Giving Back the Classics Love Posted on October 12th, 2007 by

rogueclassicism passes along this inspiring piece of news from the Australian newspaper The Age:

Donor Chips in a Million for Classics
Margaret Cook 
October 8, 2007

WHEN UNIVERSITIES are fighting for every dollar they can get, even the smallest donation is welcome. But the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Classics and Archaeology never dreamed that one generous graduate would give it $1 million.
The donor, who has insisted on anonymity, believes more young people should experience the joy of studying classics, pro vice-chancellor Professor Warren Bebbington says….”Many donors are very self-effacing and prefer anonymity,” Professor Bebbington says. “Their pleasure is in giving.”

About 1200 students, including postgraduates, enrol [in classics courses] each year, says Professor Mackie. A small number of students have studied VCE Latin or ancient Greek, says Professor Mackie. The languages, which are not easy to learn, are intended more for reading than speaking. “However, many students enjoy the analytical challenge and wrestling with difficult languages written by highly skilled people. “They are also very interested in Greece and Rome and want to study these civilisations in more depth. If they can read the original texts (rather than translations), they get closer to the spirit of the material.”

Apart from being “gateways to the texts”, Mr O’Maley says Latin and Greek improve students’ understanding of English grammar. “Classics also provides a good knowledge of your own history and the Judeo-Christian civilisation. The Greeks taught about the way to live a good life 2500 years ago, and in terms of humanities-based thought, it’s a very rich area. You can find things in The Iliad and The Odyssey that are relevant to modern life and modern political thought.”

Professor Mackie, who was senior academic consultant on Winged Sandals, the ABC Online children’s program about Greek myths, believes community interest in classics is growing. “More people than ever” are reading them in translation because they are so readily available, he says. He also cites the popularity of films such as Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy and television documentaries.

On a personal level, studying classics enriches people’s lives, but there are also pragmatic benefits in studying classics, he says. “Many big companies in Britain and the US see classics graduates as well-rounded, erudite, articulate and good thinkers, and this is increasingly the case in Australia. I have graduates working in business, finance and the public service,” he says.

“Many people want to give back because they had a wonderful time here (as students),” Professor Bebbington says.

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