Sententiae in Antiquitatem: Johnson on Athenian Barbarism

Sir Adam introduced the ancient Greeks and Romans. JOHNSON: “Sir, the mass of both of them were barbarians. The mass of every people must be barbarous where there is no printing, and consequently knowledge is not generally diffused. Knowledge is diffused among our people by the news-papers.” Sir Adam mentioned the orators, poets and artists of Greece. JOHNSON: “Sir, I am talking of the mass of the people. We see even what the boasted Athenians were. The little effect which Demosthenes’s orations had upon them, shews that they were barbarians.”

-Boswell, Life of Johnson, p. 410 (New York: The Modern Library)

2 thoughts on “Sententiae in Antiquitatem: Johnson on Athenian Barbarism

  1. Huh, a fascinating idea. After all, when Pericles died, the Athenians collapsed. I mean, never mind a war destroyed the best of them, but it is true, Pericles kept them in check, which speaks to their inability to govern themselves properly.

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