Photos: Holy Cross Students Share Their Passion for All Things Ancient Greek and Roman on Classics Day

In its 46th year, the student-run event brought 300 excited higher schoolers to Holy Cross to celebrate the classical world
April 16th, 2018 by 

Three students from Ursuline Academy dress up as the mythical beast Cerberus.
Three students from Ursuline Academy depict the mythical beast Cerberus. Photo by Tom Rettig

Milton High School students act out the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Milton High School students act out the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. Photo by Tom Rettig

Students from Milton High School compete in the Classics Day 2018 costume contest
Students from Milton High School compete in the Classics Day 2018 costume contest. Photo by Tom Rettig

Ursuline Academy students compete dressed up as mythical monsters Cerberus, Medusa and Argus.
Ursuline Academy students compete dressed up as mythical monsters Cerberus, Medusa and Argus. Photo by Tom Rettig

Students from Littleton High School act out the myth of Persephone and Hades
Students from Littleton High School act out the myth of Persephone and Hades. Photo by Tom Rettig

Newman High School students perform the story of Pandora
Newman High School students perform the story of Pandora's Box, which won the costume contest. Photo by Tom Rettig

A panel of Holy Cross students moderate the final round of Certamen
A panel of Holy Cross students moderate the final round of Certamen. Photo by Austin Bosworth

Students from Boston Latin School, St. Sebastian
Students from Boston Latin School, St. Sebastian's School and Shrewsbury High School compete in the final round of Certamen. Photo by Austin Bosworth

Shrewsbury High School students compete in the final round of Certamen
Shrewsbury High School students compete in the final round of Certamen. Photo by Austin Bosworth

A Holy Cross classics major hands an award to a high school student competing in Certamen.
A Holy Cross classics major hands an award to a high school student competing in Certamen. Photo by Austin Bosworth

A high school student triumphantly raises her trophy
A high school student triumphantly raises her trophy. Photo by Austin Bosworth

“Have any of you ever heard that Latin is a dead language?” Neel Smith, professor and chair of the classics department, asked the Hogan Ballroom filled with buzzing high school students from across New England. Hundreds of hands shot up in the air.

But the 46th annual Classics Day, a College of the Holy Cross tradition celebrating all aspects of ancient Greek and Roman culture, was more than lively.

Put together by a committee of 20 Holy Cross classics students and the Delta Lambda chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, the Classics Honors Society, the all-day event featured Certamen (a quick-fire game of classics trivia); a widely popular costume contest; the third annual art contest; and a manuscripts challenge, where students were asked to translate and analyze ancient texts. A quick glance at the constantly cheering crowd was all it took to get a feel for the day — students in suits flipping through decks of flashcards, be-winged mythical creatures adjusting their accessories, and too many prop bow and arrows to count.

Classics Day also gives high school students a chance to discover that studying classics in college is a compelling option, especially at Holy Cross.

“When most people hear about classics, they ask, ‘Oh do you read Charles Dickens?'” says James Garry ’20, co-chair of this year’s event who explains that many aren’t sure what it means to study classics or what makes up the field. “It’s great to have an event that celebrates the classics and brings it into prominence.”

With one of the largest classics departments in the country, Holy Cross student classicists conduct leading research on ancient texts and culture, presenting their findings at conferences around the world. After graduation, students who majored in classics secure an array of opportunities, from attending law school to continuing research to studying medicine. In the past six years, eight classics majors have received Fulbright grants to teach and conduct research.

Michael Kelley ’18, who chaired the event last year, attended his first Classics Day as a senior in high school.

“I was still discerning where I wanted to go to college, and Classics Day acted as a visit to Holy Cross to see what it was all about, specifically the classics department. It meant a lot in terms of my decision to come here, but it also stimulated my interest in classics.”

Garry’s fellow co-chair, Hannah Nguyen ’19, considers herself lucky to be a part of the classics community at Holy Cross.

“Not only are we peers and classmates, we are close and supportive friends. I think that is very evident in the ways that we work together even beyond the classroom — studying together, working on research projects, putting together the classics journal ‘Parnassus,’ and of course, planning Classics Day.”

She hopes that Classics Day is a way for high school students to learn that it’s possible to study what you are passionate about and still have fun.

“Yes, I get to share with the high schoolers how much I enjoy the study of ancient languages, history and culture, but I also look at it as welcoming a whole new generation into a community that I am really proud to be a part of.”

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