In August 2017, during the Charlottesville riots, I was on the Gulf of Corinth for a two-week Ancient Greek seminar with a focus on Hesiod, when the old antagonism between letters and life reared its head again. American academics, musing aloud, wondered why we had chosen Classics over direct engagement: who cares about the minutiae of Dark Age wagon construction now? In Greece the murderously neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, bolstered by the financial and immigration crises, had finished third in the 2015 elections, but commiserations of the Greeks were little comfort. Few of us could recall a time when our own national attempt at Eunomia, good order, seemed so precarious, when the groundwork of achieved civilization felt more like a rug being pulled out from under our feet. (Needless to say, in the interim those anxieties have hardly diminished.)

We might have been...


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