Greece vs Rome: the ultimate clash of civilisations (vid)
On November 19th Intelligence Squared hosted the ultimate clash of civilisations: Greece vs Rome. But it was also the ultimate clash of intellectual titans.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and ardent classicist, made the case for Greece and Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge and redoubtable media star, championed Rome.
As Boris argued, the Greeks got there first: in literature, history, art and philosophy, with the Iliad and the Odyssey being the earliest surviving epic poems and the foundations on which European literature was built.
Boris also mentioned that it was in ancient Athens that the birth of democracy took place and in that political climate which was characterized by its love of freedom and competition, and passion for argument, the great cultural flourishing of classical Athens occurred.
The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle, are just few of the examples, stated Boris.
On the other hand, though, Mary Beard said that Greece eventually lost out to Rome.
As she argued from Hadrian’s Wall to north Africa, from Spain’s Atlantic coast to Babylon, the Romans stamped a permanent legacy on architecture, language, religion and politics, while the great Roman writers have an immediacy unmatched by any other ancient culture.
While Athens declined into a forgotten backwater, Rome became the eternal city, home to the greatest classical buildings on earth – the Colosseum, the Pantheon and Trajan’s column, said Beard adding that it is thanks to a Roman emperor, Constantine, that Christianity became both the presiding European religion and the force that shaped the Renaissance.