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Posts Tagged ‘Plato’

Jocks and Greeks

Just to prove that I don’t only care about misquotations of Thucydides – though admittedly I came across this one in the course of correcting yet another occurrence of the familiar “the society that separates its scholars from its warriors…” line. In this case, it was being cited in response to this tweet:

This looked somewhat dubious at first glance, and attempts at googling key phrases just produced lots of people quoting the same thing (or the same thing with “too effeminate”), mostly in support of their sporting philosophies. However, as Sententiae Antiquae (@sentantiq) has identified, it is not completely ungenuine: it’s a paraphrase of Jowett’s translation of the Republic, 410b-412a, simply substituting ‘scholar’ for the original ‘musician’. According to Socrates, the man who can best blend music with gymnastics and apply them both to the soul is not merely the ideal citizen but the prototype of the city’s future rulers. You could even argue that it’s not unreasonable to see music as standing in for the whole range of liberal arts, requiring the admixture of physical training and prowess to make them fulling effective just as athletes need to indulge their inner geek to avoid complete savagery. And actually this seems to be paraphrasing so much text that it seems likely it was never originally intended to be read as a quote – but someone then reproduced it as such… (more…)

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There’s a strong case to be made that the most active field of engagement with the classical past and its legacy outside the creative arts, and certainly the area where this engagement has the greatest potential for real world impact, is military education, especially in the United States. Several ancient authors have long been included within the canon of military and strategic studies: Thucydides above all, but also Homer, Xenophon and Caesar (and the candidate for Secretary of Defense, retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, is a devotee of Marcus Aurelius). Works on ancient warfare, largely based on these texts, regularly feature in lists of recommended reading: Donald Kagan on the Peloponnesian War, Victor Davis Hanson on the Western Way of War. This clearly derives from the importance of historical studies in the curricula of various military education establishments, most famously the US Naval War College with its use of Thucydides as a foundational text, and the way that this reading then regularly features in the public remarks of senior military officers.*

Recently – this is an impression rather than a scientific survey – this tendency seems to have increased; (more…)

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