The Corner

Education

‘Are the Classics Racist?’

I wrote today about the effort to destroy the classics. The hook is the New York Times story last week about Princeton classicist Dan-el Padilla Peralta who wants to destroy his own discipline:

The rigors of Greek and Latin, the timeless questions raised by Plato and Aristotle, the literary value of some of the most compelling poems, plays, and tracts ever written, the insights of early historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the oratory of Pericles and Cicero, the awe-inspiring beauty of the architecture, sculpture, and pottery — all of this is available to anyone of any race, ethnicity, or creed.

To look at all these marvels and see only “whiteness” speaks to a reductive obsession with race that is destructive, self-defeating, and, in the end, profoundly depressing.

The Times complains that, paraphrasing critics, “Enlightenment thinkers created a hierarchy with Greece and Rome, coded as white, on top, and everything else below.”

There’s quite a simple reason, though, that Greece and Rome have been subjects of study and fascination for so long — their cultural, political, and legal contributions are so vast and enduring.

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