History of the Department of Classics

Classical languages have been a recognized part of Emory since 1837, when the Rev. George W. Lane joined the faculty as "Andrew Professor of Ancient Languages and Literature." A Department of Classics, normally consisting of three regular faculty, existed for much of Emory's early history. The post-war department was essentially shaped by Robert Scranton (who served here from 1947 to 1961), Joseph Conant (1950-1981) and then Herbert Benario (1960-1987). In the period between 1960 and 1973 the department even offered both MA and MAT degrees. Following a 1978 administrative reorganization, however, it was merged with other language programs into a conglomerate Department of Modern Languages and Classics.

The new Division of Classics continued to have three faculty members; but on the recommendation of the 1981 Lamar Review Committee (headed by the then Dean of Yale College) that classics should be strengthened at Emory, William Arrowsmith was hired in 1982 as Woodruff Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature with the mandate to build the classics program and related disciplines. Arrowsmith immediately spearheaded the hiring of three new faculty members for classics and other departments (Herbert Golder, Classics; Bracht Branham, Classics and Comparative Literature; and Rush Rehm, Theater Studies). When Arrowsmith subsequently returned to Boston University (1986), the development of the program had already moved forward to the point that Classics was separated from Modern Languages and again made a department, although with a temporary chair, Prof. Vernon Robbins of the Department of Religion (who had taught in a classics department at his previous institution).

During 1986/7 Matthew Santirocco was hired to be chair at rank of associate professor; and Robert Bauslaugh was promoted to associate professor with tenure—the first promotion to tenure from within the program in 27 years. Under Santirocco connections with Comparative Literature, already begun under Arrowsmith, were strengthened and classics faculty were encouraged to participate in the emerging undergraduate Program in Literature.

At the end of 1988/9 Santirocco left to become chair of the classics department at the University of Pennsylvania. Bauslaugh served as chair during 1989/90 when a new tenure line was added to the department, thus raising the number of regular faculty to seven. Niall Slater was hired at the rank of full professor with the agreement that he would become chair as of Fall 1991.

Under Arrowsmith's influence the focus of the new department was primarily literary, with somewhat greater emphasis among the regular faculty on research in Greek rather than Latin literature. Subsequent appointments remained literary but have moved toward more balance between Greek and Latin.  During 1991/2, however, a consensus emerged that classical archaeology should be better represented and could strengthen the existing connections that the department enjoys with the Departments of History, Art History, and Religion. With the support of the college administration, a Mellon Fellowship was granted to Classics and Eric Varner was appointed for 1992-1994 in order to introduce courses in Roman archaeology and culture.