Why Studying Classics is Important in Modern-day Culture

Why Studying Classics is Important in Modern-day Culture

“There is no subject that opens up a wider range of skills and pleasures than a knowledge of Classics.”

Angela Lambert, The Independent

Classics is an all-encompassing subject which exposes the pupil to the language, literature, history, mythology and art of the Greek and Roman world.  The multi-disciplinary approach it offers allows pupils to gain a general overview of these empires and their legacy in the world today.  Pupils are encouraged to adopt a critical, but not anachronistic view, of the past and come to understand the impact the Greeks and the Romans have had on our own world.  Classics is important: in studying other cultures, ethnocentric views of the world are destroyed and greater understanding of others and ourselves is won.

The complex structure of Latin and Greek makes for an intellectual challenge and supports our understanding of English grammar.  Over 60% of English words have Greek or Latin roots and this figure is even higher in the vocabulary of the sciences and technology.  Study of an ancient language, with its rigorous demands, encourages clarity of thought, attention to detail, and the ability to argue a case.  One cannot help but develop logical, analytical and critical skills.

One of the greatest pleasures as a teacher of Classics is reading ancient literature and appreciating the beauty of both poetry and prose.  Classical mythology is at the core of much modern art and literature, and is a common theme in theatre, art, film and pop-culture.  To read Virgil or Catullus, Homer or Sophocles, is to be enticed into great literature and then further pleasure when we recognise their influence in Shakespeare, Chaucer, J.K. Rowling, Michelangelo or Mumford and Sons.  Heroes and monsters always provide good stories which we enjoy both for their tales and how they reflect the human struggle.

There is no denying the influence of the ancient Greeks and Romans on today’s western world.  Through a close study of these societies, we can see the roots of philosophy, education and our own political systems.  The speeches of Cicero lead to an understanding of rhetoric; the study of Socrates gives insight into philosophical thought; reading Herodotus leads to discussion of historiography.

There is still much to discover about the ancient world but the archaeological finds we have uncovered are fascinating.  To visit Rome, Pompeii, Athens or Delphi is to step into a past so far from our own but also so very similar in many ways.  These sites are simply awe-inspiring.

Many pupils study Classics for the sheer love and diversity of the subject, each choosing the path that appeals to them the most.  However, it can also open doors to practically any subject.  After an A level in a Classical subject we have had girls going on to university to study Classics, medicine, veterinary science, law, politics, and English literature to name but a few.  The students are prized for their skills of analysis, logic, intuition and empathy: important skills in any career.  Classics has been a part of opening their eyes to all that society can achieve.

Mrs Carmel Landowski, Head of Classics