Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

A TEACHER at a Catholic school, Shairon Rodgers (and she certainly does), has had three children by three different fathers (an ex-husband, a fellow teacher and a former pupil). She is astonished to have been asked to leave. 'I have a right to a personal life and a right to have a baby,' she protested.

Ancient Greeks would have found incomprehensible this appeal to 'rights' now ritually uttered by anybody who thinks they have been hard done by. The reason is that Greeks did not regard the state as the means by which individual freedoms were to be protected.

A concept such as `conscientious objection', for example, would have seemed to them an absurd idea. At one time Socrates found himself chairman of a powerful public committee which had a tricky question to decide should those admirals who had failed to pick up the survivors after the battle of Arginusae (406 BC) be tried en bloc or not? Trial en bloc was illegal, but the Assembly cried for a vote to be taken on the matter, and the committee became so terrified they agreed - all except Socrates. …

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