The study of Western classics includes mainly Greco-Roman literature about various fields such as myth, philosophy or history, the Old Testament or other Christian documents. Because they are written in Ancient Greek or Latin which have a wide influence, there are very many documents which are studied. Many people, for example, professors or teachers say that the Western classics are the basis of Western culture. I think that classics are very meaningful and attractive. There are two main reasons for this. First, studying classics is beginning to understand the culture of the West which built the modern world system. Second, the view of the world of the Western classics has fertile images.
Studying classics is a beginning to understand the culture of the West which built the system of the modern society. The basis of the modern world lies in the modern philosophy which supports the modern Western system, and there are two sources of the modern philosophy. One is the Greek idea and the other is the faith of the Hebrews. As Iwata (2003, p.ⅲ) says, modern philosophy in Europe is the development of these two sources, the rebellion against them, or the transformation of them. So, to understand radically the idea ruling the modern society, we need to understand its source, the Greek idea and the faith of the Hebrew, by studying classics. So, classics is very meaningful to study for us living in the modern society.
Another reason why classics is the study worth studying is that the view of the world of the Western classics has fertile images. Images of Greek gods expressed in works of Ancient Greek or Roman epic poets supplied the inspiration for many writers and artists and they are used as a theme or motif of many drama or pictures. For example, the story of Pyramus and Thisbe from “Metamorphoses” by the roman poet Ovid was the motif of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Of course, stories in the Bible are used as a theme of many works, too. So, it may be said that we can develop our sensitivity when we study classics.
Classics is a meaningful study for us and it attracts people for a long time. It is a beginning to understand the modern world based on the modern Western philosophy. Furthermore, it has fertile imagines and supplied inspiration for people from way back. Classics should be studied more positively in Japan now.
Iwata, Y. (2003), Yoroppa Shiso Nyumon, Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, Publishers.