Why to study classical cultures in the XXI century?

This is a question posed nowadays to almost every classical philologist or student of classical cultures. So it is quite useful to know some convincing arguments, because there will be always situations confronting you with the allegation that Latin or Classical Greek are so called “dead languages” nobody is speaking in the XXI century, a time of modernity and a fast changing world. The differences of now and then seem insurmountable and too huge for all non – defenders of ancient languages and cultures. As you may have noticed I used the word “ insurmountable” which has got Latin roots, in fact it is mons, tis that means “mountain”. This simple example is just one of many proving an existing relation between Latin and modern languages. Aside from that linguistic phenomenon – studying languages always means more…Without the influence of Roman and Greek culture upon whole Europe, our continent wouldn’t be the same as today. Classical culture, therefore, is language and culture at the same time. “Culture” on the other hand is split into various fields like architecture, archaeology, history, philosophy and literature, subjects which represent with that plenty and variation of information the basis of our current “humanistic formation”. Each area is culturally related to our society: Greek tragedies in theatre, names of cars inspired by Greek mythology (for example the cabriolet Eos of VW), Hollywood movies about Greek and Roman period (Troy, Gladiator). But the real and visible benefit of classical studies (especially by means of Latin) is to learn how languages are working – with all of its logical and grammatical structures. The effect of linguistic awareness is enormous and improves additionally the sense for the mother tongue. And that’s the point: modern languages are mainly used for quick and flexible communication. As a consequence Latin works in a way as an example of linguistic correctness and pureness, two factors with a high risk of getting lost in our languages today. Latin should be understood as a sophisticated method of a linguistic system on the one hand and as subject of studies of literature on the other hand, non including the above mentioned branches. The argument of a “dead” language for Latin is partly correct. What about all the Romanic languages of today? A lot of words have Latin roots. Its “death” is limited because of furthermore existing foreign words or special terms. Learning Latin means learning the basis of other popular foreign languages like Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French at the same time. Pupils will have much less difficulties with it, when they had learnt Latin before. In Germany for example it is taking place a kind of renaissance of Latin as subject these days. Apparently there is a need of a aesthetic and classical education on the part of the pupils, parents and last but not least of teachers! In my opinion, it isn’t just a quickly passing appearance but an useful indicator of social request. Back to the roots! For this reason the future of each student (in Germany) ,who is enthusiastic about Greek and Latin, seems quite safe! Latin as teaching subject offers promising fields of activity and don’t forget about the educational aspect! In summary studying classical cultures in the XXI century is a scientific challenge in the face of the technical development because there is still a lot to discover (archaeology and fragmentary texts). But it isn’t a question of the XXI century concerning the content of classical studies, they are timeless and therefore “classical”!

Victoria Maar

(Aluna Erasmus)

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