Latin 102 continues with the basics of Latin grammar that we began in Latin 101, and illustrates these by a series of readings adapted from the major authors of classical Latin literature.  Students will be reading passages from such famous authors and works as Julius Caesar’s memoir of his campaigns in Gaul, Pliny the Younger’s first-hand account of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and the statesman Cicero’s letters to his family.


Text (required): Susan C. Shelmerdine, Introduction to Latin, 2nd ed., Focus Publishing, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-58510-390-4


Latin 101

Latin was the language of the Romans and, at the height of the Roman Empire during the first three centuries of the common era, was spoken throughout the whole of Western Europe and a large part of North Africa. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the west in the fifth century, Latin continued to be spoken in a variety of local dialects that developed through time into the modern Romance languages, e.g., French, Italian, and Spanish. Latin itself survived as the common language of educated people in Europe through the church and universities until the eighteenth century.

A knowledge of Latin is essential to the study of the history, literature and archaeology of the Romans and for a serious understanding of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe. It is also extremely useful in the study of the Romance languages as well as the English language, which derives much of its vocabulary from Latin.

A knowledge of Latin is also rewarding in its own right; it is a language of great strength and dignity, with a literature that includes the writings of Cicero, Vergil, Ovid and other authors of enormous influence in the shaping of later European literature and thought.

Latin 101 introduces the basics of Latin grammar, which it illustrates by a series of readings adapted from the major authors of classical Latin literature.  Students will be reading passages from such famous authors and works as Livy’s account of the founding of Rome, Ovid’s telling of the flood and the repopulation of the earth, and the statesman Cicero’s thoughts on the necessity of laws in the Roman state.
Text (required): Susan C. Shelmerdine, Introduction to Latin, 2nd ed., Focus Publishing, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-58510-390-4


Students will read a complete verse play. This course is designed to equip students with the necessary tools for independent reading of unadapted Greek texts.


This course is designed to introduce intermediate students to ancient Greek prose literature; the selection of authors to be read varies each year, but can draw from genres as diverse as history, philosophy, biography, satire, religious texts, or even romance or early science fiction. The works to be read will be entirely unadapted but students will have the assistance of a commentary and lexicon, as well as the support of the instructor, to assist them in making the transition to reading ancient Greek texts.

PhD Comprehensive Examinations

The Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies believes that reading lists constitute the best way to provide students with the general background of the field. Familiarity with these lists is assessed by comprehensive examinations or comps.

As part of the requirements for each PhD in the department, students are expected to write two written comprehensive examinations, in the first two weeks of April in the student’s second year of study. These are followed by an oral examination (within two weeks of the written examinations).

Written Examinations:

  • Students in the PhD in Classics write translation exams in both Greek <link> and Latin <link>.
  • Students in the PhD in Classics (Classical Archaeology) write essay exams in both Greek archaeology <link> and Roman archaeology <link>.
  • Students in the PhD in Classics (Ancient History) write a translation examination in either Greek <link> or Latin <link>. In lieu of a second exam, students complete Second Field requirements, described with the PhD degree requirements.
  • Students in the PhD in Religious Studies write essay exams on the religious traditions of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, beginning with Gilgamesh, and including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam <link>, <link>.

Reading lists are the same across the cohort and are not tailored to individuals; the content may vary from year to year. Students identify the subjects on which they wish to write by 15 April of their first year to their Graduate Advisor. Lists for the following academic year are available from 1 July. While some works on these lists may be covered as part of the candidate’s coursework, there is no expectation that they will be: students should have the ability to work through all these texts on their own in addition to coursework.

Lists for translation exams represent a prescribed set of primary texts in the original language. These works represent a canon of original authors (literary, historical, and philosophical) that draws from many genres and time periods. The doctoral lists comprise the works on the associated MA list, with additional texts focusing on literature (Classics) or history (Ancient History). The process results in an identifiable and useful body of knowledge that is objectively examinable and fills the gaps in the candidate’s reading of central authors.

Lists for essay exams consist of 50-60 recent and substantial contributions to the relevant field, and are intended to familiarize the student with a core of scholarship and an understanding of major scholarly approaches.

