The Study Of Greek And Roman Literature With Reference To The Present Times -- By: Charles Siedhof

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 005:17 (Feb 1848)
Article: The Study Of Greek And Roman Literature With Reference To The Present Times
Author: Charles Siedhof


The Study Of Greek And Roman Literature With Reference
To The Present Times

Charles Siedhof, Ph. D.

After the long, almost lethargic slumber following the storms of the Reformation, and interrupted, if we except political disturbances,

whose appeal was rather to the sword than the pen, only by a few schools of theology that are still doing battle together, there finally dawned forth as a necessary counterpart a new day. All things which had been considered as authentic and sacred till the middle of the preceding century were now made a subject of doubt; they were shaken to their foundations, and the question was asked whether these were still strong enough to bear the structure that was daily growing higher and heavier. On this occasion novelty had its peculiar attractions; the German fondness for all things foreign afforded a wide field to English and especially French influences, and it seemed as if the Rationalism of Kant, which was striving to establish itself in all branches of learning and life, in place of the old harmless and implicit trust in authority, were destined to extirpate and destroy this blind confidence, root and branch. Then came the French revolution, breaking in upon the world and its mechanism with such appalling power, that its vibrations will not soon cease to agitate the minds of men. In its front stalks Napoleon like a wasting demon with iron sceptre. The steps to the imperial throne which, after the example of the Byzantine emperors, he strove to rear, are red with blood; he stands forth alone in the night of his time, like a baleful meteor, and points towards the East, with threatening finger, to down-trodden humanity that lay and groaned at his feet. But the sun arose victorious here; the meteor vanished suddenly, as it had come; in its place a joyous dawn shone forth, only obscured by occasional driving clouds.

Amid such stupendous revolutions,—unexampled in extent and suddenness,—and their consequent changes, it is natural that individual elements should not at once come distinctly forth and act and react till they neutralized each other; they differ rather by almost imperceptible shades, and harmonize or conflict with one another in proportion to the greatness of their sympathies and antipathies. It is not the object of these remarks to show how this takes place in all the various relations of society; we shall content ourselves with showing the view in which Greek and Roman literature is regarded at the present day, as distinguished from former times. On the one side are the philologists of the old school, holding up the study of this literature in highways and byways, as the one thing needful for almost every man; on the other it is every day attacked with increasing zeal and...

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