Classical & Early Christian Studies
Greek and Roman literature preserve the wisdom of the ancients, the noble heritage that is the thought of the peoples of antiquity. We should regard it as the first traces of the coming dawn of Gospel truth that the Son of God, the Master and Teacher of the life of grace, the Enlightener and Guide of the human race, announced on earth. In this, the indisputably pre-eminent legacy bequeathed from antiquity, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church recognized that hearts were being prepared to receive the heavenly riches of which Christ Jesus made mortals sharers in His plan realized in the fullness of time. The clear consequence of this is that nothing true, nothing positive, nothing noble, nothing beautiful that past ages had produced was in any way lost in the renewed order of Christendom.
-John XXIII, Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia 1
Classical and Early Christian Studies has two major focuses. The first is to have the student increase his knowledge of the literature, history, and mores of Graeco-Roman civilization even as he develops his grammatical, lexical, and rhetorical command of Greek, Latin, and–to a lesser degree–Hebrew. The second is to have the student appreciate how that civilization was transformed into Christendom beginning from the Apostolic Age through late antiquity and into the Middle Ages.
Greek, Latin, and Hebrew were the three languages in which Christ the King was acclaimed on the Holy Cross; Greek, Latin, and Hebrew are the languages in which Sacred Scripture and the pure doctrine of the Fathers of the Church were written. The Church has, therefore, always considered the study of these three tongues a field of special importance for the intellectual formation of Christian scholars. As John XXIII expressed it, the Church fosters the Greek and Latin languages and literature “because they have had no small role in the advancement of the human race.” As recently as 2006, Benedict XVI underscored the significance that Latin, and by inference classical studies, continues to hold, “Our Predecessors have quite rightly considered knowledge of Latin of great importance for those who deal with ecclesiastical and liberal studies to be able to make fully their own these disciplines’ tremendously rich teaching. Therefore, we urge those scholars zealously to endeavor that as many as possible have access to this treasure and obtain the excellent knowledge that it has to bestow.” (General Address of February 22, 2006)
Historically, classical studies, that is, learning Latin and Greek and reading, commenting upon, editing, and transmitting a canon of traditional texts, was the mother and perpetual handmaiden of other disciplines in the monastic schools of early Christendom, as well as in medieval universities. It is fitting, therefore, that the mater atque ancilla studiorum continue to form those who will dedicate their lives to the transmission and interpretation of Christian and Classical literature, a patrimony that includes Homer and the Pentateuch, Aristotle and Chrysostom, Cicero and Jerome.
In answer, then, to the wishes of recent Roman Pontiffs, the Classical and Early Christian Studies program at Christendom College is designed to promote the study of Latin and Greek at all levels, and Hebrew to a lesser extent, so as to read Sacred Scripture and the works of the Fathers of the Church in their original languages, a worthy and ultimately necessary preparation for those engaged in the defense of the Faith. To lack knowledge of Greek and Latin is, to borrow the language of Veterum Sapientia, to risk losing the true, the positive, the noble, the beautiful that past ages produced and that has been a part of the patrimony of Christendom. To be unlettered in Latin or Greek impoverishes a Christian scholar, since the accident of what has been translated would determine what he knows of our sacred or secular heritage.
Requirements for the Classical and Early Christian Studies Major
Thirty (30) semester hours of advanced courses (300-level and above) are required for the major; they include the Senior Thesis (CECS 512, 3 credits) and a minimum of twenty-one (21) upper-division hours of Latin and Greek language. Of these twenty-one hours a minimum of six (6) must be in upper-division Latin and six (6) hours in Greek. Up to six (6) hours of Biblical Hebrew may also be credited toward the major.
A student may apply to his major up to nine (9) hours of coursework under rubrics other than LATN, GREK, and HEBR that explore significant aspects of Graeco-Roman or early Christian civilization. Six (6) of these nine hours should be selected from courses under the CECS rubric. Such courses may include, but are not limited to:
- CECS/ENGL 321 Classical & Early Christian Literature
- CECS/HIST 309 History of Ancient Greece
- CECS/HIST 310 History of Ancient Rome
- CECS/HIST 311 History of the Byzantine Empire
- PHIL 322 Plato
- PHIL 323 Aristotle
- PHIL 324 Philosophy of St. Augustine
- PSAE 421 The Classical Political Tradition
- THEO 341 The Ante-Nicene Fathers
- THEO 342 The Post-Nicene Fathers
The minor in Classical and Early Christian Studies is attractive for the student of another discipline who would like to ground his studies–literary, historical, theological, philosophical, or otherwise–in the Classical or early Christian world. The minor requires eighteen (18) credit hours of advanced courses (300-level and above). Twelve (12) of these hours must be attained through a combination of Latin, Greek, or Hebrew classes; the remaining six (6) hours may be in approved coursework under rubrics other than LATN, GREK, and HEBR that treat some aspect of Graeco-Roman or early Christian civilization.
