A Passion for Classics

A Passion for Classics
by Cara Ruccolo

“One more story! One more! Please!” Sometimes I uttered these words as an impatient four-year-old trying desperately to seek another bedtime story and thus avoid going to bed. More often than not though, my father had entranced me with the previous story and I wanted another one. 

My father always told me stories about Greek mythology, about the different gods and goddesses and the way they interacted with humans. My favourite stories were about Pegasus, the winged horse, and I especially liked the story of the Trojan Horse.


Trojan Horse

One time, while flipping through TV channels, my father came across the movie “The Clash of the Titans,” a movie involving Perseus, Pegasus, the Medusa and other gods. He quickly taped it and, to this day, it has always been my favourite movie, a movie I can watch over and over. 

As the years went on, I no longer received continual bedtime stories, but I made frequent trips to the library so I could read the mythological tales on my own. I began to analyse each god and goddess and got to know each one’s personality and habits. I also, after reading countless battle stories, began to appreciate the Greco-Roman ideals of honour, courage and virtue.

Even as a young girl, I recognised these traits in those around me and tried to emulate them as well. I loved what I learned from these ancient accounts, but I had no idea that certain languages told them all and more in the stories’ original context.



Ironically, I had to take Latin as a required course in the seventh grade. I had heard Latin was a “tough” and “boring” subject, so I wasn’t sure what to expect the first few days. When I observed the first story in my textbook, “Perseus is Sent on his Travels,” I became excited with what seemed like more cultural tales. Luckily, the grammatical aspect of the language came easily for me and I was able to focus more on the translation and story line. 

I began to read about the Labours of Hercules, the Cyclops and other notables. I soon began translating stories on my own just because translating a Latin passage was like decrypting a secret code and I loved the thrill of reading a story in English that had once been in Latin. Latin became a form of intellectual entertainment for me. I was exercising my brain and stimulating my mind at the same time.



When I started high school, I had to choose a language. I had taken Spanish for three years prior to Andover as well as two years of Latin. Even though it seemed like an obvious decision for me, I felt compelled to listen to my peers and advisers who urged me to take Spanish as it was “more practical” than Latin. Nevertheless, I signed up for Latin and entered into Third Year Latin in my freshman year. 

Latin, at that point in my life, had become part of my identity and it consumed most of my time not spent on homework and athletics. All the time spent proved to be beneficial; I knew what the “dative” and “accusative” cases, not to mention “gerunds” and “participles” were long before my Latin-less peers. My writing likewise improved. These added bonuses helped me feel more confident that Latin was indeed a “practical” language.

In addition to taking Latin at Andover, I also took an Etymology course and First and Second Level Greek in a yearlong intensive course. The Greek course was a great counterpart to my Latin course; instead of reading ancient Roman stories, I now read those of ancient Greece.



I digested the deep writings of Plato and Socrates as well as the humorous plays of Aristophanes. The Greek class was like a philosophy class with a language component. We focused on the issues of the times, issues that we discovered through our translating. 

In my Etymology course, I came to understand how English, Latin and Greek were fully intertwined. My knowledge of Latin and Greek almost always helped me identify a root word and thus helped me deduce the meaning of the word. After this experience, the Classics for me became not only a doorway to ancient myths and culture, but also to a better understanding of English grammar and writing.

It has been years since my childhood visits to the library. My readings have progressed from the Labours of Hercules to Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Horace’s eloquent poetry, but my reasons for pursuing Latin and Greek remain the same. I have a passionate interest in ancient cultures, for what life was like before and for mythology.

Ancient Greece

I love translating, decoding a secret story, and trying to find the right balance of the literal Latin meaning and the more prosaic English. It also helps to have the bonuses of an increased vocabulary and stronger grammar. The Classics have always been meaningful to me –before and after I knew Latin and Greek.

Cara Ruccolo is 16 years old and in the 12th grade at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. She is an advanced placement Classics student having completed 5th year Latin and second year Greek as well as having studied Etymology. She is the founder of the Phillips Academy Chapter of the National Junior Classical League and a member of the Society for the Oral Reading of Greek and Latin Literature (SORGLL) and the American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (ASGLE). Cara’s recent publication (A Case for Classics at the
Middle and High School Levels) appeared in the fall issue of the New Horizons for Learning Journal. She is also a captain of the Varsity Soccer team and a Varsity Squash player. Cara looks forward to the college application process and the pursuit of Classics at the university level. She can be reached at