Classics and Citizenship

Classical Quarterly 14 (2):78-81 (1920)
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Abstract

As the black clouds of war lift from the surface of the Continents of Europe and Nearer Asia, the eye looks round upon a shattered civilization. The once busy tide of labour on the field and in the factory, beneath the soil and within dock, ebbs slowly away; the accustomed rewards of toil, food, warmth and clothing, become daily more difficult of attainment. Authority trembles in its seat, and money loses its once all-powerful attraction. Inevitably the scholar recalls the tale of the Decline and Fall of the Roman-Hellenistic world, and calculates the prospect of a second millennium of darkness and suffering. And he is not unconscious that he stands himself accused of having brought about, or at least failed to avert, the doom of the nations. For, he is told, the governing classes of all the nations that clashed in mutual destructiveness were constituted of men brought up in the classical tradition, whose minds in their fresh boyhood were fed on the so-called glories of Alexander the Great and of Julius Caesar, and who sought in rivalry to win, each for his nation, the haughty supremacy of imperial Rome. And he hears the clamour of those who demand a clean sweep of the false ideals and selfish ambitions of the past, and the building upon new foundations of a world of contentment and peace, inspired by the basic conception of a citizenship in which no man shall seek his own gain at the cost of another's loss. Towards the building up of this new world, it is claimed, the study of the past can do nothing to help; by effacing itself it will cease to be a hindrance. And in response to this accusation there arise in all directions schemes for a reconstructed world, a reconstituted nation, and a new education, which shall be alike in this one point—that they take for granted the elimination of the study of antiquity and the disappearance of the atmosphere of the Humanities

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