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Linking the Ages

Classics students at Calvin find that current events often provide interesting ties to their studies of the ancients. For example, politics.

"'Candidate,'" says Calvin classics professor Mark Williams, "actually comes from a Latin word which literally meant clean clothes. In the ancient world those running for office would put on their best and cleanest clothes when they went out seeking the support of the people. They were quite easily distinguished from the common working man—the blacksmith, for example. The Latin word used to describe them is our modern word candidate."

While Williams is quick to point out how classics relates to the modern age, he is proud of his field not just for those connections, but also for what it imparts to those who study and steep themselves in the craft of classics.

"The scary thing about a humanities major such as classics," he says, "is that you don't know what you'll be doing in four or five years. But that's also the nice thing. You're not roped into one specific thing. And we've found that classics majors go into all sorts of interesting careers—everything from law to marketing and politics. What classics does is help students think outside the box. When you study the ancient world long enough, you begin to think inside its box. But what you realize is that their boxes are not the same as our boxes. When you're in the ancient box you're outside the modern box. So classics students tend to be very interesting and analytical thinkers."

Williams says that classics is a significant part of a liberal arts education, but thinks the discipline has a special function at a Christian college such as Calvin.

"That world is the milieu in which the early church developed and thrived," he says. "If you don't understand the pagan world in which Christianity took root and flourished, you don't understand the roots of our own faith. Studying classics is like tracing the family tree of Christianity.


Classics Professor Mark Williams
Classics Professor Mark Williams
Classroom in the main building of the Franklin campus.
Classroom in the main building of the Franklin campus.
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