The Greek Tradition: Papers Contributed to a Symposium Held at the Baltimore Museum of Art, May 15, 16, 17, 1939

The Greek Tradition: Papers Contributed to a Symposium Held at the Baltimore Museum of Art, May 15, 16, 17, 1939

The Greek Tradition: Papers Contributed to a Symposium Held at the Baltimore Museum of Art, May 15, 16, 17, 1939

The Greek Tradition: Papers Contributed to a Symposium Held at the Baltimore Museum of Art, May 15, 16, 17, 1939

Excerpt

Western civilization is compounded of three ingredients: local custom and superstition, Greek science and art, Hebraic religion. The quantity of the several ingredients varies. In some places, such as France, the Hellenic is as great as the Hebraic; in others, such as contemporary Germany, the local is in ascendance over both the Hellenic and the Hebraic; in America, with its strong Anglo-Saxon heritage and Puritan background, the Hebraic is perhaps the most important. But whatever the proportion of the mixture, every modern occidental civilization is a compound in which the main elements come from the ancient world.

The Baltimore Museum of Art as the subject of its 1939 Symposium has chosen one of these traditions, that one whose effect upon art and science has been most pronounced. The Hebraic tradition has given subject matter to art in the western world ever since the western world was Christianized. Indirectly, by supposed religious taboos for instance, it has influenced the course of science. It might be said also that the "folkways" of the colonists have been responsible for a certain scientific ingenuity in American laboratories as well as for what has been called "practicalism" in philosophy. But the main course of science not only in America but also in Europe has been determined not by local customs but by a tradition of mathematical formulation which comes to us directly from the Greeks. When the medieval sculptors put effigies of Pythagoras and Aristotle on their cathedrals, it was as if they recognized the great contributions of Greek mathematics and logic to man's life.

The Greek tradition is not Greek civilization; it is man's interpretation of that civilization. Every age in European cultural history, like every individual of the intellectual classes, has gone back to the Greeks for inspiration ever since there were any Greeks to go back to. But what Greeks they selected as "The Greeks, . . ."

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