Classics is the study of the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, especially Greece and Rome, and as such embraces a number of disciplines, including archaeology, art history, history, literature, and philosophy. As the basis of western thought and culture, the study of the Classics remains a critical and essential foundation for all Humanistic inquiry. It is the origin of the Liberal Arts and the original interdisciplinary subject. McMaster boasts one of the oldest and best-reputed Classics departments in Canada, which, unlike many departments, encompasses all the classical disciplines and offers programs at all levels, BA, MA, and PhD.
Among the vast array of topics that are studied in the Classics are: the earliest western literature; the first democracies; the origins of science and philosophy; the invention of tragedy and comedy; classical painting, sculpture, and architecture; the history of warfare (including the Greek hoplite and Roman legion); the Olympic Games; gladiators; gender and sexuality in ancient society; slavery; and ancient religion and ethnicity.
We prioritize the creation of well-rounded undergraduate students whose knowledge of classical civilization grows in tandem with their abilities in research, critical thinking, writing, and oral presentation. Our students enjoy opportunities to gain hands-on experience at archaeological excavations and to pursue research projects in the Mediterranean. There are also opportunities to work with the coin and antiquities collections of the McMaster Museum of Art.
We offer Greek and Latin courses from a beginner’s level, but Greek and Latin are not required for the undergraduate degree. Training in the ancient languages is required, however, for entry into postgraduate programs (including our own), so we encourage students who might want to go on to further study to take as much Greek and Latin as possible (ideally one year of each language in all four years of an honours BA).
McMaster has a long-established and highly-esteemed graduate program. Graduates hold tenured or tenure-track positions at Acadia, Brock, Calgary, Concordia, Laurentian, McMaster, and Trent in Canada, and abroad at Leeds (UK), Penn State (US), and Auckland (New Zealand). Recent graduates of our MA have entered graduate programs at Canadian universities (e.g., Toronto, UBC), as well as at many US institutions (e.g., Stanford, Duke, Michigan, UNC Chapel Hill, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Emory) and at universities in the United Kingdom (Oxford, Cambridge).
A Classics BA provides an excellent foundation for post-graduate degrees, not only in Classics or History, but also in areas such as law, medicine, library and museum science, publishing, and information technology, and is an excellent complement to other subjects in the Humanities or Social Sciences in a double-major program (including History, Art History, Philosophy, English and Cultural Studies, Communication Studies, Linguistics, Anthropology, Political Science, and Religious Studies). In addition to further study, a diverse range of careers are open to Classics majors; see: