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Latin is one of several closely-related languages spoken (and written) by many of the peoples of ancient Italy. Latin was the language of the various communities of Latium, the central western plain of Italy. As those communities became cities, Latin became, by ca. 500 BCE, the common language of the region, notably in the city of Rome. As Rome became dominant first in central Italy, then in all of Italy, and extended its rule over other areas of the Mediterranean and European regions, Latin became the formal and common language of government, education, and economic relations.

The earliest examples of written Latin date to circa 500 BCE, but only a mere handful of personal and sacred texts, often scratched on metal plates or pottery, have survived. Not until the end of the 3rd century BCE does Latin truly become a literary language, with the appearance of the comedies of Plautus. Within a generation, official documents (on stone or bronze) and formal poetic (Ennius; Terence) and prose works (the elder Cato) were composed in Latin.

The history of Latin is commonly divided into an archaic period (Plautus and 2nd century BCE authors), a Republican period (Caesar; Cicero; Catullus; Sallust), a Golden Age (Virgil, Livy, Ovid and the elegiac poets Tibullus and Propertius), and a Silver Age (Juvenal, Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, Statius). Latin literary production, moreover, continued for centuries, exhibiting, for example, both significant secular (Ammianus Marcellinus; Claudian) and religious (Augustine; Jerome) literary works in the 4th and 5th centuries CE.

As the European “Romance languages” (Italian; French; Spanish; Portuguese; Romansh; Romanian) evolved from classical Latin, Latin remained, until well into the 18th century CE, a living literary language and the preferred language for law and government. Those who study or intend to study medieval and renaissance Latin find that a firm foundation in Classical Latin enables swifter comprehension of “late Latin”.

Following a first-year sequence introducing students to the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of classical Latin (LATIN 101-102), we offer an intermediate reading course (LATIN 203) that review grammar, syntax, and vocabulary and introduces classical authors such as Caesar, Cicero, and Catullus. Advanced (400-level courses) are offered in a regular sequence in which the works of influential classical authors (e.g., Plautus, Cicero, Sallust, Virgil, Livy, Ovid, Tacitus) are read and discussed. Advanced courses on special topics (inscriptions; law) are occasionally offered.

Students beginning university level study of Latin with prior study of Latin in secondary school should consult the information on Latin Placement (or consult with an instructor) before enrolling in an advanced Latin course.

Those who are considering graduate study in any area of classical studies (Greek and Latin) are strongly advised to consult with a CAMS faculty member as to graduate school expectations and should plan to take as much Latin as possible and at least two years of Greek in their undergraduate curriculum.


LATIN 101: Introductory Latin, offered fall & spring

LATIN 102: Advanced Latin, offered fall & spring

LATIN 203: Latin Reading and Composition offered fall & spring. 
Prerequisite: LATIN 102 (LATIN 002)

LATIN 400-497: A Latin 400-level course is offered every semester

LATIN 402: Republican Literature Selected works by Plautus, Lucretius, Catullus, Cicero (content varies).  
Prerequisite: LATIN 203 (LATIN 003)

LATIN 403: Augustan Age Literature Selected works by Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, Livy (content varies).  
Prerequisite: LATIN 203 (LATIN 003)

LATIN 404: Silver Age Literature Selected works by Petronius, Seneca, Tacitus, Juvenal, Martial, Pliny the Younger (content varies). 
Prerequisite: LATIN 203 (LATIN 003)

LATIN 420: Medieval Latin Literature Survey of Medieval Latin literature. 
Prerequisite: LATIN 203 (LATIN 003)

LATIN 450W: History of Latin History of the Latin language and its speakers, from their origins to the 2nd century C.E. 
 Prerequisite: LING 102; LATIN 401, LATIN 402 or LATIN 403

LATIN 494: Research Project Supervised student activities on research projects identified on an individual or small-group basis.

LATIN 494H: Research Project Supervised student activities on research projects identified on an individual or small-group basis.

LATIN 496: Independent Studies

LATIN 499: Latin Courses taught in Study Abroad Programs

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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