Students majoring in classical studies will have a wider course selection to fulfill their major requirements starting this fall.
The classical and Near Eastern languages and civilization department will allow more history, language and literature courses on ancient Near East and Egypt to count toward requirements for the classical studies major, faculty said. The new curriculum for the major – now called the classical and ancient near eastern studies major – stems from increased student interest in the subject and reflects the current specialties of faculty in the department, professors said.
Topics focused on ancient Near East and Egypt typically include a survey of Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Iranian civilizations from the Neolithic period to Alexander the Great's conquest, faculty in the department said. Courses like Ancient Near East and Egypt to 322 B.C., and Archaeology of Israel and Neighboring Lands will now be an option for students to use to count for their major.
Mohssen Esseesy, the chair of the department, said during the department's most recent self-study a few years ago, an external panel of scholars in the antiquity field suggested expanding the major to include ancient Near Eastern studies to accommodate student interest.
"One of the things that the department has indicated and emphasized is that a departmental goal has been to serve the current and future generations of students even better than in the past," he said in an email.
Esseesy added that students in the major have continued to ask for the change since it would expand the course offerings that are included in major requirements. He said expanding the program is also geared toward the current specialization of the faculty in the department.
He said the curriculum changes are "auspicious" and he is "pleased" that the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences approved the curriculum modifications. The revisions do not warrant faculty changes and will not impact students currently majoring in classical studies, Esseesy said.
He added that courses about ancient Near East and Egypt have been steadily introduced during the past decade.
"It is important to emphasize that the historical departmental emphasis on Latin and Greek will continue," he said. "In fact, the departmental faculty believe that the number of students in Greek and Latin will increase because of these changes."
Only one of GW's 12 peer schools – the University of Miami – offers a major that encompasses both classical studies and Near East and Egypt studies.
Christopher Rollston, an associate professor of Northwest Semitic languages and literatures, said before revising the major, the classical studies curriculum primarily focused on ancient Greece and Rome. He said students will be able to finish their majors more easily because courses on the Near East and Egypt now count for the major. He said CCAS approved the new major a "few weeks ago" but did not specify when.
"Students now have more options and choices for fulfilling the core requirements as well as the other requirements," he said in an email. "Rest assured that all of our previous offerings in ancient civilizations and Greek and Latin language remain unchanged."
Eric Cline, a professor of classics and anthropology, said the revisions will allow current classical studies majors more "flexibility" to explore their individual interests and encourage students majoring in related fields, like history and archaeology, to pursue a double major.
"Our department feels strongly that the changes will result in more opportunities and more flexibility for students to design and tailor the major to their own individual interests," he said.
Elise Friedland, an associate professor of classics, said offering more courses on the ancient Near East and Egypt will provide students with a more "comprehensive" view of ancient Mediterranean culture and history than predominantly studying ancient Greece and Rome.
"The inclusion of the ancient Near East and Egypt means that the major now better reflects the realities of cultural interactions in the ancient Mediterranean world," she said.
This article appeared in the February 4, 2019 issue of the Hatchet.