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Princeton Classics Dept. Removes Greek, Latin as Course Requirement

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Classics majors at Princeton University will no longer be required to learn Greek or Latin. The change is part of the school’s attempt to give more students the opportunity to major in the discipline.

The school has also removed the “classics track,” which required intermediate proficiency in Greek or Latin to enter the concentration.

Director of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Classics Josh Billings clarified that the department would offer the same variety of subjects. Students will still be encouraged to take these languages if relevant to their academic pursuits. However, these changes will provide students with greater freedom in their education.

Princeton has also approved changes in its politics and religion department. Politics has added a new track for race and identity, while religion majors can choose between a “traditions” stream and a “themes” stream.

‘Splendid Isolation’ of Greek and Roman Culture

The Classics Department revealed that the decision to remove the languages as a requirement is a part of efforts to enhance inclusiveness and equity in the curriculum. 

“Once devoted to the appreciation of Greece and Rome as exemplary cultures (often seen in what was perceived to be their ‘splendid isolation’), classicists now study a broad range of synchronic and diachronic relationships and pay close attention to exclusions,” they explained.

“In terms of synchronic relationships, we investigate, for example, how ideas and forms of expressions circulated between Greece, Egypt, and the Near East; to what extent the Romans and their North African enemies shared the same cultural models; how ancient people related to the natural and built environment; and how the beginnings of literature compare across the world,” they added.

The department will also take into account how Greek and Roman cultures “have been instrumentalized, and have been complicit, in various forms of exclusion, including slavery, segregation, white supremacy, Manifest Destiny, and cultural genocide.”

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