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E text prepared by Ted Garvin, Marc D'Hooghe, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team


By the Reverend T. W. LUMB, M.A.

With an Introduction by



Greek literature is more modern in its tone than Latin or Medieval or Elizabethan. It is the expression of a society living in an environment singularly like our own, mainly democratic, filled with a spirit of free inquiry, troubled by obstinate feuds and still more obstinate problems. Militarism, nationalism, socialism and communism were well known, the preachers of some of these doctrines being loud, ignorant and popular. The defence of a maritime empire against a military oligarchy was twice attempted by the most quick witted people in history, who failed to save themselves on both occasions. Antecedently then we might expect to find some lessons of value in the record of a people whose experiences were like our own.

Further, human thought as expressed in literature is not an unconnected series of phases; it is one and indivisible. Neglect of either ancient or modern culture cannot but be a maiming of that great body of knowledge to which every human being has free access. No man can be anything but ridiculous who claims to judge European literature while he knows nothing of the foundations on which it is built. Neither is it true to say that the ancient world was different from ours. Human nature at any rate was the same then as it is now, and human character ought to be the primary object of study. The strange belief that we have somehow changed for the better has been strong enough to survive the most devilish war in history, but few hold it who are familiar with the classics.

Yet in spite of its obvious value Greek literature has been damned and banned in our enlightened age by some whose sole qualification for the office of critic often turns out to be a mental darkness about it so deep that, like that of Egypt, it can be felt. Only those who know Greek literature have any right to talk about its powers of survival. The following pages try to show that it is not dead yet, for it has a distinct message to deliver. The skill with which these neglected liberators of the human mind united depth of thought with perfection of form entitles them at least to be heard with patience.













I count it an honour to have been asked to write a short introduction to this book. My only claim to do so is a profound belief in the doctrine which it advocates, that Greek literature can never die and that it has a clear and obvious message for us to day. Those who sat, as I did, on the recent Committee appointed by Mr. Lloyd George when Prime Minister to report on the position of the classics in this country, saw good reason to hope that the prejudice against Greek to which the author alludes in his preface was passing away: it is a strange piece of irony that it should ever have been encouraged in the name of Science which owes to the Greeks so incalculable a debt. We found that, though there are many parts of the country in which it is almost impossible for a boy, however great his literary promise, to be taught Greek, there is a growing readiness to recognise this state of affairs as a scandal, and wherever Greek was taught, whether to girls or boys, we found a growing recognition of its supreme literary value. There were some at least of us who saw with pleasure that where only one classical language can be studied there is an increasing readiness to regard Greek as a possible alternative to Latin.

On this last point, no doubt, classical scholars will continue to differ, but as to the supreme excellence of the Greek contribution to literature there can be no difference of opinion... Continue reading book >>

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