Loar
Matthew Loar

Matthew Loar

Director of Fellowships and Student Research

More about Fellowships at W&L

Timothy Lubin
Timothy Lubin

Timothy Lubin

Jessie Ball DuPont Professor of Religion

Professor Lubin teaches courses on Asian religions and comparative study of religion and law. He researches Hindu religious history, law in ancient Asia, and texts and inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Old Javanese and Old Tamil.

Rebecca Benefiel
Alexandra R. Brown
Kevin Crotty
Caleb Dance
Matthew Loar
Timothy Lubin
Michael Laughy