Classics Department Introduces Ancient Greek Minor

The Boston College Classics Department will now offer a minor in Ancient Greek. The department cited a need to incorporate the study of classics into other disciplines.

Because Ancient Greek is deeply integrated in the foundation of many subject areas, such as philosophy and theology, the department believes that having some knowledge of Greek language and culture will help students attain a deeper understanding of their other studies.

“What we were thinking about was how we could make a mini-program that would deepen those more traditional and maybe larger majors and incorporate the ancient world,” Gail Hoffman, the director of the new minor, said.

The requirements for the minor include four courses in Ancient Greek above the elementary level, one course on Greek culture—either Greek Civilization or Greek History—and one elective in either Ancient Greek (intermediate or above) or a course on Greek civilization.

Classics professors hope that the minor will help students hesitant about taking on the entire Classics major learn more about ancient civilizations.

The focus on training philologists—those who study oral and written historical records—sets the Classics major apart from the Ancient Greek minor. While the Classics major trains students in the tools needed to study various traditional classical texts, the new minor tries to forge connections to later developments in intellectual and historical traditions.

Most Classics majors tend to be Latin-based, with many students having taken Latin in high school. As a result, these students ascend into the upper levels of the language with less time to learn Greek.

The department began the development process by drafting the goals they wanted to accomplish and looking to other schools’ departments for reference, rather than design a plan from scratch.

“What we were trying to do was repackage,” Hoffman said. “Take strengths that we already had and pull them together to make them more focused.”

Although there was no outwardly expressed demand from students for this minor, the department recognized a need for it nonetheless.

Hoffman explained that many people do not realize the benefits of having a background in a subject like Ancient Greek until they are late in their careers and have a desire to pursue a master’s or another type of degree. By then, a lack of a foundation in Ancient Greek poses a much larger challenge. The department acknowledged that sometimes students need assistance in figuring out a framework of an area they want to study deeper.

“The minor can help undergraduates as they start to realize and find their focus and realize that starting to do this study now will benefit them as they move forward,” Hoffman said. “It wasn’t that the students actively came and said, ‘I desperately, really want this minor,’ but that we could see that the need in these various areas existed.”

Being able to read Greek can allow students to broaden and enrich areas of study they are passionate about, she said. Hoffman points out that many important, ancient documents are written in Greek. Ideally, an education in Ancient Greek will empower students to read the original text while also helping them understand the civilization’s culture and history.

“If you’re a philosopher, you’re going to expand that and make the links into philosophy, and if you’re a theologian, you’re going to expand that and make the links into theology, or political science” she said.

In Hoffman’s eyes, the new minor is just another step in BC’s goal of creating well-rounded graduates by enabling students to look to the past and make connections with modern society.

Concerning the job interview process, Hoffman offers that major companies who are hiring people are not just looking for specific business skills, but the ability to think more broadly— which is attained through a minor like this.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor