Classics was the mainstay of the course of studies, at least for the first two years, as set forth in the Laws of 1783, which prescribed, “for the first year in Latin, Virgil, Cicero’s Orations and Horace, all in usum Delphini. In Greek, the new Testament, Lucians Dialogues & Zenophon’s Cyropaedia; – For the second year, in Latin, Cicero de Oratore and Caesars Commentaries; – In Greek, Homer’s Iliad & Longinus on the Sublime ...” At first the teaching of Latin and Greek was performed by the president. Asa Messer was professor of learned languages from 1790 to 1796 before he became president, and presumably continued in that capacity until Calvin Park was named to that professorship in 1804. Park’s title was changed in 1811 to professor of moral philosophy and metaphysics, but he also probably continued his usual instruction in languages, since no replacement was appointed until he left the University in 1825. Romeo Elton was professor of Latin and Greek languages and literature from 1825 to 1843, with Horatio Balch Hackett as adjunct professor from 1835 to 1838. James Robinson Boise taught Greek from 1843 to 1852, with the exception of 1850-51, when Hiram H. Perry served as lecturer.
The two classics professors of long standing in the nineteenth century were John Larkin Lincoln, who taught Latin from 1844 until 1891, and Albert Harkness, who taught Greek from 1855 to 1892. Required courses in Greek ended in the sophomore year, but in 1856 an elective course in Greek was added in the junior year. In 1871 and again in 1876 seniors requested an elective course, which became a regular course in 1878. When Albert Harkness was granted a leave of absence to spend the year 1870-71 in Europe, two instructors were hired, William Carey Poland 1868 to teach Greek to the freshman and sophomore classes, and Alonzo Williams 1870 to teach Greek and Latin to the freshman class. In the second term of 1890-91 Thomas Chase, former president of Haverford College, taught Greek courses for seniors and juniors. The Class of 1888 as seniors donated funds for the acquisition of a collection of casts from Greek and Roman sculpture which was placed in a room on the first floor of Manning Hall. The Classical Seminary in Sayles Hall opened in 1891-92 with a library of books suited to advanced students. Charles E. Bennett was professor of classical philology and instructor in Sanskrit in 1891-92.
Professor Lincoln died in 1891, and Professor Albert Granger Harkness 1879 (son the professor of Greek) took over the instruction in Latin, which he continued until 1923. Professor Albert Harkness retired in 1892 and was replaced by James Irving Manatt, who was professor of Greek literature and history from 1892 to 1915. Manatt was in Europe when Harkness resigned, and Greek was under the direction of Thomas Chase, and after Chase’s illness, under Henry T. Hildreth. A coeducational Classical Club met at Professor Manatt’s house in the 1890s. There, in the spring of 1894, a cast of both men and women students preformed Sophocles’ Antigone. On November 31, 1897, a performance in Greek of The Return of Odysseus at Pembroke Hall included a hymn to Apollo, which had been discovered at Delphi by Professor Manatt. Francis Greenleaf Allinson was associate professor of Greek and classical philology from 1895 to 1898, after which he was the David Benedict Professor of Greek literature and history from 1898 to 1927.
The first Ph.D. degree in Latin was earned in 1895 by Charles E. Dennis 1888, the first in Greek in 1899 by Frederick E. Whitaker 1888. In 1915 a Greek play, a modern version of Aristophanes’ The Frogs was performed by the Faculty.
In 1923, after the death of Albert Granger Harkness, the separate departments of Greek literature and history and Latin literature and history were joined together as Greek and Latin classics under Professor Allinson with Latin instruction by Associate Professor John F. Greene. In 1927 Kendall K. Smith, who had taught Greek at Brown since 1915, became head of Classics, a position which was assumed by Benjamin C. Clough after Smith’s death in 1929. In 1928 the department moved from lower Manning to the third floor of University Hall. At about there arrived three faculty members, who were to man the department for the next three decades. Charles Arthur Lynch and Charles Alexander Robinson, Jr. both arrived as instructors in 1927, and Herbert N. Couch came as assistant professor in 1930. The Latin or Greek requirement for the Bachelor of Arts degree was removed by vote of the Corporation in 1934. The Providence Journal observed, “This movement in our American colleges does not mean that Greek and Latin culture is ungratefully thrown overboard, but rather that it has been so largely absorbed into modern civilization that it may be taught in introductory courses without the use of the original languages.... The lovers of literature and the professors of literature will still read Greek and Latin.... So the classic tongues, if no longer required of all in our colleges, will not be given up. Being taken for love and not on compulsion, they will be taught and learned better than ever. Lovers of them need have no regrets over the action taken at Brown. Greek and Latin are henceforth in the hands only of their friends.” The name of the department was changed in 1945 from Department of Greek and Latin Classics to Department of Classics.
In 1948 the department presented the first of its very popular Latin Christmas Carol Services. Professor Herbert N. Couch, head of the department, announced the program with an explanation that the members of the department “regard the service as one of good cheer in a scholarly mood, imbued with the traditions and loyalties of centuries long past, recalled for a brief hour in an academic atmosphere not unworthy of its place in that gracious succession of learning.” The audience joined in the singing of the well-known Latin carol, “Adestes Fideles” (“O Come, All Ye Faithful”), as well as others, such as “Ornate Aulas” (“Deck the Halls”), “Rex iam Wenceslas” (“Good King Wenceslas”), and heard a rendition of “Duodecim Dies Natalis” (“The Twelve Days of Christmas”), translated into Latin by Eunice Burr Couch and performed by “Grex Chattertockarum,” the Chattertocks. Professor John Rowe Workman took over the direction of the very popular carol service and for many years discoursed in perfect Latin on such diverse subjects as the curriculum and hockey (of which he was very fond as faculty advisor to the team). The service continues under the direction of Professor William F. Wyatt.
Charles Alexander Robinson headed Brown’s first excavation program in Corinth in the summer of 1959. Later expeditions led by Professor R. Ross Holloway excavated a site in Athens in 1965 and commenced the excavation of Satrianum in Lucania in 1966. Brown-sponsored excavations continue in Italy (Ustica) and Greece (Corfu).
The standard concentration patterns in Classics are classics, classical archaeology, Greek, Latin, Greek and Latin, and classics and Sanskrit. Instruction is also offered in Sanskrit and Modern Greek. Some students study at the Center for Classical Studies in Rome or in Greece through the College Year in Athens program. Among the chairmen of the department have been Kendall K. Smith, Benjamin C. Clough, Herbert N. Couch, John R. Workman, Bruce E. Donovan, Charles P. Segal, Alan Boegehold, Michael C. J. Putnam, William F. Wyatt, Kurt Raaflaub, and David Konstan.