We classicists like to think that our subject is one of the great civilising disciplines, that it makes the people who study it better. Sadly for us, though, there is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. A lot of us are arrogant, offensive and utterly assured of the rightness of our position. The most famous exemplar of this is probably the poet and scholar A.E. Housman whose unsurpassed skills as a Latinist were communicated by the most venomous pen of his time. (One Oxford professor of Latin, he commented, had ‘the intellect of an idiot child’.) This is the kind of classicist whose obituary so often includes that killer clause, ‘He did not suffer fools gladly.’
Into these columns a fortnight ago rode another of the breed, Harry Mount, like a fifth horseman of the apocalypse, thundering on about the demise of Classics.