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Languages and the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean World

The study of ancient Mediterranean civilizations is closely tied to the study of ancient languages.  These languages are accessible to us through the diverse writing systems that were developed close to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.  The earliest of these was the cuneiform script of Mesopotamia; next was the hieroglyphic script in Egypt.  Both of these forms of writing remained in use for more than three thousand years.  The earliest alphabets came into use among speakers of Semitic languages around the eastern Mediterranean, and then spread among other language groups, where this revolutionary technology was adopted first by speakers of Greek and later of Latin.

The long history of writing in this part of the world has preserved for us a rich and diverse record of the past, ranging from routine economic documents to royal inscriptions to literature, both prose and poetry, both secular and sacred.  Our ability to read these ancient texts opens wide our window into the human past, and enables us to know something of the minds of the peoples who built the monuments and cities whose remains also provide us with a record of the past.

Faculty In the department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies include experts in all of the major languages and literatures of the ancient Mediterranean, affording students in CAMS the opportunity to access directly the ancient voices that still speak to us in writing.


The Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies (CAMS) at Penn State offers a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Ancient Languages .  The certificate is designed for students who have completed their undergraduate degree and who would like to strengthen their language training in order to pursue graduate or advanced study in the fields of Classics, Ancient History, Classical and Mediterranean Archaeology, Biblical Studies, Egyptology, Historical Linguistics, Ancient Philosophy.  For further details see the Ancient Languages certificate in the University Bulletin.  For application information see the Postbaccalaureate/Graduate Certificate Admission page under the Requirement for Graduate Admission instructions of the Graduate School.

Student Testimonial

“The day I changed my major to Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies was one of the happiest of my college career.  Even before switching to CAMS,  I was interested in what the department had to offer. (...)
An undergraduate advisor suggested LATIN 003 as a way of easing into college life, as I had taken Latin classes throughout high school and had performed well on the Advanced Placement exams.  The beginning was rough, but I enjoyed the challenge of translating Latin prose and the information that the texts conveyed.  Although I pursued an Advertising degree during my first two years of college, I continued to sign up for Latin courses, and by the end of my sophomore year, I had realized that Classics, not Advertising, was the right major for me. In addition to the Latin courses, I also studied the ancient civilizations of Rome, Greece, and Egypt in the CAMS major.  All of these classes were interesting, educational, and taught by knowledgeable faculty members.   The CAMS faculty is always helpful; they provide insight into the class material and make suggestions for outside reading during office hours and after class.  When I wrote my senior thesis for the Honors College, I received much help from the CAMS faculty while researching and writing the thesis.  Now that I have received my diplomas from Penn State, both in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Spanish, I have decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Education.  I have been accepted at the Complutense University of Madrid, one of the oldest universities in Europe, to study secondary education, specializing in classical languages.  I am confident that the education I received at Penn State, notably in the CAMS department, will aid me greatly in my postgraduate studies and in securing a teaching job, whether in the United States, Spain, or elsewhere.”

Celia Meehan
2010 CAMS graduate

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