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Chi ha paura dei Greci e dei Romani? Dialogo e «cancel culture»

The ancient classics have become something to fear. It was hard to predict that one day people would warn against reading ancient Greek and Roman works, strewing them with danger signs and even directly excluding some of them from the canon. These same people would eventually accuse the classics of having contaminated our culture with racism, sexism, white supremacy, even going so far as to hope that these works would no longer be taught. And yet this is what has happened. It is a recent phenomenon, but above all it is a new and unexpected one, whose motivations cannot be ignored. And like everything that is new and unexpected, it has obliged us to once more reflect on the same old problem – what are the classics for us? – from a new point of view. Maurizio Bettini exhorts us to keep the dialogue alive and to avoid the dangers inherent in its interruption.Because this is exactly what happens when we show fear of the Greeks and Romans: an interruption of the dialogue between us and the classics, between us and history, between us and the past.

Maurizio Bettini is the Director of the Centre for Anthropology and the Ancient World of the University of Siena. His books include: Nascere. Storie di donne, donnole, madri ed eroi, Voci. Antropologia sonora del mondo antico, Vertere. Un’antropologia della traduzione nella cultura antica, Il dio elegante. Vertumno e la religione romana, A che servono i Greci e i Romani?, Homo sum. Essere «umani» nel mondo antico. He directs the book series “Mythologica” for Einaudi.