It’s all Greek to me.

Look, I didn’t want to be a Classics major. If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this Bwog right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. Being a Classics major is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.

If you’re a normal kid, reading this because you think it’s fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened.

But if you recognize yourself in this Bwog article—if you feel something stirring inside—stop reading immediately. You might be one of us. And once you know that, it’s only a matter of time before they sense it too, and they’ll come for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If you know what book series I just ripped off, Classics might be for you. Classics is the study of classical antiquity—Greek and Roman literature in their original languages, Ancient Greek and Latin. It also includes the study of Greco-Roman philosophy, history, and art.

Columbia College/General Studies offers a major in Classics and a major in Classical Studies. Barnard offers a major in Greek, Latin, and both Greek and Latin. The minor in Classics is available to CC and GS, and the minor in Greek or Latin is available to Barnard and SEAS. Students typically select a primary language to study in-depth, but may also take courses in the other language.



Major in Greek or Latin

In the primary language:

  • The Major Seminar (UN3996)
  • Senior Thesis (UN3998)
  • Elements of Prose Style (W4139) or one term of History of Literature (W4105-6)
  • Five other courses above the elementary level

Latin majors are encouraged to take at least two semesters of Ancient Greek.

Students majoring in Greek or Latin are also required to take one semester of ancient history appropriate to the major and two relevant courses in ancient art, classical civilization, or literature. Or students can take relevant courses in ancient philosophy or religion. You can opt out of W4105-6 but you must replace it with The Classical Tradition (CLLT W4300).

Major in Greek and Latin

You can elect to major in both Greek and Latin by completing the major requirements in one language and five courses above elementary in the other.

Minor in Greek or Latin

  • Five courses above the elementary level in Greek or Latin (The Greek and Latin option is essentially a major in one language and a minor in the other).


Major in Classics

In the primary language:

  • The Major Seminar (UN3996)
  • Four courses at or above the 2100-level
  • Two courses from the Advanced Menu (4105, 4106, 5139, 3998)

In the secondary language:

  • Two courses at or above the 2100-level
  • Two ancient culture courses, one in the culture of the primary language, and one in any aspect of ancient history or culture (HIST, AHIS, PHIL, CLLT, CLCV, etc. You have a lot of options!).

Major in Classical Studies

  • Five courses, at or above 1102, in either or both Latin and Greek
  • The Major Seminar (UN3996)
  • Four classes in ancient history, art, philosophy, religion, civilization
  • Senior Thesis (UN3998)

Minor in Classics (CC/GS)

  • Five courses above the 1100 level, three of which must be 3/4000 level
  • One from the following three advanced options: 4105, 4106, 5139

Minor in Greek or Latin (SEAS)

  • 13 points in the chosen language at the 2100-level or higher
  • Three points in ancient history or classical civilization

Overview of Classes:

Classics requires in-depth study of a language, and the requirements for the major are above elementary. This means that if you’ve never studied Ancient Greek or Latin before, you will have to start with the elementary sequence, which does not count for the major. There are intensive elementary options for both Ancient Greek and Latin (UN1121), which condenses the year-long elementary sequence into one semester. Fair warning, these intensive classes are intense. If you don’t need to learn Greek or Latin in a semester, consider just taking the elementary sequence normally. If you do choose to take intensive elementary, consider doing it over the summer or taking a lighter course load.

Classics is an interdisciplinary field of study. To fulfill the ancient culture requirement, students can take courses from a variety of departments. This has proven, for me, to be a great opportunity to explore other departments while still having relevance to my area of study. Language classes are often taught by graduate students, who are all incredibly knowledgeable in the subject. I always look forward to my language classes the most out of everything I am taking.

Class recommendations

Intro to Greek Mythology (CLCV UN1001): This lecture with Dr. Darcy Krasne spends the first half of the semester on Greek gods and the second half on mortals. The lectures and readings are super interesting. There are a few papers/midterm/final but everything is very doable. The class covers topics from cosmology (Hesiod, Theogony) to the Trojan War. I had it at 8:40 am so that was not awesome, but overall, this lecture is a great overview of mythology and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a cool class. It fulfills the Barnard Arts and Humanities requirement.

Public Classics: Antiquity, Ideal Publics, and Countercultures (CLCV UN3025): This was a one-off class, but I HAD to include it in this section because it was so awesome. This class was designed by Emma Ianni (shoutout! Emma I loved your class!) and it was about the intersections between classical antiquity and the public. We discussed topics such as American history, sexuality, gender, labor, foreign policy, etc. through the lens of classical texts including Plato, Ovid, Cicero, and more. If Columbia offers another class like this, I would highly recommend it.

Ancient Greek in general: If you’re stuck on whether you want to study Greek or Latin, I would recommend Greek. The alphabet is different, but it is not that difficult to master. The classes are small, which enables you to meet some cool people and to bond with your classmates. Overall, both languages have similar structures, and you can’t really go wrong, but if you’re considering selecting Greek as your primary language, DO IT!

More information is available on the Barnard or Columbia department websites.

Hamilton Hall where you will have to walk up to the sixth floor to the Classics department every day via Bwarchives