Why Classics?

The Department of Classics at the University of Pittsburgh is dedicated to studying and teaching the rich history of the ancient world including literature, language, art, rhetoric, politics, and philosophy—a history that profoundly shaped and reshaped our world through its reception in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and Modernity. The department represents a core discipline in the humanities, and its intellectual contribution reaches far beyond language proficiency. As the foundation of a traditional liberal arts education, Classics participates in the broad interdisciplinary conversation that addresses pressing questions of the present by opening a unique viewpoint from the distant past.

The thorough appreciation and critical examination of this perspective contribute equally to our self-knowledge as individuals and as a community of nations, offering in-depth understanding, novel insights, and lasting inspiration. In preparing our students to embark on their various careers, the department

  • develops students’ skills in oral and written communication and in critical thinking,
  • fosters an understanding of the formative power of language and material culture,
  • instills in students a historical awareness of how the environment they live in has been shaped by the civilizations of the remote past,
  • raises awareness of the questions, answers and methods of ancient thinkers, and
  • promotes interdisciplinary approaches and global perspectives.

In carrying out its mission, the department is committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all who share an interest in the study of the ancient world.

The past has no borders; it is open to all.

Our programs in Greek, Latin, and Classical Civilization provide an in-depth look at the lives and times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, their history, literature, religion, philosophy, science, art, engineering, and archaeology. We teach introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit every semester to students wishing to become professional scholars, classicists, ancient historians, philosophers, Latin teachers in the schools, or archaeologists. In addition, we proudly offer a diverse curriculum in translation covering all aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world and its reception, for example Greek Tragedy and The Augustan Age. Undergraduates in the Department of Classics work closely with faculty members on independent and directed research, and we generously subsidize our majors’ study abroad experiences in Greece and Italy.

Not only is the cultural history of the ancient world uniquely fascinating, but the study of Classics and Classical Languages also strongly correlates with high achievement on professional and post-graduate exams. Consider this 2012 study of GRE scores for Discover Magazine by geneticist Razib Khan; or this 2013-2014 study of LSAT scores and GPA by Pepperdine Law School professor Derek Muller. No matter what your personal or career aspirations may be, a major, double-major, or minor in Classics confers a valuable set of professional skills and is a perfect complement to any field of study. 

We can't overestimate the value of a Classics major. Check this out: according to Association of American Medical Colleges, students who major or double-major in Classics have a better success rate getting into medical school than do students who concentrate solely in biology, microbiology, and other branches of science. Crazy, huh? Furthermore, according to Harvard Magazine, Classics majors (and math majors) have the highest success rates of any majors in law school. Believe it or not: political science, economics, and pre-law majors lag fairly far behind. Even furthermore, Classics majors consistently have some of the highest scores on GREs of all undergraduates. (Princeton Review)

For more information about the diverse career paths and opportunities available to Classics Majors and Minors, consider reading this advice from the Society for Classical Studies, and these blog posts in Psychology Today, by Dr. Katherine Brooks, Director of Liberal Arts Career Services at The University of Texas at Austin: "Classics Majors Find Their Future in the Past" and "Branding and Marketing the Classics Major".

Your major is not a hammer. You're not going to 'do' anything with it. Your major is a body of knowledge, a way of thinking—the mindsets and skills you have acquired. The bottom line: Classics majors are intelligent people. Colleges know this: high school students who study Latin generally score higher on the SAT, and Classics majors score higher on the GRE. And intelligent people end up in all sorts of careers—and usually as leaders. (Dr. Katherine Brooks)

When you are ready to plan your course of study, consult with our Undergraduate Advisor!

Whatever your background, goals, or interests, if you share our fascination with all things Greco-Roman, then we want to be your intellectual home on campus!

Partnerships Within the University

Classics has a close association with the University of Pittsburgh's Departments of History, History of Art and Architecture, History and Philosophy of Science, and Philosophy, and various interdisciplinary programs, including Cultural Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. In cooperation with the Departments of Philosophy and History and Philosophy of Science, the Department of Classics sponsors the graduate Program in Classics, Philosophy, and Ancient Science (CPAS).