A course grade of at least C-minus is necessary for a course to fulfill the department’s major or minor requirements.
The language of the Catholic Church and of traditional Western Christendom is an indispensable discipline for restoring Catholic learning and training future Christian scholars. The department offers one year each of elementary and intermediate Latin for students to fulfill the foreign language requirement. This cycle is obligatory for students majoring in Philosophy or Theology, and is recommended for those majoring in English, unless they have attained qualifying competence already. Competence may be demonstrated by successfully completing an upper-division course (300-level and above). Students majoring in Philosophy may opt to take two years of Greek in place of Latin. In addition, courses in Classical, Patristic, Medieval, and Scholastic Latin literature are available for the advanced student. All courses carry 3 semester hours unless otherwise specified. All Latin courses at the 300-level or above require the permission of the chairman and individual professor, or the simple pre-requisite of LATN 202. With the permission of the chairman and individual professor, all upper-division Latin electives may be repeated for credit.
LATN 101-102 Elementary Latin I & II: An introduction to the grammar, syntax, and lexicon
of Latin. Students are expected to progress as readers and writers of Latin.
LATN 201-202 Intermediate Latin I & II: Building on the foundation established in the first
year, students will advance in Latin fluency and read Latin literature of increasing sophistication.
Courses will draw from Classical authors or the literary corpus of Christian Latin, e.g., Patristic,
medieval, or modern ecclesiastical Latin. N.B.: Successful completion of LATN 201 or the
permission of the departmental chairman is the prerequisite for entrance into LATN 202.
LATN 307 Latin Composition and Reading: Training in written and spoken expression,
emphasizing refinement of vocabulary and natural Latin syntax. The course emphasizes
rudimentary original composition and conversation, rendering fine English prose into Latin, and
LATN 311 The Augustan Age: Advanced survey of the literature that formed the Augustan
Age (1st century B.C.–1st century A.D.), including authors like Lucretius, Virgil, Horace, or Livy.
LATN 312 The Imperial Age:Advanced study of poets and prose writers of the first and
second centuries of the Christian era, including authors like Ovid, Seneca, Pliny, or Tacitus.
LATN/THEO 421 Patristic Latin: Latin Fathers from the second to the eighth century will be
read in this course. A variety of Patristic authors or topics may be examined in this course, or
the focus may be on one major author or subject to be studied in depth. The focal author, work,
or topic will vary each time the course is offered.
LATN 422 Medieval Latin: A study of the literature of the Latin Middle Ages. Course
readings can include a variety of authors and periods from the fifth through the fifteenth
centuries and of genres like lyric poetry, Christian hymnody, historiography, hagiography, fable,
or satire. Selected authors of the late Renaissance like Erasmus or St. Thomas More may also be
LATN/PHIL/THEO 423: An advanced study of Scholastic Latin through in-depth reading of selections from St. Thomas’s Summa Theologiae or
other treatises. The selections studied will vary each time the course is offered.
LATN 490-499 Special Topics in Latin Language and Literature: May include such topics
as Roman comedy, Latin historiography, Patristic homiletics, Roman law, or other advanced
study in Latin language or literature.
The great patrimony of Holy Mother Church in Greek includes the writings of or about some of the finest intellects and most glorious saints that she counts among her children. Without doubt the crown of Christian Greek literature, though, is the New Testament and the Septuagint. This sacred literature, no less than Classical drama, philosophy, and history, can only be fully appreciated by those conversant with classical and Hellenistic Greek. The department offers one year each of elementary and intermediate Attic Greek for students to fulfill the foreign language requirement. This cycle is the alternative language requirement for students majoring in Philosophy, unless they have already attained qualifying competence. Competence may be demonstrated by successfully completing an upper-division course beyond GREK 302. In addition, courses in Classical, Hellenistic, or Patristic Greek literature are available for the advanced student. All courses carry 3 semester hours unless otherwise specified. All Greek courses at the 300-level or above require the permission of the chairman and individual professor, or the simple pre-requisite of GREK 202. With the permission of the chairman and individual professor, all upper-division Greek classes may be repeated for credit.
