I read “The Color of Classics” (October 2021) and Douglas B. Quine ’73’s letter (December 2021), continuing the polemic against the classics, with disappointment.
The Greco-Roman classics should be studied in an entirely different way than the other ancient civilizations Mr. Quine mentions, for very good reasons.
With the exception of the Hebrew bible, the epic of Gilgamesh, some calendars, ruler lists, astronomical notes, palace and merchant inventories, and a few inscriptions and treaties, and virtually nothing at all in the case of the ancient Indian societies, the Etruscans, the Mycenaeans, and the Mayans, there are very few surviving other ancient writings to study and provoke thought, except for ancient Chinese Society.
But in the case of Greece and Rome, there is an enormous body of written work, from history, biography and poetry, to philosophy, epic and mythic stories, available to all, irrespective of race or national heritage. What is more, these are works which continue to shape Western Civilization.
The histories, law, and political commentaries of Greece and Rome, for example, were the source of our founders’ ideas on constitutions, separation of powers, super majorities, checks and balances, republican and democratic institutions, and the rule of law, restraining all, even the rulers.
Unless you despise and seek to erase 3,000 years of Western Civilization (and there are many who do), to be replaced by a to-be-determined absolutist left-wing (or right-wing) paradise, you should fervently hope that the Greco-Roman classics continue to be studied and given pride of place, as well, over the study of other ancient societies.