Classical Studies Department

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"The Classical Studies Department was one of the original departments at the College of William and Mary. It offers a curriculum that emphasizes the rigorous study of language, culture, history and the development of the faculties of critical thinking and effective communication. The Department offers concentrations (majors) in Greek, Latin and Classical Civilization and a minor in Classical Studies."[1]

Classical Studies has been taught at the College of William and Mary since its earliest days, "with two suspensions between 1779 to 1792 and 1881 to 1888. The first suspension was due to Thomas Jefferson abolishing the Grammar School which taught Greek and Latin. In 1792, the school was reinstated by Bishop James Madison, under the leadership of James Bracken. The second suspension, 1881 to 1888 occurred due to the College suspending all classes. However, it was during this time the Board of Visitors decided to establish a Classical School."(Ryan)

The role of the classics in William and Mary education shifted in 1934. This is the year that a long held requirement of studying one year of Latin before obtaining a bachelor's degree was removed. With the removal of the Latin language requirement, the college introduced the Classical Civilization track in the department. Professor A. Plezer Wagener facilitated this change as head of the department.(Ryan)


  • Department of Classical Studies webpage, accessed 18 February 2009.
  • George Jeremiah Ryan, “Ancient Languages at William and Mary,” Alumni Gazette, 7.4:(1940) 10-11, 28-29. University Archives Subject File, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.