Classical Languages Program

The primary goal of the Department of Classical Languages is to develop in our students the ability to read and appreciate significant works of Greek and Latin literature in the original language. The Greeks and the Romans asked fundamental questions about what it means to be human: What is goodness? What is knowledge? These are not questions that afford easy or definite answers, but people like Plato and Vergil got the ball rolling and their voices still speak to us two thousand years later. To hear these voices is to ponder where Western culture came from and what it is now. More importantly, their intrinsic brilliance and originality make them worth studying for their own sake. Translations are but a pale shadow of the real thing, so by learning Greek and Latin, students gain direct access to the thoughts and feelings of the authors themselves. Many of their works are as daring now as they were millennia ago, which may surprise those who equate “classical” with “old-fashioned.” Some will provoke dissent, but rather than place Greco-Roman culture on a pedestal, we want our students to engage critically with it, which in turn encourages them to question systems of value and meaning in their own culture.

To implement this goal, we have written our own introductory Latin textbook entitled Ludus and are in the process of writing an introductory Greek textbook entitled ΑΓΩΝ (anticipated in fall 2018). Both follow the same set of principles:

  • We explicitly teach Latin and Greek grammar in a way that is student-centered and discussion-based.
  • We treat Latin and Greek not as puzzles to be decoded but as languages used to express meaning.
  • We ask students to read connected stories of historical and cultural interest. In addition, we believe that speaking, hearing and writing Latin and Greek will help them become better readers.

An abiding, concomitant goal is to make our students intellectually independent, both of their instructor and of auxiliary materials such as dictionaries. Our ideal is that students will acquire a truly active knowledge of Latin and Greek and so become their own best teachers and critics. Students take an active role in class from the earliest stage, whether explaining work they have displayed on the board or posing questions and suggestions to their peers. Students become able with increasing frequency to take the lead during classes, whether in assessing the accuracy of a translation or in leading the discussion of a passage of Vergil’s Aeneid or of a Platonic dialogue.

The capstone of our program is the Classical Diploma. To fully appreciate classical literature as a product of two interconnected cultures, students should know both Latin and Greek, and the wearing of laurel wreaths on commencement day symbolizes this achievement. Students may advance even further beyond the requirements of the Classical Diploma, knowing that our department is committed to offering classes in Latin and Greek to match the highest level they are able to attain.

Although our department focuses on the study of classical languages, we also want to expose our students to the other disciplines that inform the field of Classics: namely, history and archaeology. We encourage enrollment in Classical Greece (HIS203) and Roman History for Latin Students (HIS314) and participation in the many opportunities to experience antiquity first-hand, such as the Spring Study Tour in Rome, the Winter Term in Rome and the Summer Archaeology Programs in France, Italy and Greek. 

Classical Diploma Latin Concentration

The Classical Diploma with a Latin concentration is awarded to students who successfully complete both a Latin course and a Greek course from the following options:

  • Latin 611 or Latin 530
  • Greek 431 or Greek 220

The standard expectation is that students take 13 terms of Latin and Greek as counted by Academy courses, but a student who enters the school in grade 10 or later may, if placement precludes reaching Latin 611 or Latin 530, earn a Classical Diploma by successfully completing both a Latin course and a Greek course from the following options:

  • Latin 531
  • Greek 431 or Greek 220

The last course in the sequence of courses in each language must be taught by an Academy teacher. Seniors who wish to earn the Classical Diploma but also to participate in the Washington Intern Program or another off-campus, spring-term program, may do so by successfully completing Latin 621 and Greek 421; students who wish to participate in off-campus programs in the fall or winter of their senior year should plan to start Greek before their senior year.

Latin concentration picture

Classical Diploma Greek Concentration

The Classical Diploma with a Greek concentration is awarded to students who successfully complete both a Greek course and a Latin course from the following options:

• Greek 611
• Latin 431 or Latin 220

The standard expectation is that students take 13 terms of Greek and Latin as counted by Academy courses, but a student who enters the school in grade 10 or later may, if placement precludes reaching Greek 611, earn a Classical Diploma by successfully completing both a Greek course and a Latin course from the following options:

• Greek 531
• Latin 431 or Latin 220

The last course in the sequence of courses in each language must be taught by an Academy teacher. Seniors who wish to earn the Classical Diploma but also to participate in the Washington Intern Program or another off-campus, spring-term program, may do so by successfully completing Greek 621 and Latin 421; students who wish to participate in off-campus programs in the fall or winter of their senior year should plan to start Latin before their senior year.

Greek Concentration chart

Note: Comparable combinations of Latin and Greek courses may, at the discretion of the department, fulfill the requirements.