The Macalester Department of Classics is one of the most active Classics departments in the nation among leading liberal arts colleges. The department teaches courses in Arabic, Greek, Hebrew and Latin as well as many courses pertaining to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures and civilizations.

There are three tracks through the Classics major: Classical Civilization, Classical Archaeology, and Classical Languages. The department specializes in the history, cultures, politics and religions of ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern worlds. Students engage the diverse worlds of antiquity through a variety of media, including ancient texts, texts in translation, art, architecture, iconography, and material culture, and through the disciplinary approaches of literature, history and archaeology.

If you have already taken a class and are thinking about a major, please consult Majors and Minors or Designing a Major.

We advise new students interested in Classics to begin or continue to study one of our languages. We also encourage you to enroll in one of our introductory level (100 level) context courses, such as 121 Greek World, 122 Roman World, 127 Women, Gender & Sexuality in Ancient Greece & Rome, 129 Greek Myths, 130 Early Arab & Persian Empires, or 135 India & Rome.  These are designed to introduce students to the techniques, theories, and subject matter used for further study in Classics.  Most importantly, interested students should come to the third floor of Old Main and meet with a Classics professor! The Classics community at Macalester is one of the most supportive and diverse on campus, and the best way to explore Classics is to meet with current Classics students and professors. 

Language Requirement

All four languages offered by the Classics department (Arabic, Greek, Hebrew and Latin) fulfill the College’s language requirement. To fulfill this requirement in any of the classical languages, students must successfully complete the equivalent of four (4) semesters of college level study in a single language. For those with some experience in these languages, placement into a language level is done through an interview with a department faculty member during orientation or the first week of class.  Specific guidelines for students with experience in Latin are found below.

Guidelines for Latin Placement

Rather than administer a placement exam, the Macalester Classics department prefers to place students into our Latin program on the basis of either the number of years they have studied Latin previously, or their performances on an Advanced Placement Latin exam. The guidelines for these are listed below. If there are further questions, please contact Professor Severy-Hoven at 651-696-6721 or

Latin Program Primer:  Every fall, we offer the first semester of elementary (CLAS 111) and the first semester of intermediate (CLAS 231). Every spring, we offer the second semester of elementary (CLAS 212) and the second semester of intermediate (CLAS 232). Every other year we offer advanced Latin (Classics 483). Contact the department for further information on these advanced options.

Placement Based on Course Experience

For those who have not taken an AP exam, students with two years of high school Latin or less are strongly encouraged to begin again with the first semester of elementary. Some material will be review, but review is good, and is far superior to feeling lost. Students with three years of high school Latin may consider starting at the second semester of elementary, which usually begins with participles and the subjunctive mood. (Note, however, that the first semester is offered only in the fall, the second only in the spring; therefore, if you discover that the second semester is too hard, you’ll have to wait until the following fall to take up Latin.) Students with more than three years experience may enroll in the first semester of intermediate to find out if this level is appropriate, but many may find that they prefer to drop back into the second semester of elementary in the spring.

Placement Based on Advanced Placement Exam

College credit is obtainable only through the Latin AP exam. For a score of 4 or 5, a student earns credit for a course equivalent to the first semester of intermediate Latin.  In order to fulfill the college language requirement, students need to take the second semester of intermediate in the spring.  If they would like some grammatical review and have not read much prose, however, students are strongly encouraged to enroll in the first semester of the intermediate in the fall.

Students who earn a 3 receive credit for a course equivalent to the second semester of elementary Latin. They should enroll in the first semester of intermediate (CLAS 231: Intermediate Latin Prose). They will be able to complete the college language requirement by taking one year of intermediate Latin.

Students who earn below a 3 should begin again with CLAS 111: Elementary Latin I.

Finally, anyone with experience in Latin who intends to pursue Classics more broadly while at Macalester is strongly encouraged to begin their study of ancient Greek during their first year.

We look forward to seeing you around the Classics department!