In the Department of Religion and Classics, students explore the great, classical civilizations of West and East as well as the major religions that emerged from them.
Through the study of classical, biblical, and religious writings, either in the original language or in translation, students examine the beliefs, ideas, values, rituals, and traditions that have shaped Western and Asian cultures.
Our students also learn how the ancient roots of these religions and cultures continue to shape current events.
Our faculty includes experts in all of the world’s major religions; in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic languages; and in Arabic, Greek, and Roman cultures. View our faculty directory.
“I would make all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat." —Winston Churchill
"To read the Latin and Greek authors in their original is a sublime luxury...I thank on my knees him who directed my early education for having in my possession this rich source of delight." —Thomas Jefferson
The classical civilizations of Greece and Rome have influenced generations of successive western societies including ideas that have shaped modern government, philosophy and society.
Studying ancient Greece and Rome at Rochester enables students to explore the past in ways that allow them to understand the present and imagine the future. Students study the foundational texts and significant artifacts of the western world in order to understand them on their own terms and in their ancient contexts as well as to develop a deeper awareness of the ways in which classical antiquity has shaped and continues to influence contemporary society.
The classics major is language centered, emphasizing ancient history, art and archaeology, literature, and philosophy.
"If I went back to college today, I think I would probably major in comparative religion, because that's how integrated it is in everything that we are working on and deciding and thinking about in life today." —John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State
Religion is a major force in the world, both in the past and in the present. It often plays a key role in shaping the lives of individuals as well as societies and cultures at large. Students of religion learn to employ a variety of theoretical and interpretive approaches in the endeavor to understand religion in the diverse forms it has taken in different cultures and historical periods.
The religion major focuses on the study of the world’s major religions through analyses of their histories, texts, rituals, institutions, and practices which are embedded in complex cultures, societies, and political systems. Students can also take courses in which some aspect of religion, such as ritual, pilgrimage, mysticism, or myth is studied thematically and comparatively.
Additionally, the department offers a wide range of courses which explore the many ways in which religious ideas and practices intersect with other aspects of human culture and society. Courses might examine the relationship between religion and music, law, or philosophy. See our courses page for a complete list.
In addition to the classic and religion majors the department also offers minors in classical civilization, Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and religion.
Recent graduates of the department have an excellent record of admission to graduate school as well as to medical school or law school. See our alumni profiles page for more information.