'If you do not know where you come from, you will always be a child.' Cicero wasn't talking about being a child in the sense of enjoying life in a state of ignorant bliss. He was, rather, adamant that those who don't understand their origins are consigned to a life without power or authority, without the ability to act fully in the world. Love, Sex & Tragedy is acclaimed classicist Simon Goldhill's corrective to our state of ignorance. Lifting the veil on our inheritance of classical traditions, Goldhill offers a witty, engrossing survey of the Greek and Roman roots of everything from our overwhelming mania for 'hard bodies' to our political systems.
Marx, Clark Gable, George W. Bush, Oscar Wilde, and Freud—Goldhill's range here is enormous, and he takes great delight in tracing both follies and fundamental philosophical questions through the centuries and continents to the birthplace of Western civilization as we know it. Underlying his brisk and learned excursions through history and art is the foundational belief, following Cicero, that learning about the classics makes a critical difference to our self-understanding. Whether we are considering the role of religion in contemporary society, our expectations about the boundaries between public and private life, or even how we spend our free time, recognizing the role of the classics is integral to our comprehension of modern life and our place in it.
When Goldhill asks 'Who do you think you are?' he presents us with the rarest of opportunities: the chance to let him lead us, firmly but with a wink, back two thousand years to where we are.