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School of International Letters and Cultures offers new major in Classical Civilization

February 01, 2013

For centuries, students who wanted to become informed, educated leaders have tested their minds against the greatest thinkers of antiquity. "The Classics" – which is what the study of ancient Greece and Rome is called—offers an education in more than a thousand years of great works in literature, history, art, and philosophy. Acquaintance with these works provides a firm grounding for anyone whose future plans include the need to persuade, to please the eye or ear, or to reason about human interaction – in short, anyone. 

“When you study Classics, you step into a world that is very different from our own, and yet which lies at the root of western civilization,” says Mike Tueller, associate professor, who earned a doctorate in Classical Philology from Harvard University in 2003. 

Because of their ability to “think outside the box,” students of Classics have gone on to become some of our most successful political and business leaders: James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State; Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense; Ted Turner of CNN; and Charles Geschke of Adobe to name a few. Classics majors are able to take new problems for which no one has a degree, and look at them from a perspective that is new, creative, and analytically rigorous. Top employers value this ability very highly, even over other typical business related skills.

Beginning with the fall 2013 semester, students interested in majoring in Classics at ASU will now have two options, the Bachelor of Arts in International Letters and Cultures with a concentration in Classics, and the new Bachelor of Arts in International Letters and Cultures with a concentration in Classical Civilization.

“The new major in classical civilization requires history and mythology, but lets you take whatever language you want for your language requirement," says ASU classics expert Almira Poudrier. “You don't have to study ancient Greek and Latin, but we hope you still will.”

Which classics concentration is right for you?

The two majors differ in their requirements. The Classics concentration includes a thorough training in classical language – either ancient Greek or Latin or both. To this are added courses in classical culture – ancient religion, art, history, and philosophy.

If you are planning on a career where the Classics are directly relevant, you should certainly choose the Classics concentration. That includes graduate study in the Classics or ancient/medieval history, as well as Christian ministry. The Classics concentration is also recommended for those whose careers will involve close analysis of language, such as the law, and many public sector jobs.

The Classical Civilization concentration, on the other hand, does not have a classical language requirement; you can fulfill your college-mandated language requirement with two years of any language. Instead, this concentration emphasizes classical culture more heavily, and is a good choice for people who wish to study "the classical tradition" – how the civilization left by antiquity developed in the many cultures of Europe, and how it influenced cultures worldwide. It is also good for careers that require a more general knowledge of human society, such as journalism and K-12 education.

ASU has a very active classics community. The undergraduate student organization Solis Diaboli brings together ASU students with similar interests in ancient civilizations of the classical world. The club frequently sponsors lectures by classics professors, holds classics-themed movie nights, organizes tutoring sessions, and participates in fun events like the Homecoming block party toga contest.

Members of Solis Diaboli are very excited about the new major in Classical Civilization. Acknowledging a new milestone, Matthew McDaniel spoke on behalf of the club saying, “This is a great achievement for ASU and Arizona!”

In addition to two majors in Classics, the School of International Letters and Cultures also offers an undergraduate certificate in Classical Studies, which is available to students in any degree program in any field.

For more information about the majors or certificate, contact Tueller at

The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit in ASU's College of LIberal Arts and Sciences.