Take a journey into the deep past as a Classics or Late Antique-Medieval Studies (LAMS) major.
The Classics department at Pomona College is home to two majors, Classics and Late Antique-Medieval Studies (LAMS), both of which are staffed by professors from Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, and Pitzer working together to provide a meaningful intellectual experience for its students.
Classics is the study of the ancient Mediterranean, its literature, history, philosophy, art, archaeology, and especially its languages. Given its fundamentally interdisciplinary nature, a good case can be made for classics being at the very heart of what we mean today by a liberal arts curriculum. Indeed the “liberal arts” as a concept is rooted in antiquity, referring to those subjects and techniques considered essential for the education of a “free person” (liber) expected to participate in governance. Classics as a discipline has remained true to this sense that the study of the past—particularly the ancient Greek and Roman past—has deep relevance for the way we experience the present.
The Classics curriculum is made up of written materials that managed not only to outlive the cultures that produced them but to thrive in subsequent contexts as diverse as 10th-century Iraq, 13th-century France, and 18th-century America. Homer, Plato, and Aristotle have proved time and time again that far from being lost in translation, they are endlessly reinvented and revitalized. This has happened so many times over the last two millenia that if one wishes to understand the intellectual history of the “West”—and a significant part of the “East”—there is a good argument to be made for studying Classics.
Modern students of Classics carefully avoid the trap of assuming that the “Classical corpus” somehow captures the greater Greek and Roman worlds in all their complexity. To do so would be to ignore the many voices peripheral to the elite discourses that dominate the texts. Modern scholars apply ever more sophisticated tools to the textual and material legacy of the ancient Mediterranean to recover the perspectives of women, slaves, laborers, minorities, and foreigners. In this sense, Classics is a natural subset of Cultural Studies, which seeks to appreciate the global and historical role of culture in constructing human experience. The challenges that Classicists face doing this kind of work, relying on evidence that is thousands of years old, are matched only by its rewards.
Modeled on Classics, LAMS is dedicated to the same kind of multi-disciplinary, language-based understanding of the greater Mediterranean world, only in a later period, one that encompasses the late antique, medieval, and early modern periods. Although the Greek, Latin, and Arabic heirs to the Roman and Persian empires struggled with one another for hegemony in the Mediterranean basin and the Near East, their similarities outweighed their differences. Not only did each identify with an Abrahamic religion, but each laid claim to the rich secular traditions of the Hellenistic, Roman, and Persian empires. Despite significant political, religious, and linguistic differences, the exchange of goods and ideas continued unabated, adding to the cultural vibrancy and experimentation in the region.