Changes to the lists are the responsibility of the relevant examining committee:

  • PhD in Classics. Classical Languages Committee.
  • PhD in Classics (Classical Archaeology). Archaeology Committee.
  • PhD in Classics (Ancient History). Classical Languages Committee.
  • PhD in Religious Studies. Religious Studies Committee.

The structure of these exams is determined by the examining committee, and is communicated to the student when the lists are provided. Each exam is marked on a pass/fail basis by two department members selected by the chair of the relevant examining committee; if markers disagree the matter is referred to the Director of Graduate Studies (or the Head if the DGS is a marker). A failed exam may be retaken once, in August of the student’s second year.

Oral Examination:

Candidates may only progress to the oral examination once they have passed both reading list examinations.

This two-hour exam will be taken within two weeks of successful completion of the written examinations, with at least four faculty present, chaired by the Graduate Advisor or her/his designate. One hour of the exam will be devoted to questions about the material covered in each of the written comps. Questions will arise from the texts on the PhD reading lists; candidates will not be expected to know material beyond those texts, although credit will be given for breadth as well as depth of knowledge of primary sources. The questions will focus on issues ranging from particular problems relating to specific sources to broader issues relating to the cultural context of the primary material and interpretive models and methodologies scholars use when interpreting it. Sample questions will be made available to help candidates prepare themselves.


Narratives from the Hebrew Bible

Is the Biblical Garden of Eden synonymous with Paradise? Does Genesis 2-3 represent Eve as a sinful temptress? When does the plural noun Elohim refer to the singular God and to plural gods? How to translate the Hebrew term Adam? What does Exodus 3 recount about the secret name of God YHVH? What can the etymology of Hebrew names contribute to our understanding of specific Biblical narratives? Who are “woman wisdom” and the “strange woman” of the Biblical book of Proverbs? and the “most beautiful woman” of the Song of Songs? Join us to read together select biblical narratives, discuss conceivable meaning/s of fascinating Biblical accounts, explore possible ideological-cultural aspects embedded in the texts, and examine their reception, impact and multiple interpretations over the ages.

Students of Hebrew and students interested in reading narratives together are welcome to read together, uncover various layers of meanings, and examine the intriguing subtlety of foundational biblical stories. The meetings consist of close reading [with select commentaries]. Students interested in focusing on literary and conceptual aspects can take this course as RELG 475C /502 [no language prerequisite]. Students interested in focusing on Biblical Hebrew should take it as HEBR 479/509 [prerequisite: 2 years Biblical Hebrew]. The course will have different sets of evaluations according to students’ focus and level.


The Archaeology of Space and Place

This course explores the role of built environments – from single rooms to landscapes – in past societies.  Through participation in a series of lectures, seminar discussions, “hands-on” labs, and research projects, we’ll explore contemporary (and past) approaches that archaeologists use to understand buildings, settlements and built landscapes.  We’ll examine theories linking prehistoric and historic built environments to human and material agency, daily practice, power, identity and social reproduction, as well as concepts such as place, house and household, community and neighbourhood, cityscape, monumentality and memory. We’ll also emphasize the application of methods that can help us understand how various types of buildings affect human behavior, experience, and interaction by encoding and communicating meanings.  Case studies will be global in perspective.


Lucretius, De Rerum Natura

How does the physical world work? Where does everything come from? Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura is a poem that attempts to answer these questions, along with many, many others. It combines the structure of epic with the concerns of philosophy, and shows the influence of ancient authors as diverse as Homer and Cicero. Our primary concern will be Lucretius’ poetry, but we will also take up contextual issues including what it means when a Roman poet writes about Greek philosophy and the didactic use of poetry.


Virgil’s Aeneid: from Zero to Hero – Aeneas on the battlefield. Readings: book 2 (the fall of Troy) and sections of books 11 and 12 (war in Italy).


Pindar and Lyric Poetry

Epic is the beginning of Greek poetry and tragedy is fascinating, but if you want to read poetry about subjects that range from athletic champions to love and longing, look to lyric poetry. In this class, we shall explore the range of Greek lyric poetry beginning with Pindar, reading several of his famous epinician odes written for victors at the Panhellenic games. We shall also touch on several other famous poets from Archaic Greece, such as Sappho, Alcman, and Stesichorus. As we work through the great variety of lyric poetry, we shall also pay attention to issues including performance context, metre, dialect, and the interpretation of fragments.

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