"Greek! Latin!" she spat. "What good it will do you, Greek and Latin? They are dead, the Greeks, the Romans — all dead, for a thousand years they are dead! A thousand years! I have been to Greece, been to Athens! And I can tell you — they are dead! What good did it do them, their literature, their art?! Plato? What good will he do for you? I have been to the grave of Plato, and I can tell you: he has been dead for a thousand years! Trust me, find something else to study, you'll make a living at least, you'll be happier!"From Daniel Mendelsohn's commencement address to the UC-Berkeley Classics department, May 15, 2009, describing his step-grandmother's reaction to his decision to major in Classics.
She took a deep breath and wearily ended with a sentence that—as she could not possibly guess, that May afternoon thirty years ago—would give me the title of a book I would write one day, a book about her vanished world, and how it vanished. "Plato, the Greeks," she muttered. "In a thousand years, it will all be lost."
Full fantastic text here.
© Daniel Mendelsohn. Via Readerville.
Photo is of the Dying Gaul at the Capitoline Museum during WWI, carefully protected by a pyramid of sandbags.