Quo Vadunt Studia Classica?
As is well known, the classics, that is, the study of the languages, literatures, history, and civilization of the ancient Greeks and Romans—Klassische Altertumswissenschaft is the apt if somewhat ponderous German name—have long since lost the preeminence which was freely accorded them during the nineteenth century and earlier. Latin, the mainstay of colonial education, the most common foreign language taught in American high schools until well after the First World War, and for decades before that the open-sesame for college entrance, has had difficulty in maintaining a place even as an elective in the secondary-school curriculum, while Greek, always recognized as being slightly esoteric—Samuel Johnson compared it to lace: “Every man gets as much of it as he can”—has all but disappeared from the public high school. In terms of numbers, the situation has, of course, affected the status of the classics at the higher levels of education also. When I was majoring in the classics at the City College of New York during the late 1920s my department occupied one of the choicest offices available: accessible, spacious, sunny; the Department of Public Speaking, as it was then called, had been allotted one that was small, rather dark, and hard to find. When I last visited my alma mater the two departments had exchanged offices. Sic transit …!
KeywordsPublic High School Hellenistic Period Royal Palace Classical Philologist Roman Republic
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