About the Department of Classics

We aim to make the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome accessible and exciting to students. We cover all aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world: languages (ancient Greek and Latin, sometimes Egyptian hieroglyphs), archaeology, history of ancient art, philosophy, literature in translation, influence of the ancient world on modern culture, and more.

We do not idealize the ancient world. Our culture has inherited much from Greece and Rome (the idea of democracy, Western philosophical inquiry, Western art forms, etc.), but how are we to explain away ancient slavery or the disenfranchisement of women? So we try to present our students with the ancient Greeks and Romans as they actually were, believing that we can use these ancient cultures to help us interrogate our own modern values and aesthetics. We feel that this is one of the main benefits of studying Classics: rigorous training in critical thinking. There was a time when a classical education was a privilege restricted to society's elites; but we believe this is a right belonging to all students.

We are the only freestanding Classics department in the California State University system, and offer the only M.A. in Classics in the CSU. And we are one of only two departments in the State of California to offer the teaching credential in Latin. We are able to support some students with our Richard Trapp Scholarships and Raoul Bertrand Scholarships. We encourage our students to study abroad, and many have participated in our own departmental excavation in Pompeii Italy.

Letter from the Chair

The Department of Classics is unique in many ways. First, we have always tried to give equal billing to material culture (art and archaeology), on the one hand, and language and literature, on the other. Few Classics departments around the country give material culture the emphasis that we do.

Second, we are a youthful department, brimming with energy and enthusiasm. We have been at the forefront of the digital humanities, among the earliest adopters of technology of various kinds in our classrooms and in our research.

Third, and perhaps most important, we are all about the big picture, about making connections to the larger world of humanities and to the 21st century society in which we live: ancient Greece and Rome for the modern world. There are a number of excellent Classics departments around the country. Some of these are highly specialized departments: they have the world’s premier expert on one obscure subject, another world authority on another obscure subject, and so on. Our faculty have specialties also, but we tend to think of ourselves as generalists, interested in the big picture. We all know about the distinction between the forest and the trees. We are definitely forest people.

David Leitao
Professor, Chair
Department of Classics

History of the Department

The Department of Classics at San Francisco State University was originally organized by Richard Trapp and Andreina Becker-Colonna in 1965/66. At present, SF State is the only member of the CSU system to offer the M.A. degree in Classics and is one of only three that offers the undergraduate degree.

Classics at SF State is one of two universities in the state of California to offer a teaching credential subject matter certification in Latin.

Students could only study advanced ancient Greek and Latin by special arrangement. The development of a formal major and minor in Classics allowed students to concentrate in Greek and/or Latin languages and literature or in Classical Archaeology.

The emphasis in ancient philosophy was approved in 1977 for students who wished to study the ancient philosophers in the original languages.

The Museum Studies program was created as an interdisciplinary program within the Department of Classics in 1991/92 and since 2002/03 has been an independent program within the College of Liberal and Creative Arts (formerly the College of Humanities).

The M.A. in Classics, approved in 1981, was designed for students seeking preparation to enter a Ph.D. program or a terminal M.A. with a view to teaching in the secondary schools or community colleges.

At present, SF State is the only member of the CSU system to offer the M.A. degree in Classics and is one of only three that offers the undergraduate degree (along with CSU Long Beach and San Jose State University). The Department of Classics at SF State is also only one of two universities in the state of California to offer a subject matter certification in Latin for those who are interested in obtaining a single subject teaching credential under the current standards of the California Commission of Teacher Credentialing. The SF State Classics program has a long tradition of outreach and K-12 interaction and strives to improve upon its successes by engaging in curricular collaborations with other departments and programs, maintaining cross-listed courses with Jewish StudiesSexuality StudiesHistoryHumanities and Museum Studies.