The Oldest Dead White European Males and Other Reflections on the Classics: And Other Reflections on the Classics
In this illuminating book, Bernard Knox raises questions both fundamental and timely: Should the ancient Greeks - "the oldest dead white European ... Show synopsis In this illuminating book, Bernard Knox raises questions both fundamental and timely: Should the ancient Greeks - "the oldest dead white European males" - and all they stand for be kept alive in our collective memory? Is their legacy at all relevant to the way we live now? Multiculturalism and its accompanying reevaluation of Western history and culture have brought with them a heightened sense of the strangeness - the "otherness" - of the Greeks. Modern scholarship has relentlessly exposed the blind adoration of earlier generations and concentrated, in Knox's words, on "the dark underside of what the Victorians hailed as the Greek Miracle." So much of what the Greeks were and did seems, today, positively alien at best. (In the title essay Knox explores the ritual of sacrifice, the Greek sense of self, the institution of slavery, and the inferior position of women in Greek society.). Yet for all their flaws, the ancient Greeks literally invented philosophy, the theater, the concept of a national literature, competitive athletics, political theory, rhetoric and oratory, biology, zoology, atomic theory - one could go on. And through the Sophists they invented the very idea of the humanities, a group of studies that came into being "as an education for democracy, a training in free citizenship." We cannot simply discard what the recent critical examination of the ancient Greeks has unearthed. But we cannot at the same time forget - and Bernard Knox brings his immense learning and crystalline prose to bear in helping all of us remember - their astonishing originality, their central importance, and all that we have learned (and continue to learn) from them.