Interdepartmental Major: Ancient Religion and Society

What is the IDM in Ancient Religion and Society?

This IDM between Religious Studies and Classical Studies is for anyone interested in the many ways that religion shaped history, society, and thought in the ancient Mediterranean, particularly within the Greek and Roman traditions. In this cultural context, a rich variety of Greco-Roman religious cults and ritual practices intersected with Judaism, Christianity, and (eventually) Islam, as well as with myth, magic, and other expressions of humanity’s relationship to the divine. Just as students in Religious Studies often look to Classical Studies for social and cultural background, virtually no aspect of the Greco-Roman world can be understood without attending to the fundamental role of religion. In this IDM, both disciplines work together to provide essential content, context, methodologies, and skills, and to yield the kind of insight into the religious experience that is beyond the reach of either discipline alone.

How is this IDM different from a RS or a CLST major?

This IDM goes beyond a Religious Studies major in its emphasis on the socio-cultural, political, and intellectual histories of Greece and Rome; in the optional focus on an ancient language as a fundamental for the major; and in its focus on Greek and Roman literature and material culture. It also differs significantly from a Classical Studies major in its emphasis on religious traditions and on the themes and methodologies that characterize the contemporary study of religion.

Why take the IDM in Ancient Religion and Society?

Research and coursework in Religious Studies often involve texts, buildings, and artifacts (particularly Jewish and Christian) that reside in domains (historical, social, intellectual, and literary) usually considered the focus of Classical Studies. Likewise, the Hellenistic and Imperial periods of Greco-Roman antiquity feature important Jewish and Christian texts and archeological remains that are often relegated in favor of literary and non-religious narratives. While classicists might look to Tacitus, Pliny, Martial, Plutarch, Lucian, Galen, Dio, Aristides, Fronto, and the Greek novels, scholars of religion might focus on the Pauline letters, the gospels, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Clement, Philo, the novelistic Joseph and Aseneth, Acts, Apocalypses, and various Christian Apocrypha. Yet all these inhabited the same time and, often, the same place! Scholars of the ancient Mediterranean are increasingly focusing on the many facets of this cultural interface. The IDM in Ancient Religion and Society presents an extraordinary opportunity for students to travel down a leading-edge path through the interdisciplinary study of the ancient world.

Required courses in the Religious Studies Department:

  • Required course: REL 101
  • Seven Religious Studies courses, of which at least five must be at or above the 200-level. At least one must be on a religious tradition outside the Mediterranean. (The following courses satisfy this requirement: REL 110, 120, 160, 165FS, 175,176, 219S, 242, 321S, 322, 323, 323S, 325S, 373S, 374S, 375, 376, 380, 384S, 386S, 388S.)

Required courses in the Classical Studies Department:

  • Option 1 (historical emphasis): CLST 283 and 284.
  • Option 2 (language emphasis): One year of classical Greek or Latin at or above the 250-level.
    • Note: The two options may not be combined (e.g., CLST 283 and Lat 252 does not satisfy the requirement)
  • At least 2 courses that focus on Classical Civilization as it relates to ethics, myth, religions, or socio-cultural components broadly foundational for the study of religion. (The following courses satisfy this requirement: CLST 208, 264, 268S, 271, 312S, 354, 360.)

In either department:

  • One course as a small-group learning experience. This may be the CLST capstone course, or an independent study or honors project in either department.