Acquiring the Greek Spirit

Gilbert Murray, The Place of Greek in Education

“Some few subjects ought to be studied by everybody: do not think that Greek is one of them.

Greek is a language of unusual difficulty, and a man can undoubtedly reach very high points of culture without any knowledge of Greek. And beyond this there is a distinction to be observed. I believe that for the student of history, of political philosophy, of ethics, of logic, of psychology, and also for the student of most forms of art, the floods of light which ancient Greece can shed upon these subjects is something incalcuable and beyond price. But, in considering all these cases, we must remember one important fact, that Greece and not Greek is the real subject of our study. There is more in Hellenism than a language, though that language may be the liveliest and richest ever spoken by man. It is quite possible for a man who cannot read a single page of Plato intelligently, to acquire a tolerable proportion of the Greek spirit: to enter into that peculiar way of looking at things, that extraordinary shrewdness and knowledge of the world, that child-like impulsiveness for wild hopes and idealism, which seems to leave a stamp of genius upon almost any sentence that has fallen from an Athenian pen.”

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