The Greek and Latin Classics have been studied at the University of Virginia since the beginning. Thomas Jefferson read Latin and Greek nearly every day of his adult life and once wrote that he thanked God on his knees for the teacher who had given him such a source of sublime pleasure. In his design for the University, he created as one of the ten divisions, the School of Ancient Languages, now called the Department of Classics.
Jefferson valued the useful no less than the sublime and knew that the Classics provide both. The ancient languages themselves are a training in clear thought and forceful style. Many of the important ideas, principles, methods of investigation, and modes of government in use today were discovered first by the Greeks and Romans. To understand our civilization in modern times, it is necessary to know the origins of its fundamental concepts and principles. Moreover, Graeco-Roman antiquity can be approached not only as a society like ourselves, the recognizable ancestor of modern western civilization, but also as a civilization quite markedly "other" than ourselves, instructive because of its differences. Since the Renaissance, a classical education has been one that stretches the mind by combining literature, history, philosophy, art, architecture, government, and religion.
The Jeffersonian appreciation of Latin and Greek literature lives on in our major program. Our majors do most of their work in the original languages. The program is rigorous and is recognized as one of the best in the country. We often hear from alumni who express appreciation for the strong intellectual challenges they were given and the mental training they received from our dedicated Classics faculty. The faculty are eminent scholars in their various specialties, with a combined international reputation that is the envy of many larger departments, but there is a strong tradition that teaching commands their first and best efforts.
For these reasons and many others students today major in Classics. The Classics major has proved excellent preparation for fields as diverse as law, medicine, business, publishing, and the arts. Those who go on to graduate school to pursue an academic career typically get full fellowship support and do outstanding work at the best graduate programs in the country. Our Classics majors are highly sought for teaching positions in both public and private high schools.