I am, by trade, a Classicist, and I, thus, blog on the subject often, on everything from Homer to the period called ‘Late Antiquity.’ So here’s a page dedicated to this ever-recurring topic on the blog. You can find the multitudinous posts in the Classics category here.
What is Classics?
Classics, or Classical Studies, is the study of the ancient Mediterranean world(s) of the Greeks and Romans. To study Classics is not to deny that ancient Egypt, the Near East, China, India, Peru, Japan, etc, have interesting and important stories to tell, stories that influence our story as well. To study Classics is to say, ‘These ancient stories, these ancient peoples, are my chosen subject.’
Traditionally, Classics is a philologically-focussed discipline with a bit of history or archaeology on the side. Traditionally, the temporal focus of Classics is primarily Homer up to Alexander for the Greeks and from Plautus to Tacitus for the Romans. Sort of. Certainly nothing later than AD 200. Traditionally, Classics cares only for the great pagans of Greece and Rome.
However, to study even those temporally- and philologically-defined subjects requires a vast range of other knowledge, and today Classics is used to denote the study of the entire ancient Mediterranean world: history, literature, art, archaeology, philosophy, religion, linguistics, and so on and so forth. Temporally, today Classics stretches from the (basically) pre-historic Bronze Age ca. 2000 BC to the overlap of ancient and mediaeval in the years AD 500-700.
Classics is a fascinating subject and, although you wouldn’t guess it, it is ever-changing and shifting. New texts and new objects are always coming to light, new connections between the various literary and material remains of the ancient world are being drawn, and new methodologies are being brought to bear upon the ancient world. But, even without the new, the old is itself intrinsically interesting.
Why, you may wonder, would a young man in the prime of life choose to study these texts and cultures? Why should you even care?
Well, as I have argued in my post ‘You Should Read the Iliad‘, these cultures are the foundations for western culture — our culture (most likely, unless an Asian, African, Oceanian, or First Nations person has stumbled onto my blog). Read The Great Gatsby. Without a knowledge of Petronius, the line about Gatsby as Trimalchio is meaningless. (Now read my post on the subject.)
Go to Florence. Without Classics, one’s appreciation of the Roman Art in the Uffizi, or of Botticcelli’s Birth of Venus, or of Perseus and The Rape of the Sabine Women in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, is severely diminished. How can we read Dante without Virgil?
Beyond the foundational nature of the Graeco-Roman world, Classics is just plain interesting. Ancient philosophy makes you rethink what you believe and why. Ancient poetry stirs up the emotions. Ancient history helps you see the shaping of the world. Ancient art lifts your heart and mind to heights of glory.
Posts on Classics Here
Besides the aforementioned Classics category, here are some posts on this blog that focus on the Classical world: