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  • Keyne Cheshire with student

    Faculty members work closely with students to plan and execute original research projects, both here and abroad.


To do research means to inquire about things you do not already know, and you will make such inquiries in many regular courses. You can also initiate semester-long independent research projects for credit, and many students take advantage of grant-funded programs for summer research.

Research Within Courses

Many classics courses include projects that enable students to complete independent research. Our seminars regularly require research papers on a wide variety of topics. In a recent seminar on Alexander the Great, students explored such topics as Alexander’s deployment of garrisons, his seer Aristander, and the role of elephants in ancient warfare. In art courses such as CLA 141 and 142, students visit museums and write papers about ancient sculptures or vases that they have examined in person.

In addition, all classics majors take our capstone course, CLA 480, a research seminar in which each student picks a topic for a semester-long research project. We expect these topics to come from all areas of our diverse department offerings, including history, literature, and material culture.

Independent Research

Many students take the initiative to propose independent studies, designed and executed with the guidance of faculty members. Recent examples of independent study topics include: the treatment of Spartan war dead, realism in Hellenistic sculpture, Stoicism, an archaeological investigation of an old Davidson golf course now covered by a pine forest, and a 3-D printing project to create an exhibition of small sculptures excavated at Athienou, Cyprus.

Our top-performing students have the chance to write senior honors theses. Typically a student’s honors thesis grows out of an independent study or a project in their senior capstone course and involves another semester of research and writing. Recent thesis topics have ranged from pity in Homer's Iliad to insults in Roman comedy, the ancient medical marketplace, and Cleopatra in 20th-century films.

Summer Research

Students have multiple options for summer research, some of them paid. The grant-funded Davidson Research Initiative (DRI) allows first-year, sophomore, and junior students to design research projects and engage with faculty mentors for guidance and collaboration. For a recent classics DRI project, Jon Springfield set to music the songs from Prof. Keyne Cheshire’s translation of Sophocles’ Trachinian Women, which was published in 2015 under the title Murder at Jagged Rock.

In addition to the DRI-supported opportunities, a variety of offices on campus offer grants or are affiliated with external grant programs. Particularly good ones for classics students are the Abernethy grants, which fund student research in the humanities and social sciences, and the Dean Rusk travel grants, which support student research and experiential learning abroad.

Many classics students study abroad, and some of them spend one or more summers on an archaeological excavation, such as Davidson’s field school at Athienou, Cyprus.