Department Head's message

Classical studies is concerned with the civilizations that flourished in and around the ancient Mediterranean Sea between the 12th century BCE and the 5th century CE, and as such engages with the rich variety of the remains of these ancient civilizations: their art, literature, philosophy, music, theatre and politics.  This was also the society of the dominant powers in the land of Israel for centuries, the societies in which the  Hasmoneans ruled, and the Mishna was produced.  Jewish history and Classical history are intimately intertwined, and the study of the latter increases understanding of the former on many levels.

In fact, Classics as a discipline examines the entire cultures of the Greco-Roman world, an area that encompassed a wide range of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and culturally diverse groupings.  As such, it is among the most all-encompassing of subjects within the humanities, and classicists themselves intersect with a variety of modern academic fields.

The influence of the ancient Greco-Roman culture is all around us, even in the twenty-first century, both as physical remains and as formative elements in so many aspects of society. Modern art, literature, drama, architecture, science, philosophy and law all have their roots in the classical past, which continues to cast its light over the modern world.  The products of the ancient world – the philosophical, legal and medical texts, the mythological, literary and dramatic works, the material remains - have survived the millennia partly due to chance but also because of their enduring power to inspire thought. 

Although it is concerned with the past, the study of the ancient world is by no means a dead discipline.  Despite the fact Classics has traditionally been regarded as the study of “Dead White Men by Live White Men”, this description neither reflects the ancient Mediterranean world nor the modern discipline of classics.  In fact, the study of classics provides one with the opportunity to consider issues that are timeless: mortality, desire, the nature of political communities, the difference between the human and the divine, the impact of the past on the present.  

Through the courses offered, students can explore the literature, philosophy, society and remains of the ancient world, and in so doing come to a greater understanding of our own. Beyond the actual classical period, one branch of classics concerns itself with the reception of the classical past in later societies and cultures.  Students can study classical reception within the department of classical studies at Bar-Ilan, examining how the ancient past was understood and reshaped at different periods, up to and including the present day, where the focus is on the movies, comics, children’s literature and elements of modern pop culture.   In addition, the study of the ancient languages, Latin and/or ancient Greek, enables students to develop linguistic and analytical skills which are of use in a wide range of contexts.  Studying Classics, then, not only helps you to understand and engage with the world in a more thoughtful and productive way, but it also has clear practical benefits.  Come and join us and find out for yourself!