Why Study Classics

What Others Are Saying

  • Students study the Classics to prepare for a variety of careers in business.

    • “Until I started working for a cycling team the Latin was a little less obvious, but now I have to communicate with native French, Italian and Spanish speakers all the time. Knowing the structure of romantic (i.e., Latin-based) languages helps immensely, even when they are speaking to me in English. At the time I took Latin from Dr. Haskell, I was just enjoying reading ancient Latin texts with him − I certainly didn’t know how useful it would be later on.” (Ryan Parks ’01 , CFO of a major cycling team).

    Click here for a post on “Why Studying Latin, More So Than Business, Is Ideal Training for Actually Running a Business .”

  • Students find the study of Classics to be excellent preparation for careers in journalism.

    • “When you came back from Kosovo, you spent a year reading the classics. What were you trying to understand?” - Bob Abernethy
    • “I did that on the advice of James Freedman, the former president of Dartmouth, and it was one of the smartest things I did because, of course, Thucydides, Cicero, Virgil — all of these great writers dealt with the same issues. Virgil and Cicero came out of a very bloody civil war that ended with the reign of Augustus.” - Chris Hedges
    • “I was freed from the cant of my own society and allowed to grapple with those issues in a way that brought them into clearer focus. I saw, for instance, in writers such as Aristotle how great minds in societies are limited. Even though Aristotle opposed slavery, he believed that slavery would never be eradicated. It allowed me to come back and look at our own society and my own life in a way that I hadn’t before. And then, quite frankly, I found that a lot of the writing of Catullus, this great lyric Roman poet, just spoke to me over hundreds of years in a very powerful and moving way. I memorized a lot of Catullus’s poems. And when I went to visit Kurt Schork’s grave in Sarajevo, I stood over it and recited the poem that Catullus had written to his own brother who died near Troy [Catull. c. 101]. It gave me a kind of continuity, a clearer understanding of who I was and the age in which I live.” (From an NPR interview , broadcast on January 31, 2003) (cf. NYT 12/01/1999
  • Students study the Classics as strong preparation for law school.

    • “The law school applicants with the highest grade point averages and LSAT scores studied the classics in college, according to a recent analysis of data from the Law School Admissions Council by Derek Muller, associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law. (National Jurist, 4/22/2014 )
    • “…according to Harvard Magazine, Classics majors (and math majors) have the highest success rates of any majors in law school. Believe it or not: political science, economics, and pre-law majors lag fairly far behind. Even furthermore, Classics majors consistently have some of the highest scores on GREs of all undergraduates. (The Princeton Review )
    • “Law schools report that by yardsticks of law review and grades, their top students come from math, the Classics, and literature - with political science, economics, ‘pre - law,’ and ‘legal studies’ ranking lower.” (Harvard Magazine, May-June, 1998, p. 50) (cf. “The Value of a Liberal Arts Education ” [Harvard])
    • Classics majors score highest LSAT scores : “Law school applicants who identified their college major as criminal justice, pre-law or law didn’t fare as well on the LSAT as those who studied nonlaw disciplines such as the classics and art history.”
    • “I finished law school Nov. of ’10. Now I’m working law out in the Hillcountry (Marble Falls, Horseshoe Bay, Llano, Burnet etc.). Please tell any current SU student considering Classical studies as a major or minor that the program in all its forms would be an excellent foundation for legal studies. Of course there is the vocabulary / word-root knowledge and history, both of which are helpful for legal terms of art (e.g. ‘Res Gestae’ an exclusion to the hearsay rule), but more than that: the mental process and rigor of translating the original languages and making recitations of your translations on the spot in class is very similar to the process of reciting the often obscure and numerous rules out of case law. I found that mental process is extremely important in law school because the exams are recitations of rules (holdings) applied to new sets of facts to produce a ‘legal’ conclusions. The faster and more efficiently you recite and apply the rules, the more points the Prof. will give you on the exam. So, the only change I would have made to my SU studies looking back is that I would taken more Classics classes. I should have learned Latin! I’m sure you have heard all this before from past students…..but that is because it is true!” (Elijah McLeod ’07 )
    • “Learning a language such as Latin or ancient Greek is similar to learning the law. There is a set of legal rules (grammar) which must be applied to translate the outcome of unique fact situations (original Latin or Greek texts). The skill of taking a structured language with rules, exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions and learning how to use it has provided me with a huge advantage in my legal studies. I even use similar studying methods to memorize case law and statute elements that I used to study ancient Greek and Latin.” (Aaron Blair ’08 )
    • “My Classics major and the tutelage of the Classics department (and Dr. Haskell in particular, as my advisor) have served me well since graduating Southwestern.  I ended up going to law school, and I now make daily use the analytical skills acquired as a Classics major in my law practice.
      “I found there was much more to a Classics major than Greek myths and beginner’s Latin…. The acquired skill of careful analysis inherent to translating any language—but ancient Greek and Latin in particular, with their comparatively complicated conjugations and declensions—is especially applicable to the study and practice of law.  The research papers I wrote for my Classics courses prepared me for the large amounts of reading and writing that both law school and my law practice require.  When I worked as a litigator, the mechanical logic of translating helped me formulate legal theories for the cases I handled.  I now have a primarily transactional law practice that involves interpreting, negotiating, and drafting contracts and legal instruments for oil and gas companies—it too is a fitting progression from my time as a Classics major.
      “After I accepted a law clerk position at a firm in Austin my second year of law school, the partner who interviewed me mentioned my Classics major as one of the things that stood out on my resume…. If you choose a major that genuinely interests and challenges you, expect it to impact your career after graduation.” (John Marrs ’03 )
  • Students study the Classics to provide a rigorous foundation for a career in medicine.

    • “We can’t overestimate the value of a Classics major. Check this out: according to Association of American Medical Colleges, students who major or double-major in Classics have a better success rate getting into medical school than do students who concentrate solely in biology, microbiology, and other branches of science. Crazy, huh? Furthermore, according to Harvard Magazine, Classics majors (and math majors) have the highest success rates of any majors in law school. Believe it or not: political science, economics, and pre-law majors lag fairly far behind. Even furthermore, Classics majors consistently have some of the highest scores on GREs of all undergraduates.” (The Princeton Review )
    • “So much of medical terminology is rooted in the Classics that studying Greek can facilitate study of anatomy for instance. But studying the Classics opens other doors that physicians tend to have closed just by the focused interest of their studies. Classics can be a vehicle for staying in touch with life - spiritual growth by reading the New Testament in its original language or cultural growth by reading the Iliad.” (Dr. Eric Dahl, Director, The University of Mississippi Student Health Service)
    • “I started out as a classics major. I’m now Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry. Of all the courses I took in college and graduate school, the ones that have benefited me the most in my career as a scientist are the courses in classics, art history, sociology, and English literature. These courses didn’t just give me a much better appreciation for my own culture; they taught me how to think, to analyze, and to write clearly.” (Gregory A Petsko, Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, Brandeis University; published in Genome Biology 2010, 11:138)
  • Students study the Classics to develop a deeper understanding of words and writing.

    • “It took Latin to thrust me into bona fide alliance with words in their true meaning. Learning Latin…fed my love for words upon words, words in continuation and modification, and the beautiful accretion of a sentence….” (Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings, p. 31)
    • “But it was his Latin classes that had the most enduring influence on his future art. ‘It allows you to adore words,’ Geisel [Dr. Seuss] once said about Latin, ‘take them apart and find out where they came from.’” New York Times , March 2, 2004 )