Welcome to the Department of Classics

Classics offers a program that includes both a major and a minor centered on the study of the Ancient Greek and Latin languages in order to gain access to the richness and variety of the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. The program is conceived in broad intellectual, aesthetic, social, political, geographical, and historical terms, examining Greco-Roman civilization in itself and in relation to the many cultures that interacted with it in the Mediterranean and European world, from Iran, Egypt, Nubia, and the Etruscans, to Britain, the Franks, the Huns, the Lombards, and the Goths.

Core courses introduce students to the language, literature, and history of the ancient world. Cross-listed courses taught in other departments also provide a window into the society, politics, art, archaeology, and architecture of antiquity. Classics has been pioneering in such diverse fields as social theory, history of science, and ethics. Studying the literary and material records of the ancient world allows one to confront at their source many of the issues pertinent to modern Western culture and indeed the modern world. Greek and Latin authors such as Homer, Sappho, Sophocles, Pindar, Virgil, Cicero, Horace, and Tacitus remain unsurpassed for their intellectual and aesthetic grandeur and their moral profundity.

The Department of Classics is delighted to announce that Dr. Jennifer Ferriss-Hill, Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Miami, has been awarded a highly competitive Summer Stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue work on her second book during the summer of 2018. Horace’s Art of Poetry and the Art of Living approaches Horace’s Ars Poetica (“Art of Poetry”) as a coherent and complete work of literature in its own right, and one that occupies a key place in the poet’s oeuvre. The poem, which served as the paradigmatic manual for writers, provided a blueprint for efforts at ‘updated’ rules of composition, and inspired numerous translators and imitators throughout the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, even into the twenty-first century, has stood for two millennia alongside Aristotle’s Poetics as a canonical work of literary theory. Ferriss-Hill, however, argues rather that it should rather be read in the context of Horace’s other hexameter writings, and in particular as a companion and counterpart to his Satires. Just as throughout the Satires, his earliest poems, Horace encodes literary prescriptions into his advice on how to live well, so she contends that the Ars Poetica, thought to be his final work, may be read as a manual for how to live that masquerades as a treatise on poetics, the two collections thus forming complementary book-ends to the poet’s life and career. Only the second book in English devoted to a study of this important poem, Horace’s Art of Poetry and the Art of Living promises to be a significant contribution to the field of Classics and to be of great interest to the wider scholarly community in the Humanities as well.


Homer and His Legacy, 9-10 November 2017

Western literature has the unusual feature of starting off at the top, at twin peaks, with Homer’s two ancient Greek epics, the Iliad and Odyssey, composed sometime in the eighth century BC. Very few writers have equaled his achievement; none have surpassed it. With Homer there is no run-up for a few centuries to reach him, because no other works have survived in Greek to prepare for him. His works seem even higher as a result, like mountains without foothills that rise directly from the plain.

So it is with Homer’s legacy. He has had massive influence for over two millennia, and continues to inspire artists, novelists, poets, playwrights, script writers, directors, and composers. His Olympian gods and goddesses, with their carefree pleasures, long ago captured the heart of Hollywood—his gods are the first celebrities who live a billionaire’s existence, but with eternal youth thrown in. Homer may be said to have invented that dream of the perfect vacation, the beautiful Mediterranean (or Caribbean or South Seas, or . . . ) island, an earthly paradise. The finest twentieth-century novel in English, James Joyce’s Ulysses, grew out of a close reading of the Odyssey. Homer’s legacy is like the tail of a comet.

Homer has created two of the greatest mythic characters of world literature: Odysseus (or Ulysses) and Achilles. Odysseus is the successful entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the one who by his brains, cunning, or wisdom, masters “the system.” Achilles is the one who questions the system, its validity, its fairness, its honor; he is literature’s most famous whistle-blower, the one who says no in thunder. Ironically, Achilles and Odysseus are on the same team in the Trojan War, even friends. But they are such big characters that Homer rightly gave to each his own epic, the Iliad (ca. 16,000 lines) and the Odyssey (ca. 12,000 lines).

The Greeks started employing Homer as a school text early in their history. What better way could be found for setting models of good and evil before the youth of Greece? Over the centuries Homer became the touchstone for the humanistic study of art and literature in colleges and universities; his power of communication breaks through the barriers of space and time. Humanistic study has come to mean a refined perception of what is true and lasting in human life. Periods of history or works of art vastly disparate in their intellectual and cultural circumstance are held in a single balance, grasped not only in their historical difference but in their power to reveal striking resemblances, “universals,” the undying constants (or near-constants) in human nature. “The Fates,” writes Homer, “have given to mortals a heart that endures” (Iliad XXIV). At its best, such experience allows us to see life in its variety and otherness, its rich digressiveness, its synthesizing wholeness, not excluding a judgment on value. Through this process, do we not appreciate better the enormous gulf that separates one epoch from another, one culture from another, but can we not possibly become aware of the unitary harmonies that underlie them?

John Paul Russo
Department of Classics

Keynote Address
Dr. Richard P. Martin, Antony and Isabelle Raubitschek Professor in Classics, Stanford University, “Homeric Poetry and Local Religion: Cults of Zeus in the Iliad"


Associate Prof. Dexter Callender, Jr., University of Miami: "Between the Odyssey and Genesis - Kings on Theoxeny"
Associate Prof. Jennifer Ferriss-Hill, University of Miami: “Good Homer Nods? Confronting Tradition in Horace's Ars Poetica
Assistant Prof. Margaret Foster, University of Indiana: “Sailing to Sicily: Theoklymenos and Odysseus in Colonial Contexts”
Associate Prof. Jose M. Gonzalez, Duke University: "Homeric Contexts for Hesiodic Poetry?"

Visiting Assistant Prof. Rebecca Katz, University of Miami: "spoliis indute meorum: On the Reuse of Arms and Armor in Homer and Virgil"
Visiting Assistant Prof. Amy Koenig, University of Miami: “Refractions of the Homeric Hymn to Pan in Longus' Daphnis and Chloe
Assistant Prof. Peter A. O’Connell, University of Georgia: “Homer’s Legacy in the Poetry of Gregory of Nazianzus.”
Prof. Jonathan Ready, University of Indiana: “Minor Characters in the Iliad

Senior Lecturer Han Tran, University of Miami: “Homer’s Disembodied Siren”

Assistant Professor Robyn Walsh, University of Miami: “Romantic Imagination and Oral Tradition in Christian Literature”