Select Only What You Like from The Ancients

St. Basil may have set some patterns that persist to this day.

Basil the Great, To Young Men 4

“Don’t be surprised if I have discovered something pretty profitable for those of you who go each day to teachers and the sayings of ancient men in the works they have left behind them. This is the very thing I have come for the purpose of telling you, that it is not necessary that you give up to these men for good the rudders of your understanding, the way you would a ship, to follow them wherever they lead. No, accept from them only as much as is useful and recognize what should be overlooked.”

Μὴ θαυμάζετε δὲ εἰ καὶ καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν εἰς διδασκάλους φοιτῶσι, καὶ τοῖς ἐλλογίμοις τῶν παλαιῶν ἀνδρῶν, δι᾿ ὧν καταλελοίπασι λόγων, συγγινομένοις ὑμῖν αὐτός τι παρ᾿ ἐμαυτοῦ λυσιτελέστερον ἐξευρηκέναι φημί. τοῦτο μὲν οὖν αὐτὸ καὶ ξυμβουλεύσων ἥκω, τὸ μὴ δεῖν εἰς ἅπαξ τοῖς ἀνδράσι τούτοις, ὥσπερ πλοίου, τὰ πηδάλια τῆς διανοίας ὑμῶν παραδόντας, ᾗπερ ἂν ἄγωσι, ταύτῃ συνέπεσθαι· ἀλλ᾿ ὅσον ἐστὶ χρήσιμον αὐτῶν δεχομένους, εἰδέναι τί χρὴ καὶ παριδεῖν.

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One thought on “Select Only What You Like from The Ancients

  1. Erik

    This is solid advice for reading in general, but especially for classics these days. We read some monstrous stuff in Ovid the other day, and I had to thread the needle in explaining to the students why he was still my favorite author despite writing some pretty objectionable lines.

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