Why Classics?

I am often asked why, in my mid-thirties, I changed the direction of my career entirely from the relatively well-paid and stable platform of performance management to instead study classical history with the somewhat idyllic goal of one day teaching and researching in this very same field. Well that is a very good question, and one which I sometimes find myself at a loss to answer, depending on what kind of day I’ve had, and just how murky my long term career prospects are presently looking. However, regardless of how ambiguous these future plans may be, every day I cherish the privilege of studying on this educational journey with the Open University, which I think is a fabulously enriching experiencing. It is no great secret that I am highly enthusiastic about studying classics, but here are just a few reasons why I think even more people should have this opportunity:

    Reason #1 – This is a really interesting subject!

Studying classical history is like a journey through space and time. There is so much to learn and so many different perspectives, that the subject has something that will leave everyone fascinated and wanting to know more. On the surface it can seem like we know a great deal about our ancient Greek and Roman counterparts, but in reality we are often left with more questions than answers, and interpretations change constantly, which means that the field is in constant flux with no definite answers. This subject is deep and complex, spanning multiple disciplines and many different approaches. An undergraduate degree is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Reason #2 – It’s absolutely, definitely still relevant.

The classical world remains influential today, in terms of art and architecture, literature, philosophy and politics, even our cultural values and major religions take some inspiration from the ancients. Learning more about our ancient ancestors helps us to answer questions about ourselves, and comparing our own societies and cultures with those of antiquity can help us to make smarter choices for the present and for the future.

Reason #3 – A really great skill-set.

It’s no secret that classical studies demands a high level of critical analysis, but also problem solving and interpretation, as well as close reading and writing skills as well. As a student of classics you will learn to quickly evaluate an argument, and develop strong self-discipline and creative thinking. There are many different skills that you will hone over your years of study, which are both highly transferrable and highly desirable. Classical studies really is the perfect all-rounder, and great for people who are considering a future in a range of different professions, not just academia.

Reason #4 – A multi-disciplinary approach.

Classical studies is a multi-disciplinary approach, and in my opinion this is something which helps to nurture lateral and creative thinking. In addition to better problem solving skills, this also gives a broader range of academic skills and methodologies, and generally helps you to ‘think outside of the box’. Classical studies introduces you to a range of different subjects, such as: art history, archaeology, literature, psychology, sociology, history, and so much more, all with the focus of evaluating and interpreting the ancient world, or indeed, how antiquity is received by later cultures. What’s not to love?

Reason #5 – The literature.

Over the last few years of studying on my wonderful Open University undergraduate course, I’ve felt an overwhelming need to begin building a bustling classical library, which jostles delightfully along the other enormous library nestled within the assortment of Ikea bookcases which steadily increases year on year. I’m bookish, and I’m not ashamed to admit this. Studying classics gives you a great excuse to buy, collect, shop for, watch out for, and ultimately read and delight in, every piece of classical literature that you can, as well as any other piece of literature that even remotely relates to classics in any way. Or not. But feel free to insert the popular, or otherwise, culture of your choice here. Because classical studies could also feed your cinema habit, art collection, TV addiction, love of the theatre, or any number of guilty pleasures that require some form of legitimisation.