August 1973 | Volume 24, Issue 5
Why study the Classics, anyway?
Those who look for parallels between the past and the present may draw some rather gloomy conclusions from this statement by Professor Gerald F. Else, director of the University of Michigan Center for Coordination of Ancient and Modern Studies. It appeared in a recent issue of Humanities magazine. In answer to the question “If you were a guest lecturer addressing a Political Science class, what would you say to arouse their interest in studying the Classics?” Professor Else replied: I might say this: Once upon a time there was a young republic which had onlyminor interest or importance in international affairs, devoting herself instead to internal development. Then came a day when she played a leading role in the victorious effort to defeat an aggressor who was threatening the entire free world. In gratitude, the other members of the victorious coalition acknowledged her leadership, through various treaties, and she became by far the richest and most powerful state in the free world. In time, however, her management of her power alienated her friends, and the world was more and more divided between her orbit and that of the second greatest power, a former ally. Finally she allowed herself to be drawn into a war with that former ally, and in spite of her incomparably greater wealth, freedom, and technical know-how, she was defeated and never became a world power again, except for one brief period—the republic is, of course, Athens between 480 and 380 B.C.