"Classics" is the term often given to the study of the languages and cultures of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. The study of Classics was once considered to be one of the most important academic activities one could engage in. The view of the importance of this subject has changed dramatically during the last century or so - it is in most Western countries no longer considered essential to have a knowledge of Latin and Greek in order to function as doctors, lawyers or language teachers. Although it must be admitted that the importance placed on the study and knowledge of these languages and their cultures was greatly overrated, I feel personally that these studies are more important than their current low status would indicate.
In today's world an increasing number of people are lacking in an understanding of the historical background of the world they are living in. The result is a kind of ahistorical world view which can lead to the most catastrophic developments, as witnessed by some of the wars fought during the last hundred years or so. I feel it is essential that the general awareness of historical connections is increased in "civilized" societies. To understand yourself you need to understand the society you live in, and to understand this society you need to understand how it came to be the way it is. The societies of Ancient Greece and Rome have had a profound effect on the way present-day Western societies have come to be. In order to understand this modern world one needs, therefore, to see its relationship with the Ancient world. At least, some significant proportion of the population needs to understand this relationship.
The periods between the Ancient word and the modern age are equally important if one is to understand the world of today. A study of the societies and cultures of Antiquity and of their languages is important for the understanding of these intermediate periods too, partly because they form the base upon which they developed, and partly because much of the cultural activities of for instance the Middle Ages took place through the vehicles of the Latin and Greek languages.
For someone who is generally interested in languages, the study of the ancient languages of Greece and Rome is rewarding in itself. Greek is in the almost unique position of providing a written linguistic tradition which has been unbroken for about 2500 years. Latin is no longer a living language, but it is widely known, and has been the official language of the Roman Catholic Church until the middle of the last century.
Both Latin and Ancient Greek are the vehicles for the writing
of some of the world's most important works of literature, and
for those who enjoy reading good literature for its own sake much
enjoyment will be gained by being able to read Homer and Sophocles, Vergil and
Horace in the original.
For a list of links to sites dealing with Classics, mainly Latin, go here.
Last updated May 14, 2009.
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