London: Is there anyone out there who still wants a reputation as a scholar of the ancient classics — without bothering to learn Latin and Greek? It`s simple and easy. Just read a consistently amusing but quite serious book by a woman known as one of Britain`s leading broadcast comedians.
Then just quote.
Author Natalie Haynes was struck in her preteens with a crush on the old accounts. She pursued an education in classical languages and literature that took her through Cambridge University. That`s a better way to become expert. It enables ‘The Ancient Guide to Modern Life’ to cover history from the oldest known Greek philosophers to the collapse of the Roman empire.
When she was 12, Haynes was touched by the story of a couple who enjoyed their house and garden in Pompeii. The couple didn`t know — as Natalie knew — what the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 would do to all of them.
When she read Virgil`s ‘The Aeneid,’ she was hit by another emotion: indignation. Today`s stories for children about the Trojan horse might have been judged by Trojan eyes as oversimplified and unfair.
They weren`t stupid about the big wooden carving loaded with Greek soldiers that they took into their city. To them, sneaky Greeks and supernatural monsters sent by Greek gods were just too much for their kind natures.
"I was as hooked as the poor Trojans," she writes.
Describing an ancient event in today`s terms brings it to life and clarifies new thought that the description may inspire.
She complains of today`s world where so many people refuse to acknowledge anything but the present. So her book compiles some of what she considers the best stories of the ancient world, stories about people much like ourselves, from whom we may have something to learn.
"Myths are debunked — Julius Caesar`s last words weren`t `Et tu, Brute?`" she writes. That`s Latin for "You too, Brutus?"
That`s debatable, but worth debating. She finds one ancient source, known for gossip, who suggested that Caesar`s words, as conspirators plunged their daggers into him, were not Latin but Greek. The Greek words translate as "You too, child?"
A possible explanation: Caesar was known to have a long-term relationship with a married woman, and she had a son named Marcus Junius Brutus.
Caesar might have been the father.
Why the Greek language? The author doesn`t explain. Many educated Romans spoke Greek. But maybe Caesar`s last thought was that the less educated in the crowd would miss the implied insult to the lady and her young son if he avoided identifying them in the language they understood.