Classical Decline by Gerald J. Russello

Classical Decline

Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin
by Tracy Lee Simmons
Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2002
(290 pages; $24.95, cloth)

reviewed by Gerald J. Russello

Knowledge of the classics was once so ubiquitous as to be unremarkable. Public figures were supposed to be well versed in the culture and languages of Rome and Greece. To take examples almost at random: President Herbert Hoover translated, with his wife, the classic mining treatise De Re Metallica; President William Henry Harrison gave the Senate a disquisition on the Roman army; the public architecture in cities across the country reflect classical models; and institutions like the Boston Latin School inculcated a respect for the classics to generations of students. And of course, with notable exceptions like the Pennsylvania physician Benjamin Rush, the founding generation simply assumed the abiding importance of the ancient languages to both public life and private conduct.

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