Classics, Ancient Studies, Medieval Studies Programs

Classics at St. Olaf College

Classics is the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans—especially their languages (Greek and Latin), literature, and culture. It includes consideration of the Greeks’ and Romans’ own multi-racial and multi-ethnic world and their interactions with the diversity of cultures in Europe, Africa, the Near East, and Asia, from 3000 BCE through medieval times.

St. Olaf students take Greek and Latin for a variety of reasons. Some are eager to read influential or inspiring works in the original languages. Some are preparing themselves for a particular career.  Some choose to study an ancient language because they know that it will improve their verbal and analytical skills while simultaneously satisfying the College’s language requirement.  And some take Greek or Latin just because it is fun! What could be more exciting and more intellectually challenging than being able to decipher a text composed two or even three millennia ago?

The Department of Classics offers a full range of courses in Greek and Latin, as well as Classics courses that examine the ancient Mediterranean world from multiple perspectives—literary, artistic, historical, philosophical, theological. Five majors are available: GreekLatinClassics (Greek and Latin combined), Ancient Studies, and Medieval Studies. The last two are interdisciplinary majors.  Students interested in Latin Education may pursue a Latin major with K-12 teaching license.

Click here to see a list of current St. Olaf students with declared majors in Classics, Greek, Latin, Latin Education, Ancient Studies, or Medieval Studies.

St. Olaf College offers:

  • Courses in Greek and Latin:  Beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses in both Greek and Latin are taught every semester.  (Modern Greek is not offered.)  Completion of the third semester (231) of either Greek or Latin satisfies St. Olaf’s language requirement. Students who plan to attend seminary or do graduate work in theology are encouraged to take Greek for at least four semesters. Greek 111 and Latin 111 are introductory courses. New students who have previously studied Greek or Latin should write to the department chair for advice about which course would be best for them to take. (We do not use a placement exam.) For the department’s policy on Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) Exams, click here.
  • Courses in Classics:  Classics courses focus not on the ancient languages but instead on the ancient world at large; they require no knowledge of Greek or Latin. Students who desire a broad background in the humanities often find these course attractive ways to satisfy GE requirements. At least one on-campus Classics course is offered each semester and during interim. Courses in Greek and Roman history are taught each year by members of the St. Olaf History Department. In addition St. Olaf students have permission to take many of the courses offered by the Department of Classics at Carleton College.
  • Three majors that emphasize language and literature:   Students may complete a major in ancient Greek, Latin, or Classics (= Greek and Latin). Outstanding senior students are invited to pursue distinction in Classics.
  • Opportunity to go on stage: Every other year St. Olaf Classics students perform an ancient Latin or Greek comedy in a musical mixture of English and Latin/Greek, taking the show on tour to other schools.  The play is an entirely extracurricular event, open to any student who has taken Latin or Greek.
  • Opportunity to belong to an honor society:   St. Olaf is home to a chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, the collegiate honorary society for Classical Studies, and has twice hosted the national convention. The chapter’s activities include a weekly Classics Conversation Table.  In the annual Maureen Dallas Watkins Contests, St. Olaf has the best record of any college in the country.
  • Opportunity to win prizes, awards, and scholarships:  St. Olaf sponsors annual in-house Greek and Latin translation contests with monetary prizes and a competition for Groomis Awards that help defray the cost of summer projects related to Classics, Ancient Studies, or Medieval Studies.  The Scarseth and Grimsrud Scholarships are awarded to junior or senior majors with academic merit and financial need.
  • Nationally recognized faculty: St. Olaf Classics faculty are respected teacher-scholars. They have published numerous books and articles, delivered many guest lectures, served as officers in national and regional Classics associations, and been honored with distinguished professorships and national teaching awards.

Because a Classics major is demanding and requires determination, it is highly respected by graduate schools and employers.  It is great preparation for a career in virtually any field: education, journalism, law, diplomacy, medicine, theology, archaeology, museum studies, library science, business, military service, Peace Corps, missionary work—you name it!  St. Olaf students often combine a Classics major with a second major in another area of the humanities or in one of the sciences or fine arts.

To read the Classics Brochure, click here.


Ancient Studies at St. Olaf College

Founded in 1971, the Ancient Studies interdisciplinary program invites students to examine Greece and Rome in their ancient Mediterranean context and from a variety of perspectives—literary, historical, artistic, religious, and cultural.

Every student who majors in Ancient Studies completes the fourth semester of ancient Greek or Latin, an ancient history course, a Classics course, and five other courses selected from Art, Asian Studies, Classics, Great Conversation, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion, and Theater. One of the five electives must be an Independent Research on a topic of the student’s choice.  Off-campus programs and courses at Carleton College extend the range of possibilities.

St. Olaf students often combine an Ancient Studies major with another major like art history, English, history, philosophy, political science, or religion. Even science and fine arts majors sometimes double major in Ancient Studies. An Ancient Studies major marks a graduate as distinctive, well-rounded, and intellectually curious.

To read the Ancient Studies Brochure, click here.


Medieval Studies at St. Olaf College 

Founded in 1971, the Medieval Studies interdisciplinary program invites students to examine the European Middle Ages (5th-15th centuries) from a variety of perspectives—literary, historical, artistic, religious, and cultural.

Every student who majors in Medieval Studies completes the fourth semester of Latin, a medieval history course, a medieval literature course, and five other courses selected by the student from Art and Art History, Asian Studies, English, Great Conversation, History, Music, Norwegian, Philosophy, Religion, and Theater. One of the five electives must be an Independent Research on a topic of the student’s choice. Independent studies in medieval languages may be used as electives. Off-campus programs and courses at Carleton College extend the range of possibilities.

St. Olaf students often combine a Medieval Studies major with another major like art history, English, history, philosophy, religion, women’s and gender studies, or a modern language. Even science and fine arts majors sometimes double major in Medieval Studies. A Medieval Studies major marks a graduate as distinctive, well-rounded, and intellectually curious.

To read the Medieval Studies Brochure, click here.


Contact Information

If you have questions about Classics, Ancient Studies, or Medieval Studies, please contact Prof. Steve Reece (Tomson 347, x3378), Acting Chair of the Classics Department and Acting Director of the two interdisciplinary programs.

You are also welcome to speak with any of the faculty on the Ancient and Medieval Studies Steering Committee:  Prof. Hilary Bouxsein (Classics), Prof. Karen Cherewatuk (English), Prof. Tim Howe (History), Prof. Kyle Helms (Classics), Prof. Karen Marsalek (English),  Prof. Danny Muñoz-Hutchinson (Philosophy), Prof. Maggie Odell (Religion), Prof. Steve Reece (Classics), Prof. Jason Ripley (Religion), or Prof. Nancy Thompson (Art History).  We look forward to meeting you!