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The Instant Classic of the Classics Department

Maisha Khan '20


Dr. Thomas Rose in front of the Parthenon in Greece. Photo Courtesy of Mary Cate Mosher

R-MC’s beloved Classics professor Thomas Rose was actually a history major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before he delved into the ancient world. When asked how he got into Classics, Rose said, “There was no epiphany, I had no moment when a shining light hit me and I realized that I want to devote my life to classical studies. But when I was an undergrad, I had some professors who really brought the ancient world to life and I think that that was enough to do it.”

Rose did not know from the start that he wanted to teach. However, once he had the opportunity to work with students, he realized that he really thrived in that environment. “I really enjoy it, I hope you can tell.” Rose’s excitement is apparent during lectures and everyone can tell that he genuinely believes in the importance of classical languages and studies. “[It] forces you to be able to take fragmentary evidence from lots of different kinds of media, assimilate it all, put it together and try and come up with a plausible narrative from that. To be able to follow a problem wherever it leads, and to incorporate the broadest possible range of evidence that you can; those kinds of skills can help you no matter what you're trying to do.” He also believes that everyone can benefit from understanding the “continuity between cultures that are very far removed from us in time and space and [seeing] the debt that we owe to them. I think it gives us hope and instills a little more appreciation for the generations that have come before us.”

Although Rose loves the ancient world, he tries to stay current by using “carefully collected pop culture references” to connect with his students. “I’m surprised by how quickly they become obsolete. I’m here thinking ‘Old man Rose is so hip, right?’ But sometimes I get blank stares.” Rose laughed and admitted that he feels as if he learns “as much or more from [his] students, and that’s the beauty of teaching.”

Next, I asked Dr. Rose what he would be doing if he wasn’t teaching. “I don't know. I worked a lot of different kinds of jobs. I didn't take a super traditional, straight path.” In the past, Rose has worked as a bartender, a construction worker and a pizza delivery boy. “It's been so long since I even considered doing anything else, that it's hard for me to imagine not being involved in education in some way.” If not Classics, Rose could see himself teaching history, literature, or politics. However, when he was five years old, he wanted to be a fireman because he likes trucks and dogs.

Dr. Rose’s favorite hero is right down the hall from his office. “Professor John Camp, because he has done so much with hands on education, and bringing the ancient world to life. There's very few figures in our field who have done as much as he has to do that.” As for his favorite mythological hero, it’s Odysseus. “He doesn’t fit the heroic mold." Heroic qualities that seem to have been very important in the ancient world, Odysseus doesn't embody. "He is more of that cunning trickster wily figure, not the guy who says, 'here I am, this is what I want, and you can't stop me from getting it.' So, I like the idea of someone who is down on their luck, an outcast or refugee, and they’re able to find their way home again because of their wits.”

As for the Olympians, Poseidon intrigues Rose the most. “He's a sea God, you know, and yet he is involved with shaking the earth and horses for reasons that we don't entirely understand. He's got a lot of a broad range of responsibilities and I feel like he's underappreciated.” Rose paused. Then, he added firmly, “And I like seahorses.” Dr. Rose, along with Dr. Bartolo Natoli, took a group of students to Italy and Greece this past J-Term. This Spring, he is teaching Ancient Medicine, Greek History and the Greek Epic.

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