Greek, Latin, Classics Course Descriptions

Greek Courses

Completion of Greek 231 (or any more advanced Greek course) satisfies St. Olaf College’s B.A. foreign-language requirement. Any Greek course numbered above 231 may be used as an elective for the Political Science major or the International Relations concentration.
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Greek 111, 112 – Beginning Greek
In this two-course sequence students learn the basics of ancient Greek. By studying the language’s vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, they not only gain appreciation for its intricacies and nuances but also learn more about their own language and about language in general. Completion of both semesters equips students to translate almost any ancient Greek text with the aid of a dictionary. Greek 111 or its equivalent is a prerequisite to Greek 112.

Textbook for Greek 111 & 112:
From Alpha to Omega: A Beginning Course in Classical Greek by Anne H. Groton (Hackett Publishing-Focus Imprint, 4th edition, 2013)
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Greek 231 – Intermediate Greek (counts toward Linguistic Studies concentration)
Third-semester Greek students translate selections from Plato’s dialogues (Apology, Crito, Phaedo) while reviewing vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. Topics for class discussion include the life and death of Socrates and the significance of the dialogues as works of literature. Prerequisite: Greek 112.
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Greek 253 – New Testament Greek – ALS-L (counts toward Linguistic Studies concentration)
The New Testament is the most famous and most widely translated Greek text from antiquity. Students have the opportunity to read one or more of the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, or selected Pauline letters in the original language. Questions about the transmission of the text and about its theological implications provoke lively discussions. Prerequisite: Greek 231.
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Greek 370 – Topics in Greek Literature
Students translate selections from one or more genres of ancient Greek literature while exploring a specific topic or theme chosen by the instructor. Close study of the text is combined with discussion of broader literary, historical, and cultural questions. Sample topics: “Tales of Odysseus,” Hellenistic Greek,” “Famous Speeches in Ancient Greek Texts.”  Prerequisite: Greek 231.
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Greek 372 – Greek Philosophers
It has been said that all philosophy is a mere footnote to Plato and Aristotle. In this course students translate selected works by the two renowned philosophers and their predecessors, examining the forces that influenced them and the impact that Greek philosophy had on subsequent ages. Prerequisite: Greek 231.
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Greek 373 – Greek Historians
Readings in Greek from the works of Herodotus, the “Father of History,” and Thucydides, the first “scientific” historian, provide the backdrop for studying the development of Greek historiography. Students analyze the historians’ distinctive methods and writing styles and compare them with those of modern historians. Prerequisite: Greek 231.
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Greek 374 – Greek Drama
Like the genre that it describes, the word drama is itself of Greek origin. From the treasure-trove left to us by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Menander, students translate one or two complete plays and discuss the evolution of the Greek theater, staging, and modern interpretations. Prerequisite: Greek 231.
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Greek 375 – Homer and Greek Epic (counts toward Linguistic Studies concentration)
The primary texts for this course are Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the earliest recorded literature of Western civilization. Besides translating lengthy passages from one or both of these remarkable poems, students probe the characteristics of epic poetry and investigate current topics in Homeric scholarship. Prerequisite: Greek 231.

Latin Courses

Completion of Latin 231 (or any more advanced Latin course) satisfies St. Olaf College’s B.A. foreign-language requirement. Any Latin course numbered above 231 may be used as an elective for the Political Science major or the International Relations concentration.
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Latin 111, 112 – Beginning Latin
In this two-course sequence students learn the basics of classical Latin. By studying the language’s vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, they not only gain appreciation for its intricacies and nuances but also learn more about their own language and about language in general. Completion of both semesters equips students to translate almost any classical Latin text with the aid of a dictionary. Latin 111 or its equivalent is a prerequisite to Latin 112.

Textbooks for Latin 111 & 112:
Wheelock’s Latin by Frederic M. Wheelock, revised by Richard A. LaFleur (HarperCollins Publishers, 7th edition, 2011)
Thirty-Eight Latin Stories by Anne H. Groton & James M. May (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 5th corrected edition, 2004)
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Latin 231 – Intermediate Latin (counts toward Linguistic Studies concentration)
Third-semester Latin students translate large portions of two orations (First Catilinarian, Pro Caelio) by Cicero and selections from Catullus’ poetry while reviewing vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.  Topics for class discussion include life in late Republican Rome and the stylistic features of the literature. Prerequisite: Latin 112.

