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  • Delving Into Classical Studies

    Classical Studies is the branch of humanities dealing with languages, art, literature, philosophy, history, religion and other aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world.  Earlier, classical study was somewhat confined to ancient Greece and ancient Rome spanning from ancient Greek Bronze Age in 1000 BCE to the Dark Ages circa CE 500.  However, modern classical has enlarged its scope and encompasses the entire Mediterranean world and northern Africa and Middle East have also been brought into its ambit.

    Whereas the originality and achievements of classical civilizations are well recognized, influence of certain other cultures of much older times, viz. ancient Egypt, Babylonia and Phoenicia over them is undeniable.

    The word classic has been derived from the Latin adjective `Classicus’ meaning superiority, authority and perfection. Traditionally, classic study was essentially the philology of ancient words.  Even now the philology retains a distinct place in classical studies. The word canon was used by Greeks for carpenter’s rule.  Early church fathers used this term to classify authoritative texts of new testaments.  In modern times western canon is collated what defines western culture.

    Classical archeology is an interesting branch of classical studies.  Philologists rely on archeological excavation so that they may study the literary and linguistic culture of the ancient world.  Likewise archeologists may rely on the philological study to visualize the excavated remains of the classical civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.  The artifacts found are essential to all the other sub-disciplines and help provide evidence for understanding the world.

    The art and architecture of ancient Rome and Greece is highly regarded in classical studies.  The ancient Greek architecture gives us the classical orders, viz. Doric order, Lonic order and Corinthian order.

    The information for study of civilization and history is gathered through philology, archeology, art and history.  However, many imbalances are found in the evidences and there remains a huge vacuum of information, which impedes classical studies.  For example, it is not possible to get full understanding of the lives of ancient women, slaves and also lower classes.  Other evidences give under-representation of entire cultures.  Sparta was one the leading city states of Greece but there is little evidence of it to study.  The domination and expansion of the Roman Empire reduced much of the evidence of earlier civilizations.

    The word philosophy is Greek in origin and denotes `Love of Wisdom’.  The roots of western philosophy lie in the study of classics.  Many classicists study quite enthusiastically and passionately the wealth of philosophical works surviving from Roman and Greek philosophy.  The most formidable, famous and lasting of these thinkers are Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Stoics. 

    The impact of classical culture, though diminished, on our modern culture is indelible. Many poets and writers were attracted and influenced by the ancient culture of Greece and Rome.  Greek culture regarded woman as weak, fickle minded and somewhat weak vis-à-vis man. John Milton had taken pains to do classic study and was very much influenced by Greek culture.  His great literary work Paradise Lost bears testimony to this fact. In Paradise Lost it is the Eve in whom Satan finds an easy prey and decides to lure first to fall.  Other prominent personalities that engaged themselves in classic study include Oscar Wilde, famous 19th century playwright, P.G. Wodehouse, writer, playwright.  

    Career Opportunities:  Apart from teaching the subject in schools and colleges, those with degree in classic studies can find rewarding jobs in various diversified fields, i.e. university administration, foreign affairs, art galleries and museums, architecture, archeology, journalism, etc.