GREK 201-202 Elementary Greek I & II: An introduction to the grammar, syntax, and
lexicon of Attic Greek to prepare the student for studying the best Classical authors, the Fathers
of the Greek-speaking East, and Sacred Scripture
GREK 301 Intermediate Greek I: An introduction to more complex Attic Greek grammar and
syntax via reading and composing classical Greek. Readings typically are drawn from or
modeled on the writings of Thucydides, Herodotus, and Aristophanes. Supplementary readings
may include readings from the New Testament or the Cebetis Tabula.
GREK 302 Intermediate Greek II: Students will read selected writings of fifth and fourth century B.C. Greek prose authors, e.g., Herodotus, Xenophon, Thucydides, Plato, Lysias, or Demonsthenes.
GREK 313 Homer: Readings in the Iliad or the Odyssey, with attention to Homeric grammar
GREK 314 Classical Greek Theater: Readings in works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Menander, or Aristophanes.
GREK/THEO 425 Patristic Greek: Readings from the New Testament, Apostolic literature, or from the Greek Fathers of the first nine centuries of the Christian era.
GREK 426 Advanced Readings in Greek Philosophy and Rhetoric: An advanced study in Greek of selections from Plato, Aristotle, and contemporary rhetoricians. The readings illustrate key concepts of Greek philosophy and the use of classical rhetoric in argumentation and dialectic.
GREK 490-99 Special Topics in Greek Language and Literature: May include topics like the Septuagint, Thucydides, Plutarch, the Pauline Epistles, Byzantine authors, or other special study in Greek language and literature.
HEBR 301-302 Introductory Biblical Hebrew A combination of the classical and inductive approaches to learning the language of the Old Testament will be used. Students will be familiarized with the Hebrew alphabet, pointing system, and grammar. The second semester will develop greater proficiency in reading the Old Testament in Hebrew. Prerequisite: LATN 202 or GREK 202.
Classical and Early Christian Civilization
CECS/HIST 309 History of Ancient Greece: This course examines ancient Greek civilization from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period with special interest in the Heroic Age of Homer, the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, Periclean Athens, and the establishment of Hellenistic order. This course is built around reading and discussing primary texts by writers like Hesiod, Homer, Aeschylus, Thucydides, Isocrates, Aristotle, Xenophon, Polybius, or Philo. The course culminates with study of the Hellenistic influence on the Greek Fathers of the Church.
CECS/HIST 310 History of Ancient Rome: This course examines ancient Roman civilization from its legendary origins through the Republic and Empire to the conversion of Constantine the Great with special emphasis on the Punic Wars, the impact of Cicero’s thought on Western society, the reorganization of the Roman world under Augustus, provincial life in the Empire, and the chief factors leading to the transformation of Roman political power in the West. This course is built around reading and discussing primary texts by writers like Cato the Elder, Polybius, Cicero, Sallust, Quintillian, Tacitus, Julian the Apostate, or Eusebius. The course concludes with a reflection on history and political life by Saint Augustine.
CECS/HIST 311 History of the Byzantine Empire: This course examines late Roman and Byzantine civilization from the conversion of Constantine into the Middle Ages with special focus on the establishment of an enduring Christian empire, the impact of the Fathers on Christian civilization, the age of Justinian, the variety of Eastern Christianity, and the confrontation between Byzantium and Islam. This course is built around the reading and discussion of primary texts by writers and works like St. Ephrem the Syrian, Ammianus Marcellinus, Libanius, St. John Chrysostom, John Cassian, the Theodosian Code, John Lydus, Procopius, George of Pisidia, St. John of Damascus, the Digenis Akritas, Anna Comnena, or Demetrius Cydones. The course concludes with a reflection on the various reunions of the Eastern dissidents with the Catholic Church.
CECS/ENGL 321 Classical and Early Christian Literature: An advanced survey of pagan and early Christian Greek and Latin literature through Late Antiquity, emphasizing the classical antecedents to later Christian and secular literature. Among the authors studied may be Euripides, Seneca, Horace, Ovid, the Apostolic Fathers, Marcus Aurelius, or Prudentius.
CECS 490-99 Special Topics in Classical or Early Christian Studies: May include topics not otherwise covered in the departmental curriculum like Classical or Christian archaeology, architecture, history, literature, science, or other aspect of Classical or early Christian civilization.
CECS 512 Senior Seminar and Thesis: Each senior Classical and Early Christian Studies student prepares his senior thesis in this course and may be required to defend it in an oral examination. Majors will seek the departmental chairman’s approval for their intended senior thesis topics prior to registering for CECS 512. Departmental guidelines for the thesis are available from the chairman.