Thursday, 24 December 2009

What would Asterix think?

I hadn't thought about the Unitarian Universalist Christmas Carol in the previous post for a while - I actually found and scheduled it many months ago - so it's a bit of a coincidence (although not completely, considering my philosophy) that yesterday I bought Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show In Earth, which begins thus:

Only A Theory?

Imagine that you are a teacher of Romans history and the Latin language, anxious to impart your enthusiasm for the ancient world - for the elegiacs of Ovid and the odes of Horace, the sinewy economy of Latin grammaras exhibited in the oratory of Cicero, the strategic niceties of the Punic Wars, the generalship of Julius Caesar and the voluptuous excesses of the later emperors. That's s big undertaking and it takes time, concentration, dedication. Yet you find your precious time continually preyed upon, and your class' attention distracted, by a baying pack of ignoramuses (as a Latin scholar you would know better than to say 'ignorami') who, with strong political and especially financial support, scurry about tirelessly attempting to persuade your unfortunste pupils that the Romans never existed. There never was a Roman Empire. The entire world came into existence only just beyond living memory. Spanish, Italian, French, Potuguese, Catalan, Occitan, Romanesh: allthese languages and their constituent dialects sprang spontaneously into being, and owe nothing to any predecessor such as Latin. Instead of devoting your full attention to the noble vocation of classical scholar and teacher, you are forced to divert your time and energy to a rearguard defence of the proposition that the Romans existed at all: a defence againdt an exhibition of ignoranr prejudice that would make you weep if you weren't too busy fighting it.

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