When I tell people which MA programme I’m studying I am always challenged on my reasons for wanting to study the ancient world. I get the same old “but it is so long ago” or “Latin is a dead language, what is the point?” from many of my mates and from people I meet along the path of life. So, let’s answer this question…
The classics and the ancient world have such a big influence on modern life yet so many people do not realise it. We are so wrapped up in our world of digital content and technology that we seem to forget our roots. We take for granted simple things such as a clean and constant water supply, toilets, sewage systems, baths. On a more political note, we are luckily part of a free speaking democratic state, something not all countries have. Our language itself did not just appear out of the blue. Many of the words we write, speak, and read have ancient origins from both Greece and Rome. I have played on these points for a reason, they ALL derive from the ancients. So much of what we have in our modern life would not be here if the Greeks or Romans had not thought of the idea first, we owe them a great deal. For that reason alone I feel a sense of responsibility to keep their memory alive and help tell their tales of old. My job, which I have set upon myself, is to understand the many aspects of the ancient world and deliver my findings in a way that will benefit the people I relay the information to.
This little blog post will not serve as a history lecture, don’t worry! I just want to make people aware of why we still continue to look to the past, and how important it is that more students take on this same responsibility. This stigma rises from early on as so few students have any sort of exposure to the classics at school. This needs to change! The classics is seen as an exclusive subject, only studied by those rich enough to afford a private education, and also is a world dominated by men. Both of these statements have been true to a certain extent but now are beginning to change. There are a number of excellent female Classicists contributing widely to the academic world that should not be overlooked, Mary Beard being one of them. More recently, there have been groups looking to expand the teaching of the ancient world into our state school system which would be a great way of getting the exposure it needs and helping discover a new generation of Classical Historians. So, with work, we can look to inspire new students into the profession and therefore salvaging the subject. The stigmas attached to it need to be dropped in order to help this, and the benefits and enjoyment someone can get out of the subject need to be promoted.
Okay, so you’ve studied the ancient world and now you want a job. Do you HAVE to be a teacher/academic/museum curator? No. Again, another stereo-type that needs busting. There have been numerous people who have studied the classics that have gone on to be employed in a number of different fields, and some have even ended up in the public limelight! Popular careers include Law, Politics, and jobs within the Private Sector. Look at our wonderful Prime Minister for example, a Classicist in school, but now the leader of a country. Okay maybe don’t aspire to be him, but it shows you can dream big. Take Tom Hiddleston as another example. He’s a hugely popular British actor who has played some big roles, Loki in The Avengers being a prominent one. He was a Classicist for much of his youth and through higher education, achieving a double first at University. Just because you study it does not mean you are confined to it in the workplace, there are options.
I think that is where I will leave this first blog post. As you can probably tell, I’m pretty passionate about my subject and want people to know more about it! If you do want to read further into some of the points I have made then I’ll provide some links below.
Classics For All – https://classicsforall.org.uk