Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
palace of fine arts in san francisco reflecting in the lake
How many ways do ancient Greece and Rome still show up in our lives today?

Classical California

Main content start

APPLY for Second-Round--Review is Rolling


If you counted the many modern guises in which ancient Greece and Rome show up in our lives, how many could you find? You might consider, for example, words we speak, films we watch, buildings we use, political concepts we debate, styles we admire, myths we read. This course is our chance to explore such rich diversity, emphasizing the more material kinds of ‘classical’ remembrance. 

ancient greek pottery bowl
Cantor Arts Center; Stanford Family Collections, JLS.813

Our focus will be on California, its architecture, its collections of ancient objects. Readings, to be discussed in class, will inform our treasure hunt, which will start with Stanford University collections and proceed farther afield. Pandemic permitting, we’ll visit the Getty Villa in Malibu, one of the world’s foremost collections of ancient art housed in the imposing reconstruction of an ancient Roman villa. We’ll archive our favorite discoveries, some obvious and some intriguingly obscure, in a digital museum which our class will co-create from scratch. 

But this will be a treasure hunt with a difference: while pursuing it we’ll develop critical awareness about the very nature of ancient Greece and Rome and its legacies. Some of the questions to discuss are: What does the term ‘classical’ convey? How might we weigh this supposed classicism against other traditions? Which ancient voices are heard and which remain silent? To whom do the legacies of ancient Greece and Rome belong? What are the ethics involved in collecting classical antiquities? How does antiquity ‘read’ our very selves, individually and collectively? 

image of classical building on a city street in San Francisco
Hibernia Building in San Francisco

All are welcome, whether you’re new to ancient studies or an old hand. Newcomers will get a uniquely experiential introduction to ancient Greece and Rome. Others will have the opportunity to deepen selected aspects of their classical knowledge. All students will emerge from the class with a broad overview of Greco-Roman pasts; will appreciate the range of human engagements with Greco-Roman antiquity, particularly in its local and regional manifestations; will understand the nature of the ‘classical’ in relation to other artistic traditions; will understand the role of ancient Greece and Rome in relation to fundamental human values and questions. 

Meet the Instructor

Grant Parker

Associate Professor of Classics

headshot of faculty member

Grant Parker joined Stanford from Duke University in 2006. He teaches mostly Latin, as well as topics linked to the exotic and geographic elements of Roman imperial culture. His book, The Making of Roman India, was published in 2008, while new projects have addressed ancient travel literature as well as Rome's Egyptian obelisks. His interest in classical reception is reflected in his 2001 book, The Agony of Asar (critical edition of a former slave's defense of slavery, written in Latin [Leiden 1742]).