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First Year Focus

What is Classics and why study it?

Classics comprises the multidisciplinary study of the language, literature, history, and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome and their transformations in other cultures from late antiquity to the present day.  As a discipline it explores the earliest and arguably most far-reaching example of the globalization of culture with a varied and complex set of research tools.

Classics at Northwestern offers a new model of classical studies for the 21st century. We offer a range of beginner to advanced courses, all of which provide stimulating and demanding material and develop skills in writing, critical analysis, and the exploration of other cultures. Beyond coursework, we place great emphasis on research skills in seminars and research opportunities, making Classics very active in the university-wide initiative to enrich undergraduate experience in research.

Our faculty  include a lively group of multidisciplinary scholars with broad interests who are engaged in a variety of research and teaching projects about Greek and Roman antiquity.  They work together to provide a strong, imaginative curriculum, including excellent training in both Greek and Latin. We partner with faculty from the departments of theater and drama, philosophy, writing arts, comparative literary studies, art history, German, English, anthropology, political theory, medieval studies, communication studies, and medical ethics to place our understanding of antiquity in provocative juxtaposition with contemporary sources and issues.

Our students are intellectually ambitious. They enjoy small classes, strong guidance by faculty, and support for research and extra-curricular activities. Classics is a demanding and distinctive course of study that stresses the development of some exceedingly important intellectual sensibilities: close reading, analytical clarity, thorough research, evaluation of evidence, logical analysis, effective writing, and appreciation of historical change and cultural differences. All are skills that will serve you in whatever field you choose.


Our students are well prepared to succeed after college. Training in Classics plays a vital role in many professional trajectories after Northwestern.  We are delighted when our students continue professional studies in Classics after graduation, but we are just as delighted to hear from alumni now engaged in studying law or medicine—or working for a clean energy consultancy, engaging in client diplomacy for an investment management company, or pursuing an advanced degree in art history, computer science, or paleontology. 


Whether you have studied Latin for many years or have no background in Latin or Ancient Greek, and even if you do not plan to study either language, we offer a variety of major and minor pathways that provide an option for every preference.

The major requirements allow for some flexibility.  Students majoring in Classics may choose among three tracks: a concentration in Greek only, Latin only, or both Latin and Greek.  All students must achieve a good knowledge of one ancient language, Greek or Latin, so as to work with primary sources in the original language. Some may choose to work in both languages.

 All Classics majors develop familiarity with the broad sweep of ancient history and literature and key analytical skills necessary to examine the record of Greek and Roman culture. The development of research skills is a key feature of the major.  Every student completes a “Research Seminar for Majors” and eligible students are encouraged to write a senior thesis and earn honors in Classics

The minor also offers three tracks: Latin, Greek, or Classical Studies. Each allows students to survey aspects of classical culture and classical traditions, or to take a more focused course of study such as ancient philosophy, Greek or Latin literature, ancient drama and modern performance, politics in the ancient world, classical literature in translation, or Roman History, or they may choose to freely explore aspects of Greek and Roman culture as part of a strong undergraduate liberal arts education. The minor in Classical Studies has no required ancient language component and is open to Northwestern undergraduates from all schools.




If you studied Latin or Greek in high school, you should take the placement exam or present AP credits (see details below) and continue with us at the appropriate level.  Or you can start fresh with Latin 101-1 beginning in the fall, or Greek 115-1 beginning in the winter.  You can fulfill your foreign language proficiency requirement with either language.



The Latin Program

The Latin Program includes three levels of language instruction. Our introductory courses 1,2,3 to be taken in sequence) provide a basic introduction to the language and culture of the Roman world.

 The goal of our intermediate courses (Latin 201-1,2,3 to be taken in sequence) is the development of proficiency in reading Latin through the introduction of the students to major works of Latin literature (Caesar, Petronius, Vergil, Catullus).

Advanced Latin courses (Latin 310) are independent units on individual Latin authors (Horace, Vergil, Tacitus, Plautus, Cicero, etc.) or literary genres (Roman satire, novel, comedy, elegiac poetry, etc.) and can be taken in any order.

The Study of Ancient Greek

 Starting in winter, elementary Greek (Greek 115-1 and 115-2) is a two-quarter sequence that introduces students to all of the grammar and vocabulary needed to begin reading actual ancient texts. In addition to mastering grammar, students learn about ancient Greek culture and history, and read passages of Greek literature from Homer, Sappho and the New Testament.

The intermediate Greek series (Greek 201-1, -2, -3), introduces students to major genres and authors of Greek literature. The first quarter is devoted to readings from the New Testament, the second to classical prose, particularly Plato, and in the third quarter students read Homer’s Iliad in the original Greek.

Advanced Greek courses (Greek 301) are independent units on individual Greek authors (Herodotus, Homer, Aeschylus, etc.) or literary genres and can be taken in any order.


Placement in Latin

IMPORTANT -- Without specific written permission of the Classics Department, you may not enroll in a class at a lower level than the one in which you were placed; should you do so, you will not be given credit for the course.

  1. If you took the AP Latin exam in high school, you should follow the appropriate option below:
  1.   If you have had previous study in Latin, but did not take the AP Latin exam, you must take the on-line Latin placement test  (see instructions below in #3).
  2. Online Latin Placement Exam.  It is expected that you take the exam before arriving on campus in the fall. The exam is given only online at Online Language Placement Tests website.

If you take the placement exam before September 10, you will receive your results before Wildcat Welcome. You can find your exam results posted at the Online Language Placement Tests Results page.

Placement in Ancient Greek

If you have previous study in Ancient Greek, please arrange for placement by contacting the Director of Greek Instruction, Prof. Ryan Platte (


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