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The discipline of classics engages the student and scholar in an investigation that is extraordinarily broad both in range of subject matter and span of time — the cultures and civilizations of the Mediterranean from the prehistoric era down to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D. The aim of the classics department at Sweet Briar is to facilitate students in the discovery, understanding and interpretation of the classical tradition through language courses in Greek and Latin, as well as courses in translation. We are committed to an interdisciplinary model of inquiry, in which sub-fields such as literature, history, philosophy, religion and archaeology are not divided from one another but work in concert.

Consequently, we believe that classics has an important role to play in the dialogue with other academic departments, and we strive as a faculty to encourage these connections. This mode of instruction is, we believe, central to a liberal arts curriculum and the development of active and critical thinking. Therefore, our mission finds specific resonance among both majors within the department as well as students fulfilling general education or language proficiency requirements.

For non-majors taking classical studies courses, we offer exposure to the literary, cultural and historical tradition of the Greco-Roman world and the opportunity to investigate its broader significance. Students taking Latin and Greek courses to fulfill their language requirement will develop a level of competency sufficient to read and appreciate the literature of the classical world. Indeed, because language is inseparable from thought and central to all types of inquiry, majors within the department will incorporate both these elements towards a goal of greater facility in the languages including the ability to analyze critically classical literature in the original languages. Moreover, through the additional requirements in classical civilization courses they will be able to synthesize a more coherent and comprehensive view of the culture of the Greco-Roman world.

Finally, we will provide the majors with the tools to conduct independent research in the discipline of classics. Our ideal student will be graduated from Sweet Briar College with both a strong foundation of general knowledge of the classical world and the ability to address particular topics precisely and accurately. Such a student will have learned how to evaluate evidence and deploy it effectively in written and oral argument. He or she will possess habits and skills of productive citizens and leaders, and that can be applied to work in any field.