The cover story of the October 2021 issue, “The Color of Classics,” observes that academic study of the “classics” concentrates on Roman and Greek culture. As a Roxbury Latin School graduate, I am familiar with that focus, but as a traveler to seven continents, I also appreciate that other highly developed civilizations existed with writing before the Romans. A number come to mind, including the Mayans (in the Americas), the Egyptians (in Africa), the Jews, Mesopotamians, Chinese, and Indians (in Asia), and Etruscans and Mycenaeans (in Europe). Other cultures in Australia, Europe, and North America maintained cultural identities through oral traditions, petroglyphs, and cave paintings.
The Roman and Greek focus reflects a narrow worldview. Classics departments should remove their blinders and embrace the richness and diversity of ancient civilizations around the world. Classics shouldn’t be a niche department; they are the portal to the longest part of human history! While the lack of poetry and prose may preclude the study of Linear B literature from Mycenae, the study of art, architecture, governance, religion, and literature from ancient civilizations will enrich us all. Where data is lacking, research opportunities abound. Some lessons from the sustainable practices (and failures) of the past might also even help us manage climate change.