About the Department of Classical Studies

The remarkable achievements of Ancient Greeks and Romans in philosophy, literature, art, and science are the basis of Western culture, from its inception to modern times. The ancient classical world is where the ancient cultures of Rome and Greek lived and operated, societies whose creations and ideas provide significant insight into human existence and our understanding of the world around us. It is also the world of the Jewish Sages and the realm of ancient Jewish thought, the world in which theater was conceived, scientific and philosophical thought had developed, and where the foundations of our contemporary law and architecture grew.

The Department of Classical Studies at Bar-Ilan University (BIU) is dedicated to the study, teaching, and research of the cultures of Greece and Rome from the prehistoric period to the early Middle Ages, as well as their effect and reception up to the present day. Together with our students, we explore and research the rich cultures of Greece and Rome: the ancient Greek and Latin languages, the literature, philosophy and theater, rhetoric, art, and politics of the classical cultures, revealing how they gave birth to and still resonate with life in the modern world, here and now.

We invite you to a quick and eye-opening journey into the classical world and our department in this video.

The philosophy of Bar-Ilan’s founders influenced the establishment of the department. Prof. Pinkhos Churgin z”l saw the cultural rift between the “knights of culture,” those who broke through the confines of the Jewish world, and the “guardians of the Torah,” who were devoid of any affiliation to external wisdom. He understood this divide to be a threat to the Jewish people, and believed that classical studies are not a danger to be avoided, but rather a wisdom to be confronted and used in the service of God. The study of classical languages at the newly established university was one of the ways in which BIU entered the world of global culture.

As of its second year, BIU began searching for a candidate to teach Greek and Roman history. A young Swiss immigrant responded to the ad, and thus, Professor David Sohlberg became the first lecturer to teach classical studies at BIU. The course he taught was called “The Greek and Roman Civilization,” and, inconceivably as it sounds, somehow crammed that entire subject into a one-semester course; from such humble beginnings, the department began.


The Uniqueness of Classical Studies at BIU

Since Professor Sohlberg’s time, we have come a long way, not least in the expansion in the range of our study programs. The various undergraduate programs offer the opportunity to study at least one of the classical languages, Ancient Greek and Latin. Moreover, BIU’s Department of Classical Studies is the only academic institute in Israel where you can study Modern Greek. We believe that through language, one gains a more profound comprehension of cultures and a better understanding of societies in different classical periods, which is why language studies are highly recommended. However, it is possible to choose the classical culture track that does not require language study.

Another field of study unique to our department is Classical Reception, which explores the influence of the ancient world throughout its many periods and different cultures. This includes in modern popular culture, where, for example, we examine the reception of the ancient world in media such as contemporary comics, movies, and children’s and young adult literature. 

We recommend combining Classics with studies in any other of the university departments, as it allows students to enjoy a variety of fields of knowledge and a particularly fascinating and broad intellectual challenge. 

To read about our variety of study programs for the different degrees, click here.


The Department Faculty

The department faculty consists of locally and internationally acclaimed lecturers. The department seeks to provide personal guidance and support to each student, who appreciate this attention, with many going on to pursue higher degrees. Our tight-knit and outstanding community also engages in extracurricular activities such as enrichment lectures and tours that broaden and diversify the learning experience.


Practical Intellectual Tools

It may be surprising to you, but studying about the ancient world equips you with helpful tools for our daily life today, including critical and original thinking, patience and tolerance stemming from knowing other cultures, and a broad understanding of cultural and historical processes. The studies in our department also provide you with a good grasp of the roots of Western culture and its influence not only on Europe and the United States, but also Israeli culture, since the societies of ancient Israel evolved in close contact with that of Greek and Roman culture. All of these are valuable skills to successfully integrate into the job market and achieve academic and personal growth.

Our graduates thus boast impressive achievements and integrate into diverse positions in the private, business, and civil sectors, from academic research, curation, and teaching, to positions in the high-tech industry – in short, any field that requires a comprehensive perspective, well-rounded education and honed intellectual abilities to successfully tackle a variety of challenges. 

We invite you to get an impression of the department’s atmosphere and activities on our Facebook page.