What is "Classics", and why do we study it?

At Trinity, “Classics” is studied, first and foremost, because ancient Greece and Rome have long been regarded as giving birth to values, concepts, and institutions that collectively form the basis of “Western civilization.” Just by reading this, you too participate in the “classical tradition.” Even today, we see the expressions of our ongoing participation in this tradition all around us:

  • in the English language and in Romance languages descended from Latin as the common language of the Roman Empire;
  • in the technical terminology of professions such as law and medicine that draw on both Greek and Latin;
  • in narratives that draw their plots and characters from Greek and Roman myth and history;
  • in arguments about the common good that cite authors like Plato or Cicero to address conditions in our world today;
  • in analyses of current events that draw upon ancient accounts of major historical events, such as the Persian Wars or the end of the Roman Republic, and modern interpretations of these events’ legacy;
  • in the enduring appeal of the “classical” aesthetic in the visual art and architecture.

Whether through pursuit, embrace, subversion, or rejection, people who respond to the legacy of classical antiquity are participants in this tradition.

At the same time as we appreciate aspects of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds by exploring them in our research and courses, we also examine how the significance of these “timeless” cultural inheritances has changed over time, in the eyes of different audiences in different places. This dynamic relationship between “classical antiquity” and its various audiences has produced a variety of positions on how the legacy of classical antiquity should be valued, as the values of contemporary society change and access to ownership over that cultural legacy has grown.

By creating a critical distance from classical antiquity, in order to better study how its meaning has changed over time, we can also sharpen our understanding of the historical realities of the time period that the modern concept of “classical antiquity” contains (roughly 1000 BCE to 500 CE). As we peel back centuries of accumulated appreciation of “Greece” and “Rome,” we re-examine the underlying material with the best interpretive tools we now have. We also widen our perspective to encompass the study of cultures and societies in areas that are not central to the narrative of Western classical tradition, but are very much part of the shared Mediterranean world, such as the Silk Road, North Africa, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, and Israel. Every summer, our students have the opportunity to excavate with Professor Martha Risser at the Tel Akko field school in Israel.

Trinity’s Classical Studies Department – in collaboration with faculty from across the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and arts divisions – offers a wide spectrum of courses that explore the world of classical antiquity and its modern legacy through the study of languages, literature and film, philosophy, political theory, visual art, history, architecture, and archaeology. This stimulating exposure to the breadth of the liberal arts prepares our majors well for life after college. A survey of alumni from the last 10 years indicates that they are successfully engaged in law, medicine, publishing, and education at both the secondary school and college levels, religion, business, social work, and journalism. Employers know: a student who completes a degree in Classical Studies has the intellectual ability,  discipline, and breadth of interest to excel at anything.


Where does the Classical Studies community stand on the ongoing crisis of racial injustice?

The professional organizations of the Classical Studies community are standing up for the rights of Black Americans to be treated with the same dignity and respect owed to all members of our society. Please see the statement of our national organization, the Society for Classical Studies, linked below.


Athenian Ostracism: New Light on an Ancient Practice

A lecture hosted by the Department of Classical Studies and featuring James P. Sickinger, Salutatorian of Trinity Class of 1986, Associate Professor of Classics at Florida State University. Ostracism was a form of temporary exile that allowed ancient Athenian citizens to vote into temporary exile powerful individuals thought to pose a threat to their democracy. The practice took its name from the potsherds—ostraka—onto which voters scratched the names of those persons they wanted to banish. Excavations in Athens have uncovered thousands of these inscribed ballots over the past century, and their study has provided new and often unexpected details not only about ostracism but also about its intended victims and even the literacy of ancient Athenian voters. This lecture discusses some of this material and examines how ongoing excavations and recent publications continue to revise and enhance modern understanding of ostracism and Athenian voting methods. Sponsored by the Classical Studies Department and the Archaeological Institute of America, Hartford Chapter.


Joe Goodkin's Odyssey

Joseph Goodkin of Quell Records, Inc. will present a webinar titled "Joe Goodkin's Odyssey". Joe will perform original compositions based on Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Also Joe will perform some of his new work based on Homer's epic poem, The Iliad.


Myth-ing Sound. Exploring Markers of Music in Ancient Athenian Vase Paintings

A lecture by Danielle Smotherman Bennett, curatorial assistant for the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. Music features as an important component in a variety of ancient Greek mythological tales, including those portrayed on vases. Athenian vase paintings, however, are a silent medium. This talk demonstrates how images regularly incorporate sound through visual clues inviting viewers to imagine these sensory aspects and how vase painters visually express in different ways music, speech, and other sounds within representations of tales such as Orpheus and Marsyas, among others. Visual markers of sound, such as the inclusion of instruments, figures with an open mouth, and even nonsense inscriptions can entice viewers to relate the depiction with noises an ancient audience would expect. Through engaging the work of scholars and musicians working to recreate ancient Greek music, modern viewers can gain greater insight into the visual representations on ancient ceramics. And can experience how and why ancient Greek artists inspire their audience to fill-in the details of these silent pictures.


Classical Association of Connecticut - Virtual Meeting Saturday, November 7, 2020

In this teaching workshop, titled "Language Choice and Equity in the Latin Classroom", Kelly will discuss critical language awareness practices and how they can help Latin educators develop antiracist teaching methods. The focus will be on the presentation of race and enslavement in beginning Latin textbooks, but other topics will be addressed. Kelly will first talk about the historical contexts, methods in educational linguistics, and offer sample activities. Participants will then be invited to join in as we work through more passages together, make observations, and discuss antiracist curriculum development using critical language choice practices. The purpose of this workshop is to help Latin educators develop their curriculum and provide participants with easily accessible activities for getting started. The workshop will end with a discussion of intentional action and what steps can be taken today.


Study Abroad in Akko

The Trinity College Summer Field School: Archaeology, Conservation, and Heritage Program in Akko, Israel, offers a four-week program focused on the essentials of archaeological fieldwork, conservation, and heritage management.

Connecting Classical Mythology to Contemporary Life

Associate Professor of Classical Studies Meredith E. Safran digs deeper into how classical myths are recreated in modern media

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Wendi Delaney, Administrative Assistant Seabury S-109
300 Summit Street
Hartford, CT 06106