• ancient vase/urn
  • ancient tile artwork

Classical Studies

Programs Offered: Major, Minor

Find your Future in the Ancient World

Classical Studies students explore the fascinating cultures of the ancient Mediterranean that have shaped our modern civilization, including the art, history, literature, material culture and religious beliefs of the peoples of ancient Greece, Rome, and the Near East.

Traces of classical antiquity are everywhere around us. From the Greeks, we have inherited our democratic institutions and medical terminology; from the Romans, legal concepts and terms like “bona fide” and “quid pro quo.” Our buildings, including Oregon’s modernist State Capitol, borrow from ancient Greek and Roman architecture. Classical Studies majors recognize these connections and read more than 2,000-year-old texts (in the original languages) that have inspired such recent movies as Troy and 300. In the process, students gain an in-depth understanding of the ancient cultures and traditions that have shaped our modern society and continue to influence it today, not to mention excellent writing and critical thinking skills.

Why choose Willamette for Classical Studies?

The 2017 Fiske Guide to Colleges listed our Classics program as one of Willamette's particularly "strong programs" and Willamette University as probably "the best little school you've never heard of, especially if you're from outside the California-Oregon-Washington corridor." That said, our Classics majors and minors since 1998 hail from 24 U.S. states as well as Guam, Bulgaria, China, and the Netherlands.

Our interdisciplinary Classical Studies program offers an unusually broad range of courses. Apart from Latin and Greek, we also teach courses on Latin and Greek literature, history, theater, art, religion, and philosophy. Our classes are small (20 or fewer students) and taught by active scholars whose expertise ranges from the dawn of Greek and Near Eastern civilization to the fall of Rome. Experts in Archaeology, Art History, Environmental Science, History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies regularly contribute courses on the ancient world.  Other small Classics departments have one archaeologist on staff if they are lucky; Willamette has two tenured and usually one visiting archaeologist on staff. In recent years, Classics and archaeology students have studied abroad in Athens, Rome, Vienna, Galway, and Heidelberg, and they have attended archaeological field schools and excavations in Italy, Greece, Scotland, Portugal, Rumania, Jordan, Syria, Belize, Peru, and the United States.

Where can Classical Studies lead you?

Classical Studies will get you into graduate school. A third of our recent graduates have gone on to law, business, and medical school, usually supported by generous scholarships. About a quarter have earned M.A.T. degrees and are now full-time teachers. Many others have earned or are currently working toward advanced degrees (M.A. and Ph.D.) in fields as diverse as classics, archaeology, art conservation, history, intercultural studies, theology, chemistry, engineering, interactive game design, and computer science. Every last one of our graduates, regardless whether they went on to graduate school or not, has so far found their niche, most often in business, public administration, or a health-related field.

Key features

  • Small classes taught by award-winning faculty with international experience
  • Interdisciplinary curriculum offering Latin, Greek, and a wide selection of Classical civilization courses
  • Mentoring and support of our majors even after graduation;
  • 26.6% of our graduates between 2016-2019 were inducted into the oldest and most prestigious national honor society, Phi Beta Kappa (average across all majors is 10%)
  • Grants to support student participation in archaeological field schools anywhere in the world; nearly 50% of our students study abroad
  • An unusually wide variety of courses on ancient art, archaeology, history, literature, philosophy, social practices, and religious beliefs
  • Interesting study abroad opportunities
  • One of the ten most active chapters of the Archaeological Institute of America nationwide (out of 129 chapters)
  • The only undergraduate classics conference on the entire West Coast (est. 2006; one of only 3 in the country)
  • Willamette's Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology (CASA) supports student research and a guest lecture series
  • Paid student internship at Willamette’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art
  • Work-study job opportunities with CASA and as Greek or Latin tutor through the Language Learning Center
  • Two student-run clubs, Archaeology Club and Classics Club

Rositsa Atanasova ’07, center, attends a 2018 workshop in Bulgaria addressing sectarian and inter-communal conflict in Central and Eastern European countries.

Major in Classical Studies ‘crucial link’ for refugee rights work

Alumna travels world for education, finds humanitarian career.

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