Program Website: Classical and Medieval Studies – Hiram College

Introduction to the Classical and Medieval Studies Program

Classical and medieval studies is an interdisciplinary minor deeply rooted in the liberal arts tradition. Although based in cultural history, this minor uniquely combines art history, Latin, English, history, philosophy, and political science into a program predicated upon a comprehensive understanding of Classical civilization as the foundation of Western intellectual culture. Far from being singularly focused upon European culture, however, this minor examines the Classical tradition as a multicultural phenomenon that emanated from an ethnically, linguistically, and culturally diverse ancient world. Students can concentrate their studies in a flexible way so that they may acquire transferable skills that complement a wide range of majors with various career objectives. Students also frequently have opportunities to participate in summer archaeological fieldwork in Italy, which offers hands-on training in both traditional and technological skills, as well as the chance to pursue independent research projects. The most common tracks are either Classical studies and Latin, medieval studies and Latin, or Classical and medieval studies (no Latin requirement).

Program Learning Goals

Students that pursue a Latin concentration will acquire a skill set that is deeply beneficial to either Classical or medieval studies, since Latin remained the lingua franca of Europe from antiquity to the early modern era. Competency in Latin will allow students to read Classical and medieval literature and other primary sources in the original language, which deepens their understanding immeasurably. Furthermore, the study of Latin has proven benefits that extend well beyond this minor. An understanding of Latin has been shown to improve students’ comprehension of English vocabulary, grammar, and structure, which in turns makes them better writers. Since about 60% of English vocabulary is derived from Latin, students increase their understanding of English words, particularly technical, scientific, legal, and other complex terms. This is especially useful to those aspiring to enter graduate school or the fields of law, science, or medicine.

Alternatively, students can choose to focus upon non-language courses within the areas of Classical and medieval studies so that they may broaden their comprehension of Western thought and its cultural institutions. The legacy of the Classical world remained at the heart of medieval culture and society, and a deep knowledge of the ancient world is needed to place the medieval tradition in context. Students who pursue this minor will also acquire a foundation of knowledge and familiarity with a set of methodological tools that span several disciplines, instead of an approach rooted in only one field, such as history. A combination of Classical and medieval studies also broadens the geographic and cultural scope of a student’s education who might otherwise solely focus upon Europe. Classics is a multicultural discipline since it focuses upon not only the Mediterranean basin but also surrounding regions of Africa and the Middle East.

Like the Latin concentration, the Classical and medieval studies track also offers numerous transferable skills that will make minors attractive to employers in a variety of careers. Students will improve their ability to write, conduct independent research, and critically evaluate a wide range of evidence. By learning how to use a diverse range of material as evidence for problem-solving, not only texts but also art and artifacts, Classical and medieval studies students will be ready to tackle new challenges with mental agility.


Colin Anderson, (2002) Professor of Philosophy; George and Arlene Foote Chair in Ethics and Values; Department Chair; Classical & Medieval Studies Advisory Committee
B.A., St. John's College;
M.A., Ph.D., Loyola University of Chicago

Matthew F Notarian, (2015) Associate Professor of Classics; Classical & Medieval Studies Advisory Committee; Director of Study Abroad
B.A., University of Delaware;
M.A., Ph.D., University of Buffalo

Janet M Pope, (1998) Interim Associate Dean of the College; Professor of History; Classical & Medieval Studies Advisory Committee; Co-Coordinator of Gender Studies Minor
B.A., Rider College;
M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara

Course Descriptions


THE ANCIENT OLYMPIC GAMES:CA ~ Thanks to their revival in modern times, the Olympic games remain one of the most enduring and well-known features of ancient Greek civilization. This course will examine the central role the Olympics played in Greek and Roman society from their inauguration in the 8th century BC until their demise in the 4th century AD. We will also investigate other important athletic contests that took place at the cities of Nemea, Isthmia, and Delphi, and the spread of Greek-style athletics in the ancient Mediterranean world. We will read from a variety of ancient texts concerning these games, and we will examine the archaeology of Olympia and other sites, as well as the representation of athletic contests on a range of ancient artifacts. Finally, we will consider the modern Olympic games and how they both borrow and differ from their ancient counterpart.

Core: Social/Cultural Analysis Meth


ANCIENT HEALTH AND MEDICINE:CA ~ Who was Hippocrates and why do doctors still take a “Hippocratic Oath”? Did ancient Romans inadvertently poison themselves with lead from their water systems? Did Greek doctors actually perform brain surgery, without the aid of antibiotics or anesthesia? Were Roman baths a revolutionary advance in cleanliness and sanitation, or a warren of bacteria and disease? What caused the plague that struck Athens in the middle of the Peloponnesian War, and did the Athenians know how to stop it? These are only some of the questions we will investigate in this class as we examine ancient Greek and Roman medicine from a variety of perspectives. From the radical innovation of a logical and rational approach to disease by the first Greek doctors, to the evidence uncovered by archaeologists in Roman sewers, and the data extracted from ancient skeletons, we will explore what life and death were really like in the ancient Mediterranean. This course is accepted as an elective towards the Biomedical Humanities, Sociology, and Public Health programs. This course is also listed as HIST 22010.

