There are plenty of people out there who are far better qualified to offer appreciations of Marshall Berman, who died yesterday, and really this post is just an attempt at directing people who might not otherwise come across them towards such heartfelt tributes as this one by Corey Robin (with helpful links to others, and YouTube clips of Berman in action). I don’t know how many classicists or ancient historians read Berman; his brilliant work on the idea of modernity, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, is one of the major influences on my own Antiquity and Modernity, and I’d be delighted if that had encouraged anyone to investigate it further. However, since the main point of my argument was that Berman’s account of the contradictions of modernity needed to take account of the importance of history and ideas about the past, especially the classical past, I suppose one might get the impression that it’s a book which speaks only to modern history, and hence irrelevant to anyone who’s mainly interested in antiquity. On the contrary: it’s a book about the condition of the present, and hence about the ideas that inevitably shape our perspective on the past, that has far-reaching implications for every attempt we make at making some sense of the past. Besides, of course, offering brilliant readings of various key modern writers, not just Marx but also Goethe, who have shaped our conceptions of the world.