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Transcript: Classics Pathway

Hello everybody, I'm Professor Zahra Newby from the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick. I'd like to talk to you a little bit about the possibility of taking a Classics Pathway through the Liberal Arts degree.

So, what is Classics and Ancient History? It's the study of the cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean in all of their aspects, so these are the cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome, but also the cultures that they came into contact with as well, such as those of Ancient Egypt, for example.

We study the literature and language of these cultures, so Greek and Latin, looking at them both in the original, so you can choose to study Greek and Latin from beginner's level or to advanced level, but also in translation. If you do not have any prior knowledge that's fine.

We look at the history of these cultures, so aspects such as the growth of Athenian democracy for example, or the expansion of the Roman Empire, and the impact that had on the cultures and communities that they came into contact with.

We look at ancient philosophy and thought, ways of living well in the ancient world, how people understood the environment around them, and we also look at art and archaeology, thinking about how the visual arts responded to the society and the cultural issues that were at play. So, things like how do people use art to express identities, how did they use them to praise the gods, how did they use them to reflect on ideas about human life and its boundaries and limitations. We very much believe that by studying the past you can understand the present better, so that you can have an awareness of the deeper history behind much of the issues it faces today.

So why might you choose the Classics Pathway? The Liberal Arts degree is all about exploring connections, it's about thinking about the past and the present and how we have got to where we are in the current society and asking complicated questions. This will allow you to think about the longer history, how do we know about the past, how are different kinds of pasts and histories created and how are those histories themselves entangled with the politics and the cultures of the society in which they were written. It allows us to think about different kinds of knowledge and different kinds of evidence. Much of our evidence from the ancient world is fragmentary. How do you piece together a history when you've only got some of the pieces? And it allows us to think about changing understandings of different cultural concepts, so what is identity, what is democracy, how have these ideas changed over time and over cultures. It will very much allow you to complement the interests that you're studying in your modules from the Liberal Arts Department and to think about the longer history of issues that are still critical today. I'll explore some of those in a moment.

Within the Classics Department we're actually a very similar size and style of department to the Liberal Arts Department. We're very close-knit, very welcoming, we like to get to know our students and to really explore your ideas with you. It's all about creating knowledge and understanding and asking questions together in a collaborative fashion and we have an excellent staff-student ratio.

The possible pathways that you could take if you choose the Classics Pathway: you could very much focus your study in Classics specifically on perhaps language and literature, or specifically on history, so the possibility is to develop those different interests, or indeed on Ancient Art which is the area in which I am a specialist.

So in your first year you choose one of our modules, so 30 CATS, however that might be made up, either two 15 CAT modules or one 30 CAT module from Classics. That gives you a grounding in the study of the ancient world, even if you haven't been able to study it before. You can choose to start the study of Greek or Latin, for example, or indeed continue it if you do have some, or you could choose to study 'Introduction to Greek and Roman History', so that takes you through the kind of developments of Greek History from the archaic 6th century BCE through to the 4th century BCE and looks at the origins of, the development of the Roman Republic in Rome, up to the period when Augustus becomes the first Roman Emperor. Or, you could study 'Greek Culture and Society' and 'Roman Culture and Society' which are very much modules focused on issues that affected ancient cultures and societies and the ways in which those societies work. We think about issues such as, or aspects such as religion, for example, attitudes towards women, the institution of slavery, social structures... Those things allow you to gain a kind of historical perspective on many of these issues which have been so important in later societies too, but also to explore them from a range of different viewpoints. So in looking at the Ancient Greek religion, we can think about the plays which were performed as part of ancient festivals, we can think about the art which was produced to commemorate the victors in those festivals, we can think about cult images of the gods, how the gods were envisaged, how people saw themselves in relation to the divine.

There are lots of different aspects that you can explore. We're very much about bringing together those different types of evidence from the ancient world and thinking about how you interrogate them. We also learn through performance, so we have a replica symposium as part of the 'Greek Culture and Society' module where you can handle replica ancient vases, think about how were these things held, how was your deportment and how you behaved in the ancient symposium a very crucial part of cultural identity.

At honours level, you're free to choose from any of our modules and again to sort of explore those interests, so if you've explored Greek and Roman History in your first year, you might decide to take more historical modules, or if you've focused on language or literature you might decide to continue that.

We have a number of modules that also relate to some of the themes in the Liberal Arts core modules. So for example, the theme of consumption which is one of the modules you study in the second year, in terms of our modules we have a module on 'Food and Drink in the Ancient Mediterranean' which thinks both about what people were eating and drinking, but also about the attitudes towards that in ancient texts and ancient thought, so how consumption was part of identity.

We have a module on the 'Roman Economy' which is looking more at the sort of nuts and bolts of how did the ancient economy work, how did olive oil for example get transported across the Mediterranean in Ancient Amphorae, how did these networks build connections between different societies.

We have modules that think about the construction narrative of identity, so if you're interested, for example, perhaps in decolonising the curriculum, moves that are widespread across the humanities at the moment, you might be interested in our module in 'Africa and the Making of Classical Literature' which looks at the way that the continent of Africa was envisaged in Ancient Greek and Roman thought and the influence that has had on later representations of Africa and also tries to unpick that by looking at some sort of responses to that in contemporary literature.

I teach a module on 'Art and Architecture' which thinks about how art in the area of Ancient Turkey responded to the fact that these were societies with influence both from the Greek world and the Greek mainland to their west, but also from the Empire of Persia to the east, so how was that those sorts of competing cultural connections negotiated through the visual arts.

And we have a module on the 'Hellenistic World' which looks at the transformation of the Mediterranean after the conquests of Alexander the Great, when you get the societies of Egypt and Asia coming into greater contact with the Greek world than they had before and being taken over by the successors of Alexander the Great.

If you're interested in themes of Art and Revolution and how the creative arts respond to political change, then you might be interested in modules 'Transformations of Roman Society under Augustus' which looks very much a kind of transformation in things like both the arts, but also legal and moral thinking, 'Horace: Authority and Authoritarianism' which thinks about the production of literature and kind of coercive regimes and how that might work. Or, we have a whole range of other aspects in the ancient world. Greek Theater, Mythology, Archaeology, Ancient Medicine, so there are lots of different things to get into and really pursue your interests.

So, we hope that that's captivated your fancy and given you something to think about, but if you'd like to know more then do have a look at our web pages. You can see all of the modules that we offer there. They obviously do change on a sort of rolling basis but that gives you an idea of the things that we cover. And you're always welcome to email us at and we can tell you a little bit more. So please do talk to us and look at the website and hopefully we'll see some of you studying with us in the next few years. Thank you very much.