Magazine article The Spectator

The Pride of Greece

Magazine article The Spectator

The Pride of Greece

Article excerpt

A burning desire to come out on top is bred into the bone of every modern, as it was of every ancient, Greek. Now that the EU is publicly humiliating the country, no wonder there is revolution on the streets.

When Achilles went to Troy, his father ordered him 'always to be best and superior to everyone else'.

In another war, another Greek hero Amphiaraus 'had no desire to be reputed the best: he wanted to be the best'. Victory at the Olympic Games, in the opinion of the poet Pindar, brought a man as close as it was possible to being a god on earth. But if Greeks cared very much indeed about winning, they cared even more about losing. But at least there was one compensation: if they failed, revenge was always at hand, and that was almost as sweet.

Romans felt exactly the same way.

Lucius Caecilus Metellus founded one of the great noble houses of Rome and died in 221 bc. His son Quintus said of him at his funeral: 'My father achieved the ten greatest and best things, which wise men spend their whole lives seeking. He wished to be the first of warriors, the best of orators, and the most valiant of commanders; to be in charge of the greatest affairs and held in the greatest honour; to possess supreme wisdom and be regarded as supreme in the Senate; to come to great wealth by honourable means;

to leave many children; and to be the most distinguished person in the state. …

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