Classics means the study of ancient Greek and Latin as well as the literature, history, and culture of the ancient Greek and Romans throughout the Mediterranean world from about the eighth century BCE to the fifth century of our own era (c. 476 CE). The department offers four majors (and minors) related to the ancient Mediterranean: classics (emphasizing the ancient languages), ancient studies (interdisciplinary), Greek, and Latin.
Both Greek and Latin can be used to satisfy the language requirement, and they are often required for graduate degrees. “But,” you say, “they are dead languages!” Hardly. English is filled with Latinate words, and Greek is the basis of most scientific terminology. Furthermore, as long as people read Homer, Plato, Greek tragedy, the New Testament, Catullus, Virgil, Ovid, and Tacitus—to mention just some of the greatest hits in Greek and Latin—these ancient languages remain very much alive.
So, too, literary genres (such as epic poetry, tragedy, and history), political institutions and ideals (such as democracy and free speech), as well as principles of philosophy and science are all part of the rich legacy that the ancient Greeks and Romans handed down to western Europe.
Nor do you have to learn Greek and Latin to study classics. The department offers courses whose readings are entirely in English as well as those that require the study of an ancient language. You can also find courses related to classics in the departments of art history, history, philosophy, politics, and religion.