Hooked on Classics

ID_IC_MEIS_TRADI_AP_001 Morgan Meis on how to think like the ancients, in The Smart Set:

The entry for 'Television' laconically states that, “In its first decades television did not share cinema's appetite for the classical world.” This comes from a new publication by Harvard Press called The Classical Tradition. The situation for television changed in 1967 as “the future of the ancient world [was] resolved in an episode of Star Trek when the crew of a 23rd-century spaceship destroys the last surviving Olympian god on a distant planet.” Wonderfully laconic, once again. The entry for 'Sparta', by the way, the place from which we get the term 'laconic', begins with the sentences, “Sparta, for better or worse, is a brand, not just a name. Whenever we casually drop into our everyday conversation the two little epithets spartan and laconic, we are, unwittingly, paying silent tribute to our Spartan cultural ancestors—or rather to the Spartan 'tradition'.”

The Classical Tradition is billed as neither an encyclopedia nor a dictionary, but a guide. It is edited by a couple of classicists (Anthony Grafton and Glenn W. Most), and one art historian (Salvatore Settis). Its stated goal is to take the reader through the thickets of classical reference in Western culture from the classical era to the present. We do not learn our classics as we used to, argue the editors. But the modern world is still rife with classical references. Thus, the need for such a guide.

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