Knowledge of Latin may be in decline, but novels, films and documentaries about the Romans have never been more popular. We are still dimly, unconsciously, aware that our culture grew out of classical civilisation.
Prospect Magazine Blog
November 2006 | 128 » Essays » Return of the Roman
In his short book "The Future of the Classical," Salvatore Settis,
director of the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, writes that "the
marginalisation of classical studies in our education systems and our
culture at large is a profound cultural shift that would be hard to
ignore." At the same time, he asks: "What place is there for the
ancients in a world… characterised by the blending of peoples and
cultures, the condemnation of imperialism, the end of ideologies, and
the bold assertion of local traditions, and ethnic and national
identities in the face of all forms of cultural hegemony? Why seek out
common roots, if everyone is intent on distinguishing their own from
those of their neighbour?"
The points are well made, the questions pertinent, though the implication is not always as cogent as Settis supposes. After all, one characteristic of the Roman world was a very similar "blending of peoples and cultures," as eastern gods and goddesses were introduced to Rome and worshipped there, and as the emperors came more often from the provinces than from Italy, let alone Rome.
Hat tip: Robert Greaves