Author: Roland BOER, Research Professor, School of Humanities and Social Science, The University of Newcastle, Australia; Xin-Ao Adjunct Professor, School of Liberal Arts, Renmin University of China
This article explores the myth that the classics of ancient Greece are the basis of Western culture. It begins by exploring how the myth was constructed, especially in the second half of the eighteenth century and then into the nineteenth century. Ancient Greece belatedly became the basis of Western civilisation, ousting older contenders and now embodying reason, the individual, progress, and, eventually, democracy. Then the author asks why this myth was constructed. The ultimate answer is that the need to find a European base (even if it was in Eastern Europe), rather than one among the colonies or “semi-colonies” of Europe, was due to Europe’s late rise to economic and political dominance. In order to get to that point, the author argues that Classics in Western universities managed to leapfrog the old “queen,” theology, by proposing that the philosophical, cultural and political traditions of ancient Greece provided the foundations of theology itself. The paper closes by considering the question of myth, understood in its double-sided sense as both a fiction and a deeper truth. What then is the deeper truth that the fiction of classical origins reveals?
Western classics, theology, Europe, Greece, Rome
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