Torch: U.S. LXVIII Winter 2018 - Page 8

BY

NOAH

JUN,

MDJCL

There’s a reason why ancient Greek and Latin are called classical languages. “Classics,”

whether Beethoven or The Beatles or, obviously, Greek and Latin, transcend generations and epochs because of their extraordinary contributions to mankind. Thus, musicians still learn Für Elise and groupies still listen to Here Comes the Sun, but today’s students do not study classical languages and cultures as commonly as in past decades. Why? Growing interest in STEM and a plethora of more modern subjects create natural competition for students and school curricula alike.

The depreciation of classical studies does not necessarily forebode the categorical death

of Greek and Latin, however. For instance, Hollywood still believes it is economically feasible to produce multi-million dollar films about Trojans, Spartans, and a gladiator that audiences will spend many hours and dollars watching. In today’s increasingly visual world, the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome certainly seem to have a place. What children, or adults for that matter, would turn down the chance to see talking humanoid goats, giants, heroes on flying horses, and lightning bolt-throwing deities which the Greeks and Romans envisioned to be reality? Indeed, all of these and even more can be seen in Hercules, one of Disney’s most successful animated films. So why would today’s students, the same children and young adults who were captivated by Hercules, not be intrigued to study the Classics further? Having seen the movie myself and having experienced the tip of the classical iceberg by reading parts of the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, among others, I can assuredly say that there is no deficiency of imaginative characters and gripping scenes compared to modern day tales. These classical works may be even more compelling than contemporary counterparts in addressing deeper themes and questions that go far beyond the stories themselves and into the meaning of life and the human condition.

Perhaps this is the reason why the Classics have recently seen neglect: today’s society

seems to have less interest in existential questions and instead would rather pursue solutions to issues more germane and beneficial to the present. But does this mean that the Classics, which seem on the edge of extinction, should not be pursued by and offered to today’s youth and replaced with more practical STEM or business topics, thus permanently extinguishing the flame of our appreciation for Greek and Roman societies? Absolutely not, for the simple reason that the Classics contain the epitome of human accomplishment in literature, art, and philosophy, and pose questions that represent the essence of being human.

No hyperbole need be invoked to consider Homer’s awesome feat of reciting the tens of

thousands of metered lines of the Iliad and Odyssey without a script. Both Greece and Rome were the most powerful nations in their times, flourishing for thousands of years. The Greeks gave us the concept of a complete democracy, and the Romans gave us the concept of a republic. The majority of nations today have some form of these two governments. Euclidean geometry,

drama, tragedy, architecture, and much more were all expounded upon by Greek and Roman

minds, and it would be an unforgivable loss to humanity to forget what classical civilizations did for today’s and tomorrow’s world.

"These classical works... go far beyond the stories themselves and into the meaning of life and the human condition."

AN IDEA WORTH SHARING: WHY THE CLASSICS MATTER

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