The Department of Classical and Mediterranean Studies offers students an interdisciplinary perspective on the culture and history of a region at the crossroads of civilization since antiquity. The study of the Mediterranean world examines the influential achievements and legacy of the Greeks and Romans alongside the emergence and spread of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the East. It also explores the premodern to modern development of southern Europe, North Africa, and western Asia, which have variously responded to the ancient and medieval past. The Program offers courses in the history, religion, philosophy, art, literature, society and culture of the Mediterranean world. In teaching and research, our faculty promote the integrated study of past and present through both written and material sources—textual, artifactual, visual, spatial—and they embrace analytical techniques in the digital humanities. Students thus have the opportunity to learn several ancient and medieval languages of Europe and the Middle East and to pursue experiential learning overseas, from intensive modern language study to archaeological fieldwork to the investigation of evolving cultural and natural landscapes.
Majors in Classical and Mediterranean Studies are introduced to the distinctive geography and history of the region but choose their courses in one of three tracks. These tracks have shared content but offer different viewpoints and training. Majors who expect to apply for graduate study should work closely with an adviser to devise an appropriate curriculum. Students who pursue Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures investigate one or more ancient to medieval cultural tradition(s) in the Greco-Roman and Near Eastern spheres through the study of original texts and their historical setting, such as Greek tragedy, Latin oratory, Hebrew scripture, the Qur’an, or early French romance. Students who pursue Mediterranean Archaeology explore human diversity and experience from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages through the study of material and visual culture. They too learn to read textual sources while acquiring the skills of archaeological and art-historical research. Students who pursue Mediterranean Studies, the most flexible track for a broad range of interests, can choose to engage with a variety of ancient, medieval, or modern topics through focused or comparative study. The Department in Classical and Mediterranean Studies also offers a minor in Mediterranean Archaeology and a minor in Mediterranean Studies. A student cannot earn more than one minor in the program. The Honors Program requires the production of a thesis representing advanced, original, and substantial research.
Majors and minors are strongly recommended to pursue study abroad in the Mediterranean or an adjacent region. The Department has long supported the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies, the American Academy in Rome, and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
Many different international experiences are possible through Vanderbilt-approved semester programs, Maymesters, research projects, and summer study, for example, in France, Italy, Greece, and Israel. The Department encourages students to participate in local and regional conferences, where they can share the results of collaborative or independent work. Students concentrating on Greece and Rome who qualify academically are invited to join Eta Sigma Phi, the National Classics Honor Society.