Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

TO HUGE acclaim, Professor Patricia Williams, this year's Reith Lecturer on racism, from Columbia University in New York, has hit town. Not that anyone can understand what she is saying, but who cares about that?

In one of his dialogues Plato describes how the great thinker Protagoras (490420 Bc) from Abdera (northern Greece) hits Athens, with admiring retinue. Socrates' young friend Hippocrates is terribly excited at this and begs Socrates for an introduction. He wants to learn how to be wise, but Socrates is dubious - what sort of wisdom is it that Protagoras claims to impart? Still, he accompanies the youth to Callias' house, where Protagoras and the other mighty brains are staying.

They have some trouble with Callias' doorman, who is fed up with all these bleedin' intellectuals crowding out the place, but are finally admitted. Protagoras is walking up and down in the portico, with a long line of worshippers in tow `following spellbound, charmed by his Orpheus-like voice . …

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