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Latin 235 – Medieval Latin – ALS-L (counts toward Linguistic Studies concentration)
Latin has been spoken in one form or another for more than two thousand years. This course focuses on authors and texts dating roughly from 300 to 1500 CE and emphasizes the role of Latin as the language of the Church and of the intelligentsia during the Middle Ages. Prerequisite: Latin 231.

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Latin 252 – Vergil and Latin Epic
Lord Tennyson called Vergil the “wielder of the stateliest measure ever moulded by the lips of man.” Students encounter that stately measure when they translate selections from Vergil’s three major poems (Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid). They also engage in spirited discussion of Homer’s influence on Vergil and of Vergil’s influence on the literature, art, and music of Western civilization. Prerequisite: Latin 231.

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Latin 370 – Topics in Latin Literature
Students translate selections from one or more genres of ancient Latin literature while exploring a specific topic or theme chosen by the instructor. Close study of the text is combined with discussion of broader literary, historical, and cultural questions. Sample topics: “Ovid,” “Latin Epistolography,” “Augustan Elegy.” Prerequisite: Latin 231.

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Latin 371 – Latin Lyric
Lyric poems – short, occasional pieces composed in various meters, often concerned with love and longing – are the focus of this Latin course. Students translate the vivacious verse of Catullus, Horace, Tibullus, and Ovid and learn to recognize the features that make lyric a distinctive genre of Latin poetry. Prerequisite: Latin 231.

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Latin 372 – Latin Historians
The writings of Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus provide breathtaking views of ancient Rome and memorable vignettes from the city’s colorful history. Extended passages from the historians’ works, read in Latin, form the basis for a survey of Roman historiography and historical writing in general. Prerequisite: Latin 231.

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Latin 373 – Lucretius and Latin Poetry
Lucretius might best be described as a philosophical poet. His De Rerum Natura (“On the Nature of the Universe”) presents the theories and teachings of Greek philosophers like Democritus and Epicurus, but with a Roman flavor. Students translate substantial sections of this fascinating poem. Prerequisite: Latin 231.

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Latin 374 – Cicero and Latin Prose
Rome’s greatest orator, Cicero, was also its greatest prose stylist and the author most responsible for supplying Latin with philosophical vocabulary. Selections from his philosophical, rhetorical, and oratorical works show the range of his talents and help demonstrate the development of Latin prose style. Prerequisite: Latin 231.

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Latin 375 – Latin Drama
Strange things happened on the ancient Roman stage; this course gives students firsthand proof of that. The comedies of Plautus and Terence and the tragedies of Seneca make entertaining reading. Students translate selected plays and discuss the evolution of the Roman theater, staging, and modern interpretations. Prerequisite: Latin 231.

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Latin 377 – Latin Satire
The Romans claimed that satire was a literary genre of their own creation. Students are able to weigh the merits of that claim as they translate selections from the wry and witty texts of prominent Roman satirists such as Horace, Petronius, Martial, and Juvenal. Prerequisite: Latin 231.

Classics Courses

These are courses in the literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome. All reading is done in English translation. A Classics course with HWC may be used as an elective for the History major.
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Classics 123 – The Roman Animal (January Interim Course) – HWC

This course examines the complex and shifting relationship between human beings and animal life in the ancient Roman world.  Through literary sources and artistic evidence, students explore the Romans’ view of animals and their use of them for food, entertainment, and companionship.  The class discusses Roman attitudes toward the non-human “other” and the ethical implications of such attitudes, both in antiquity and today.  All selections from Greek and Latin literature are read in English translation.

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Classics 124 – The Many Faces of Homer (January Interim Course) – ALS-L

The first half of this course is devoted to a close reading of the Iliad and Odyssey – two of the earliest and most influential epics of human history – with attention to their ancient Greek historical and cultural contexts. The second half explores some of the many reincarnations of Homer’s epics in later generations, from Monteverdi’s opera Return of Ulysses to David’s painting Anger of Achilles to the Coen brothers’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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Classics 125 – Dawn of Democracy (January Interim Course) – HWC

Today, countries from Uruguay to South Korea to the United States all proudly claim to be “democracies.” In this class, students investigate the dawn of democracy in ancient Athens to understand democracy’s origins and what “rule of the people” meant to the Greeks—something radically different from modern political systems that claim the same title. Students read and discuss ancient sources (in English translation) and experience Athenian democracy for themselves through a historical role-immersion game.

