University of Calgary

General Information

Submitted by dpfitzsi on Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:44.


Greek and Roman Studies focus on the civilizations of the Mediterranean area, the Near East, and Western Europe in ancient and medieval times.

To understand the modern world we need to know its historical foundations and traditions. Looking at these helps us to see ourselves in better perspective and gain understanding of other cultures. Most modern fields of thought, belief and creativity began and developed in ancient and medieval times, so this field has links with many others and offers a valuable complement to many other programs.

Research in Greek and Roman Studies is based on the many writings and material remains which have survived from ancient times or are even now being rediscovered. These range from everyday materials and records of human living to classic masterpieces of literature and art. Areas of study include history, politics, social and economic organization, languages, literature and ideas, religions, art, science and technology.


The department teaches courses under three titles. Those in Greek and Roman Studies are based on texts translated into English. First- and second-year courses provide surveys of many different aspects of the field, while higher-level courses concentrate on research topics. Courses in Latin and Greek teach these ancient languages from beginners' to expert levels. These languages provide essential elements in English and many other modern European languages, so the introductory courses can help students in any program to use and understand their own language better. Higher level language courses are needed for advanced work in Greek and Roman Studies and related fields.

The department offers three BA programs, two of them shared with other departments. Greek and Roman Studies looks at these civilizations and their interactions with other ancient cultures. Ancient and Medieval History looks at the development of Europe and the Mediterranean world from the rise of the Roman Empire to the late Middle Ages. (This program is shared with the Department of History, so students may register for it in either the faculty of Humanities or the Faculty of Social Sciences). Classical and Early Christian Studies (shared with the Department of Religious Studies) looks at the early history of Christianity and its Judaic and Greco-Roman background.

A Major Field in Greek and Roman Studies or Ancient and Medieval History takes 8 full courses in a 20-course BA program and offers a thorough general knowledge of the area without requiring study of Latin or Greek (though this is encouraged). The Honours Majors in Greek and Roman Studies (11 full courses), Ancient and Medieval History (12 full courses), or Classical and Early Christian Studies (10 full courses) require language study and are the best preparation for graduate studies. A Minor Field (5 full courses) in Greek and Roman Studies, Greek or Latin provides a valuable complement to majors in many disciplines. There are also many smaller groups of related courses which meet the needs of students in various areas, such as, the early history of the Middle East, or the classical background to English and European literature, or a reading knowledge of Latin. Some examples of these course groups are listed in the section on courses below.


The Department has ten permanent Academic Staff and several sessional instructors. About fifty undergraduates are enrolled in BA degree programs (which begin at the second-year level), and about ten graduate students in the MA program. Small classes and direct contact with instructors are a feature of third-year and fourth-year courses and language classes at all levels. Departmental advisors help students in planning their programs and arranging overseas study and fieldwork (several students each year receive scholarships and research grants for such projects). Many students begin with little background knowledge. Some enter from other programs, and some use the special arrangements for a BA After (or second BA) degree. What our students have in common is a fascination with reconstructing and understanding the world of the past, and a taste for the intellectual challenges which serious study in this field involves. There are always new avenues to travel, new discoveries to consider, and new research methods to explore; this is truly an area for lifelong learning.

Work in Greek and Roman Studies involves reading complex texts, evaluating diverse and often incomplete evidence, arguing and writing clearly and persuasively. Research often involves technical analysis of languages, texts, artifacts and archaeological evidence. Perhaps surprisingly to many people, these studies are at the cutting edge of computer-assisted research and learning with abundant internet resources and many large data-banks of texts and images. The department is known for its innovative interdepartmental programs and pioneering courses in Ancient Technology, computer-based Medical and Scientific Terminology, Web-based Latin, and The Latin of Science (an introductory Latin course for Science and Engineering students).

Outside the classroom, faculty and students get to know each other in the Department's Lounge and Reading-room (with its own library of 3,000 volumes). The Classics Students' Society is an undergraduate club with a variety of activities such as lectures, social events, student seminars and reading groups. The Research Seminar presents fortnightly talks by local and visiting. The Calgary Society for Mediterranean Studies presents monthly evening lectures for a wider audience. There are also special Conferences such as Western Canada and the Classical World (Feb. 1999), an international conference on Euripides and Late Fifth-Century Tragic Theatre (May 1999), and colloquia on Athletic Contests in the Ancient Greek World (Feb. 2000) and Acculturation in Antiquity (April 2000), Food and Food Supply in the Ancient World (April 2002).

All our academic staff are ready to explain courses, programs and activities to interested students. If you are thinking of entering the program, you should consult with the undergraduate advisor as early as possible. 


Our programs share the educational objectives stated in the University's policies. These include communication skills (oral and written), linguistic awareness, research skills (gathering, organizing and evaluating information), critical and analytical skills (reasoning, assessing evidence and arguments, making informed judgements), and an understanding of the diversity of human individuals and cultures, traditions and achievements. More specifically, we expect that graduates from our major programs will be:

  • Familiar with the history and culture of the Mediterranean world and western Europe in ancient and early medieval times, with in-depth knowledge of some aspects;
  • Aware of the many features of modern western culture based on ancient-world beginnings (values and beliefs, languages and literatures, political and social structures, arts, sciences, technologies), and able to interpret and critique them in the light of their origins and development;
  • Ready to value ancient-world studies as an intellectual pursuit and an interest to be shared with others, and equipped for continued learning;
  • Aware of the history and main methodologies of studies in their field;
  • Familiar with the different kinds of evidence on which knowledge of the ancient world is based and the different ways in which this evidence can be used and evaluated, interpreted and misinterpreted;
  • Experienced in working with various types of evidence (texts, documents, art-works, monuments and other material remains);
  • Able to read relevant texts in one or more of the ancient languages Latin and Greek 

The BA program structure in the Faculty of Arts (see under Programs below) provides for breadth and coherence in the student's program outside as well as within the major field.


An education in the Humanities does not train you for a specific job. Rather, it makes you eligible for a wide range of careers by giving you the transferable skills that many employers want. Such careers include Management and Business Administration, Government Service, Non-profit organizations, Information and Computer Industries, Law, Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations, Teaching, Research, Journalism, Writing, Editing and Publishing. Entry paths into these careers are diverse, and some require study beyond the BA level (graduate study for academic careers, or professional schooling in such areas as law, librarianship, or education).

Whatever your career plans, Greek and Roman Studies should give you a broad perspective on events and problems, and a capacity for flexible and lateral thinking. This field has international and multicultural dimensions matching Canada's national character and its growing involvement in international affairs and business. Knowledge of European and Near Eastern history is an essential tool of communication in areas such as commerce, political relations, education, culture, travel and tourism. Studying the ancient languages will enhance your grasp and appreciation of many modern European languages and will give you a lifelong advantage in speaking and writing English.

Here's how one recent graduate working in oil-industry investment analysis Puts it:

"Not only did my BA give me the core competencies that every program should contain, such as the ability to communicate effectively and conduct research; it also gave me a sense of history and the fundamental workings of civilization. Because of it I understand the long-term effects of decisions on society... [and]...I have the knowledge of how functional communities are built....The most important thing it gave me was the ability to think critically about serious matters in literature, politics, economics, war and religion.

You can find more information and advice on career planning for Humanities students on the Faculty of Arts' website AND IN THE FACULTY'S BOOKLET Careers for Humanities Students (available from Faculty and Department offices).