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About the Organization: History, Mission, Goals, and Structure

What is Classics?

History, Mission, and Goals

The Society for Classical Studies (SCS), founded as the American Philological Association in 1869 by "professors, friends, and patrons of linguistic science,", was renamed in 2014 as the result of a strategic planning process and membership vote following a successful capital campaign. It is currently the principal membership organization in North America for the study of ancient Greek and Roman languages, literatures, history, material culture and the relationship of Greek and Roman culture to the broader ancient Mediterranean and beyond. While the majority of its members are university, college, and school Classics teachers and graduate and undergraduate students, members also include scholars in other disciplines and anyone is welcome as a member.

The purpose of the SCS (in the SCS By-laws) is to “advance knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the ancient Greek and Roman world and its enduring value." Its aim and mission are to promote interest in and informed discussion of the literature, history, and material culture of the ancient Greek, Roman, and larger Mediterranean worlds. The Society’s mission extends to the varied history of the reception of those elements among different communities from antiquity to the present and to comparison between ancient Mediterranean and other cultures. Crucial to this mission are (1) Advocacy for the field as a humanistic endeavor and for those who teach, research, and study it, formally or informally, at any level; (2) Growth in the numbers of all those who share an enthusiasm for Classics; (3) Inclusion of different perspectives representing the many communities in North America and around the world that are now engaged with scholarly and cultural reception of ancient Greece and Rome. Finally, in adopting these priorities it is the Society’s responsibility to oppose anyone who would exploit the histories and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean for purposes of hate and exclusion.

The Society fosters programs to:

  • Reassert the importance of primary and secondary school teaching and provide more support for improved pedagogy at all levels of teaching.
  • Improve working conditions and scholarly opportunities for university and college teachers.
  • Increase communication with audiences beyond its membership.
  • Meet the scholarly the needs of the profession.
  • Coordinate and systematize data collection in order to provide an accessible and reliable information base to support the Society's goals.
  • Make the field of Classics more equitable and diverse, particularly with regard to gender, race, and ethnicity

Structure of the Organization

The SCS provides a wide range of services to its members through its five major divisions.

The Communications and Outreach Division prepares materials of interest to an audience beyond the SCS's core membership in order to promote a wider public understanding of Classics. The Education Division coordinates activities concerned with the teaching of classical studies in the K-12 and higher education sectors. The Professional Matters Division monitors adherence to the SCS's Statement on Professional Ethics, oversees the job placement service, issues related to diversity and contingent faculty. The Program Division holds an Annual Meeting which affords opportunities for the presentation of papers by members, as well as informal communication with others in the field. Through its Publications and Research Division, the SCS publishes TAPA and coordinates projects related to current research in classical studies. The Society now has a sixth division, the Resources Division, which coordinates and oversees the financial resources needed to operate the Society and run its programs.

New members are always welcome!

A dedicated group of elected officers and directors as well as the volunteers who staff over 30 committees (some elected, some appointed) oversee programs that reflect the needs of the entire field and that have been improved through careful peer review. In recent decades the Society has made changes in its governance and its programs to ensure that the field is open to scholars of all backgrounds and disciplinary approaches. Click here for detailed information on SCS's governance.

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What is Classics?

Classics, or Classical Studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the languages, literatures, history, culture, philosophy, law, religions, art, and material remains of the ancient Mediterranean world from about 1500 BCE to about 500 CE. The discipline originated in the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and these cultures remain a major focus. Now, however, classicists also study many other questions that extend beyond these cultures. For example, some classicists focus on “reception studies,” how later societies around the world have taken up and reimagined the products of these ancient cultures. Classicists have also engaged in comparative work, placing ancient Mediterranean societies in dialogue with other premodern societies.

The inhabitants of ancient Greece, Rome, and the wider Mediterranean world were real people, with strengths and weaknesses, insights and blind spots. Their societies reflect this human complexity. In addition to astounding socio-political, cultural, and technological achievements, these societies also featured practices and beliefs that dismay and horrify us, including intense political, judicial, ethnic, and religious violence, misogyny, widespread slavery, brutal wars of conquest, and exploitation of subject peoples. Classicists study all these aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world, recognizing the coexistence of positive and negative features in these societies. Such multifaceted study helps us understand our contemporary world, with its own complexities and contradictions.

The societies of the ancient Mediterranean have been used and invoked for a wide variety of political and social purposes over many centuries, and continue to be so used today. The Society for Classical Studies, however, repudiates efforts, both past and present, to sanitize and distort the complex realities of these societies to serve discriminatory and anti-democratic political agendas.

The discipline of Classics has a long history. We are increasingly aware of how the field has excluded certain voices and perspectives. The Society for Classical Studies advocates strongly for the inclusion of all voices in the discipline, and is working to repair the injustices of its own past.

Classics is constantly changing as our own world changes. New generations of students pose fresh questions arising from their own experiences, seek new evidence with which to address those questions, and put forward critical interpretations that impact not only how we understand these ancient societies, but also how we understand our own.

(A final note: Classicists generally do not claim expertise in other fields described as “classical,” such as classical music, classical physics, and “classical” phases of other societies and cultures, but instead recognize the expertise of specialists in these fields. Also, the word “classic” is commonly used to describe phenomena, such as classic cars and classic rock, that are not related to the academic discipline.)