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Classics 126 – Ancient Comedy: A Funny Thing Happened (January Interim Course) – ALS-L, ORC

This course introduces students to the wild and wacky world of ancient Greek and Roman comedy. It traces the development of the genre with discussion of how the plays were produced in antiquity and what influence they wielded on the drama of later centuries. Students read works by Aristophanes, Menander, Plautus, and Terence and stage selected scenes.

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Classics 129 – The Neverending Myth: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (January Interim Course) – ALS-L

Ovid was the most witty and popular Roman poet of his time, and his 12,000-line Metamorphoses has influenced more European literature and art than any other classical Latin text. By analyzing two modern English translations and studying other poems, stories, and artwork based on the Metamorphoses, students gain an understanding of the nature of Ovid’s storytelling and the power that it has exerted on our cultural tradition.

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Classics 240 – Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World – HWC (counts toward Women’s and Gender Studies major and concentration)

This course explores the social construction and function of sex and gender in ancient Greece and Rome. It uses both literature and visual art to analyze the role of sexuality in everyday society and in the lives of several of the more famous figures from antiquity. Readings also include modern histories and theories of sexuality, especially those that investigate the influence of the Greeks and Romans on modern conceptions of sexuality.

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Classics 241 – Greek and Roman Myth – ALS-L

For the Greeks and Romans myth was a cultural reality, just as it is for us.  Students in this course read the famous tales told by the poets Homer, Hesiod, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Vergil, and Ovid and ponder the deeper truths contained in their works of fiction.  The class also explores the use of classical myth in later literature and its manifestations in art, music, and drama from ancient to modern times.

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Classics 243 – The Golden Age of Greece – ALS-L, HWC

This course takes students on an exciting journey back to the 5th century BCE, as the Athenians emerge triumphant from the Persian Wars and develop the “Golden Age” of Greece.  Studying the history, literature, and art of ancient Athens reveals how distinctive that city-state was and how lasting its contributions to Western civilization have been.  Offered every other year.

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Classics 244 – The Golden Age of Rome – ALS-L, HWC

What made the last years of the Roman Republic and the early years of the Roman Empire “golden”? Students learn the answer by reading some of the finest Latin literature ever written, from epic to satire. They also do research with historical source materials. The course emphasizes the many ways in which ancient Rome has influenced and continues to influence Western culture.  Offered every other year.

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Classics 251 – Classical Studies in Greece (January Interim Course) – ALS-A, HWC

This course introduces students to the history and art of ancient Greece. It covers more than two thousand years of Greek civilization, from the bronze age through the archaic, classical, and Hellenistic periods. The itinerary takes students to every major region of Greece, with extended stays in Athens, Crete, the Peloponnese, and Thessaloniki. When not visiting museums and archaeological sites and learning about ancient Greek culture, students have the opportunity to experience modern Greek culture as well.  Offered in 2019 and every other January.

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Classics 253 – Classical Studies in Italy (January Interim Course) – ALS-A, HWC

This course introduces students to the history and art of ancient Italy, focusing on the city of Rome and the Bay of Naples area. It covers more than 1000 years of civilization, beginning with the Etruscans and ending with the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The itinerary includes extended stays in Civitavecchia, Rome, and Pompeii. When not visiting museums and archaeological sites, students have the opportunity to experience modern Italian culture as well. Offered in 2020 and every other January.

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Classics 260 – Sports and Recreation in the Ancient World – HWC

This course explores life, death, and entertainment in the ancient world, particularly Rome. We will focus especially on how and why people take part in sporting events and on how sport intersected with gender, social class, and economics. Topics include the history of sport, slavery and marginal groups, demography, gladiatorial events, and entertainment and politics. Our primary focus will be interpretation of ancient sources, but we will also evaluate modern views of ancient entertainment.