I’m not one of those people who consider Greek culture more brilliant. There isn’t a poet more satisfying than Horace or more fun than Juvenal, both of them Romans dealing with the practical and the ordinary in virtuoso language and with compelling insight. To prefer Plato just because he’s so concerned with the abstract and the speculative is like preferring Thomas Aquinas to Jane Austen—it’s inconceivable to me. And those traditional characterizations of the Romans as cold-hearted bureaucrats and imperialist brutes—well, the actual historical record doesn’t show the Greeks as more virtuously inclined; they just weren’t as stable or organized. The Athenians, for example, were perfectly happy to work thousands of slaves to death in silver mines and build their great monuments with other nations’ tribute; but their material ascendancy—because of their own folly—was so brief that they didn’t wear, so to speak, what they did. It just breezes by in the background to their art and literature, which did last.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
… Interview with Sarah Ruden – Note & Query. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)