Core: Social/Cultural Analysis Meth


THE ANCIENT WORLD IN FILM:CA ~ The purpose of this course is to compare cinematic adaptations of the classical texts with the original versions. After reading the translated works of selected Greek and Latin authors, students will view the film versions, paying close attention to where the directors have been faithful to the original, where there are divergences, and how successful the adaptations are. Movies to be analyzed will include those dealing with myth, epic, tragedy, comedy, and historical themes.

Core: Social/Cultural Analysis Meth


POMPEII: LIFE & DEATH IN A ROMAN CITY:CA ~ What was it like to live in ancient Rome? No place brings us closer to the answer to this question than the city of Pompeii, whose catastrophic destruction by volcanic eruption in 79 AD left us with an immeasurable trove of information. In this course we will examine the buildings, streets, paintings, graffiti, documents, and countless artifacts uncovered by archaeologists in Pompeii and its surroundings. We will investigate how these objects and texts are used to reconstruct the lives of individual people, especially the marginalized members of society, such as women, slaves, and prostitutes. We will also think about how our interpretations of these material items are influenced by the present. In particular, we will examine how Pompeii’s unique demise may have affected the material record, and in turn we will debate how reliable this evidence may be for reconstructing “daily life” in the ancient world. Also listed as HIST 24800.

Core: Social/Cultural Analysis Meth


ANCIENT ROME: RISE AND FALL OF THE REPUBLIC:CA ~ This course examines how Rome progressed from humble beginnings as a small village in central Italy to master of a massive Mediterranean empire. It serves as an introduction to the political, social, and economic history of ancient Rome during the monarchy and the Republic (c. 753-42BC). The focus will be upon the development of the political and social institutions of the Roman Republic and how these contributed towards the remarkable expansion of Roman power. Similarly, we will examine how Rome’s military success eventually led to the demise of the Republican system of government during the first century BC, culminating in the assassination of Julius Caesar and the rise of an imperial dictatorship. Readings will be drawn from a variety of modern and ancient sources, especially the ancient authors Livy, Polybius, and Cicero. Also listed as HIST 24900. Counts towards minor in Classical and Medieval Studies. Also accepted as an elective towards History major/minor.

Core: Social/Cultural Analysis Meth

CLAS 24950:  ATHENS 403BC:REACT TO PAST:CA:  3 Hour(s)  

ATHENS 403 BC - REACTING TO THE PAST:CA~ Instead of passively learning about ancient history, students in this class will take an active role in a historical role-playing game. We will transport ourselves back to 403 BC, a pivotal year in ancient Greek history. Athens, having lost a decades-long war with its archenemy Sparta, has just restored democracy after the brutal rule of the Thirty Tyrants and a civil war. Yet questions remain. Is the direct democratic rule of 6,000 citizens the best form of government? Should the state be turned over to a small council of wealthy men? Should they instead follow Socrates’ advice and empower a ruling class of the intellectual elite? Should Athens expand citizenship to slaves and resident foreigners? Should the city rebuild its walls and warships and restore its empire? These and many other questions will be answered in student-led debates held within the “Athenian Assembly”. Acting within assigned historical roles, each student will strategize individually and form coalitions to achieve their personal goals and ultimately win the game. Our debates will be informed by Plato’s Republic, and other contemporary sources, such as Thucydides and Xenophon.

Core: Social/Cultural Analysis Meth

CLAS 24990:  ALEXANDER:MAN,MYTH:CA,EW:  3 Hour(s)  

ALEXANDER THE GREAT:MAN, MYTH, MONSTER?:CA,EW ~ Few figures in history so profoundly reshaped the world as Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). By the time he was 30, he had conquered most of the known world, from Greece to the Indus river in Pakistan and the mountains of Afghanistan, forging a vast multi-cultural empire. But who was Alexander? Was he a brilliant strategic genius with a vision of unifying East and West, or a destructive megalomaniac alcoholic who died young, leaving chaos in his wake? The answers to these questions are complicated by problematic ancient sources such as historical works that mythologize the man and his achievements, and a series of fantastical romantic legends. This course will explore what we can learn about Alexander by examining both written and archaeological evidence.

Core: Social/Cultural Analysis Meth; Experiencing the World


ARCHAEOLOGY OF ANCIENT ROME:CA,EW ~ This course introduces students to the material culture of ancient Rome through a study of its art and archaeology, spanning the period c. 700 BC to c. AD 500. We begin with the foundation of the city of Rome as revealed through the latest archaeological discoveries. We then progress chronologically to examine the growth and fall of Rome’s empire as revealed through its greatest monuments, cities, architecture, and sculpture in each period. We will study not only the city of Rome and the Italian peninsula, but also the provinces in the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, and Western Europe. During the semester, we will also visit the Cleveland Museum of Art to experience Roman art firsthand.

Core: Social/Cultural Analysis Meth; Experiencing the World

CLAS 28000:  SEM::  1-4 Hour(s)  


CLAS 28100:  INDEPENDENT STUDY:  1-4 Hour(s)