I’m Not Sorry For Spending My Life on Greek!

Gilbert Murray, Religio Grammatici:

“I believe, therefore, that the best I can do, when the horizon looks somewhat dark, not only for the particular studies which we in this society love most, but for the habits of mind which we connect with those studies, — the philosophic temper, the gentle judgment, the interest in knowledge and beauty for their own sake, — will be simply, with your assistance, to look inward and try to realize my own confession of faith. I do, as a matter of fact, feel clear that, even if knowledge of Greek, instead of leading to bishoprics, as it once did, is in future to be regarded with popular suspicion as a mark of either a reactionary or an unusually feckless temper, I am nevertheless not in the least sorry that I have spent a large part of my life in Greek studies, not in the least penitent that I have been the cause of others doing the same. That is my feeling, and there must be some base for it. There must be such a thing as religio grammatici, the special religion of a man of letters.

The greater part of life for both man and beast is rigidly confined in the round of things that happen from hour to hour. It is ἐπὶ συμφοραῖς, exposed for circumstances to beat upon; its stream of consciousness channelled and directed by the events and environments of the moment. Man is imprisoned in the external present ; and what we call a man’s religion is, to a great extent, the thing that offers him a secret and permanent means of escape from that prison, a breaking of the prison walls which leaves him standing, of course, still in the present, but in a present so enlarged and enfranchised that it is become, not a prison, but a free world. Religion, even in the narrow sense, is always looking for Soteria, for escape, for some salvation from the terror to come, or some deliverance from the body of this death.”

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