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Classical civilisation (TSM)

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Course overview

The study of Classical civilisation is concerned with the literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome. Through the examination and contextualisation of literary works and the analysis of the main aspects of ancient history and art, you will develop a thorough knowledge of the classical world and a critical approach to Greek and Roman literature. All texts are studied in translation and no knowledge of Greek or Latin is required.

Is this the right course for you?

If you enjoy literature; if you want to acquire an understanding of the past and its influence; if you would like to engage with the mythology, poetic imagination, depth of thought and historical value of two civilisations that shaped the western world, this is the course for you.

Course content

Over four years you will develop a broad understanding of the classical world, primarily through its literature. You will move from introductory courses in the first year to the study of specific authors, genres and themes in the second and third years. In your final year you will choose from a range of specialised options. All courses are taught by lectures and small-group seminars.

The Junior Freshman year

In the Junior Freshman (first) year you will be introduced to the critical study of ancient history, art, myth and religion, with a view to acquiring a comprehensive and interdisciplinary perspective on classical culture. There are approximately six hours of classes in the Junior Freshman year.

  • Greek and Roman history - an introductory survey of the Greek and Roman world from the Greek Archaic age to the early Roman Empire. The course covers topics such as politics and power, Athenian democracy, the conquests of Alexander, the emergence of Rome as a major imperial power, colonisation, war and conflict.
  • Greek and Roman art and architecture - an introduction to the development and major artistic achievements in architecture, sculpture and painting. The course places art and architecture in its social and political context; it focuses on themes such as the use of narrative and mythology in art, urbanisation, and the development of architectural forms such as temples, theatres and Roman baths.
  • Mythology and religion  - an introduction to the major myths and religions of the classical world using both literary and artistic evidence. The course also explores theories of myth and the functions of myth within society, and includes seminars designed to develop analytical and critical skills relevant to the study of literature.

The second and third years

In each of these two years you will take four or five course which focus on specific authors (e.g. Homer, Virgil, Herodotus), genres (e.g. tragedy, comedy, philosophy) or themes (e.g. gender and sexuality, identity and self-image). In these courses you will analyse ancient texts both as literature and as gateways into culture and thought, discuss key themes of relevance to both the ancient and modern world, and refine your analysis of texts in their literary and cultural context through more specialised skills and methodologies. All the courses are taught by lectures and small-group seminars.

You will learn, for example, how the Greeks and Romans saw themselves and other cultures; how they tried to make sense of the world around them through philosophy and religion; how they thought about politics and ideology, ethnicity and identity, life and death.

The Senior Sophister year

If you decide to study Classical civilisation in the final year you will be able to choose two special subjects from a range on offer. Courses offered recently include; Ancient Cyprus; Egypt; Entertainment and spectacle in the Greek and Roman worlds; Goddesses of the ancient Mediterranean; Anthropology and the Greeks; Kings and cities; Rhetoric: the art of persuasion.

You will also write a thesis on a subject of your choice. This is an opportunity to do research which will allow you to develop independent ideas and acquire critical skills while investigating in great depth an area that particularly interests you.

Assessment

A combination of end-of-year examination and continuous assessment (e.g. essays, seminar presentations and short commentaries on texts), and a thesis in the final year.

Study abroad

Trinity College has strong links with many Classics departments abroad, including active participation in the Erasmus exchange programme with universities in Cyprus, France, Switzerland and Turkey, and students are able to avail of College-wide exchanges, for example, with North America and Australia. This allows students the option of spending a year abroad.

Career Opportunities

Business, librarianship, museum work, publishing, teaching and theatre are some of the many fields recent graduates have entered. Recent graduates are working for companies as diverse as Smurfit Communications, Blackwell Publishing and the Gare St. Lazare Players. Students who opted to undertake further study have selected courses ranging from law and marketing to teacher training and international peace studies.

Further information

www.tcd.ie/Classics

E-mail: classics@tcd.ie

Tel: +353 1 896 1208

Graduate profile

Kate Higgs

Solicitor and European Trade Mark Attorney at WhitneyMoore Solicitors

“Were there really only 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae? Was Alexander actually injured on a sunny day at Hydaspes as depicted by Oliver Stone? Why is the entire premise of Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief bogus? The foundation courses in Myth and History in the first year of Classical civilisation, and the literary courses in 2nd and 3rd year would give you the answer to all of these questions. But there is far more to be gained from the study of Classical civilisation than just being the pedant in the audience who scoffs at the glaring discrepancies of Hollywood blockbuster scripts. Fourth year in Classical civilisation was the highlight of my College experience. For Irish students coming out of the Leaving Certificate education system, it can take a year or two to fully comprehend the idea of independent thought and research. But by the final year of my degree, I was fully equipped with the necessary skill-set to set about exploring an area of my own choosing (in my case Imperial Roman women who used their feminine wiles to gain power and influence), working and shaping my project into a satisfyingly substantial piece of work. Classes in fourth year in the Department of Classics centre on each lecturer’s area of expertise, and are given in a less formal seminar format. This afforded us both the privilege of studying with lecturers who were imparting cutting-edge research and the opportunity to present our own ideas and opinions to our peers. It was challenging and satisfying to think hard about complex issues that are both grounded in ancient concerns and also still pertinent to the way we approach the world around us today. That is the beauty of studying the Classics as the foundation of Western culture: you learn to appreciate just how relevant many ancient theories and ideas are to modern debates.”

 

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