October 31, 2006
Romans have never been more popular
Allan Massie in Prospect Magazine:
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.
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