Future of classical studies

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 15, 2012, Western News celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special edition asking 40 Western researchers to share the 40 THINGS WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEXT 40 YEARS. This is one of those entries. To view the entire anniversary issue, visit the Western News archives.

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In myths from ancient Greek and Roman culture, Prometheus gave the technologies of fire and writing to humans. Some ancient writers saw these gifts as a curse, others as blessings.

In Classical Athens, we have the earliest imperial democracy in Western culture. This radical new distribution of power was glorified and condemned by philosophers, politicians, artists and the first historians and dramatists in the West.

Far from being an antiquarian’s refuge from contemporary complexities, an exploration of ancient Mediterranean civilizations elucidates how Greece and Rome are part of a continuum, shaping our own culture and the way we think today.

Moreover, removed from us in time as they are, ancient Greece and Rome provide perspective, and a cultural laboratory in which to test emerging theories about the major questions that will always preoccupy us – how to define justice, how to manage new technologies, how to draw the map of the human soul, how to construct meanings and identities subsequently assumed to be ‘natural.’

The discipline of classics is, therefore, always relevant, and in 40 years’ time will be no less valuable as a medium for thinking about whatever terrifies, intrigues or delights us, than it has been for the past 2,800 years, since the first performances of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Aara Suksi is Classical Studies chair in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities.