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Why I Majored in Classics

Liam MacDonald ’22

When I was younger, I found myself drawn to a symbol used by the Hittites—an ancient people from modern Turkey—of a double-headed eagle. Scholars think it was used by the Hittites as a symbol of royal might, but I always saw it as a little subtler than that. To me, it looked like the eagle had turned one of its faces towards the future and one towards the past. The significance was clear to young Liam: by looking to the past, we can better see and shape the future. That's my attitude towards classics.

The ancient world was certainly different from our own in all sorts of fascinating ways, but at the end of the day, people are fundamentally the same. You can pick up Aristotle today and understand his points even if the arguments specific to his time are lost on you. The ancients asked a lot of the same questions we do: how best to govern a society; how people should treat one another; how we relate to the universe. The answers to these questions have real effects on people's lived experiences, and acknowledging the important contributions of past generations can help guide our own responses.