Also nattered to Scottie about Simon Goldhill's Love, Sex and Tragedy - Why Classics Matters, which I finished last week. The Dr bought it ages ago as part of her ongoing efforts to civilise me. It's excellent, divided into sections that cover our attitudes to sex, Christianity, politics, culture and history, and detailing the debt each of these owes to the Greeks and Romans of old.
There's some fascinating top facts. It was the Victorians who invented homosexuality, for instance. At least, they came up with the term. The development of the early church is also seen as a reaction to Roman religion, which in some cases is just boggling.
The stuff on politics was also very interesting.
"The Athenian citizen was expected to attend the Assembly, to serve on the Council at some point, to act as a juror on occasion, to vote, to do the business of the deme, to take part in festivals and to fight in the state's army or navy. Modern democracies talk obsessively about rights. Ancient democracy thought of citizenship more as an issue of duties and activities."
Simon Goldhill, Love, Sex and Tragedy - Why Classics Matters, pp. 179-180.No armchair anarchists in Anthens, then. You had to get your hands dirty.
The Dr tells me that the Guardian review of the book, though generally very impressed, felt the book could have covered imperialism. It also lacks any great detail on scientific enquiry and the enlightenment's debt to classics.
Also, Goldhill's argument falls into two kinds. The first - that our attitudes to sex, religion, politics etc. cannot be understood without knowledge of their Greek and Roman origins - is strongly articulated and, in some cases, amazing. But Goldhill, when he can't give evidence of such direct inheritance, also argues that the "different-ness" of the ancient world is therefore a model by which we can scrutinise our own society.
This, I feel, is less effective an argument, because surely any "different" culture would work just as well as a mirror. A study of the Navaho, or the court of Kublai Khan, would likewise challenge our social assumptions by not taking them for granted.