Dr. Armand D’Angour initially studied piano and cello at the Royal College of Music, so it seems out of sorts that we would turn to a professional musician to discuss what ancient Greeks would do if faced with the country’s current situation. However, the London native, who was working as a cellist when he decided to study Classics, received his Masters degree from Merton and a Doctorate from University College in London; he is now an expert on the subject with a published book on ancient Greek culture and a position as Classics lecturer at Jesus College in Oxford.
Dr. D’Angour was also commissioned to compose a Pindaric Ode to Athens, which was read at the 2004 Athens Olympics. His first academic book Greeks and the New: Novelty in Ancient Greek Imagination and Experience was published in 2011, and he’s written numerous articles on language, literature and culture. Dr. D’Angour decided to focus on Greek and Latin specifically, saying he “fell in love with the languages (especially Greek) at a young age. I was taught them at primary school in the 1960s when Classical languages were still considered the most important basis of a liberal education.”
The author recently took on the task of asking what the ancient Greeks would do if they found themselves in the situation Greece is in today. BBC World News published a piece he wrote, ‘Ancient Greek Solution for Debt Crisis,’ in which he offers ideas on how Greece’s forefathers would advise on what’s now happening in the country. Greek Reporter spoke to Dr. D’Angour about his work, and what he believes Greeks could learn from the old school way of thinking.
You just had your book published Greeks and the New: Novelty in Ancient Greek Imagination and Experience. Congratulations. You obviously are thoroughly familiar with Ancient Greece, what made you decide to write the book?
I wanted to show that the commonly held view that the Greeks were averse to innovation needs to be rethought, and that much Greek innovation stemmed from a deliberate aim to do something new and better.
An article of yours was also published on BBC News entitled, ‘Ancient Greek Solution for Debt Crisis.’ How much do you think Modern Greeks would benefit from looking to their ancestors for answers given the current situation?
I think the whole world, not just the Greeks of today, can learn from the wise and brilliant ideas of the ancient Greeks enshrined in their myth, literature, and philosophy.
What sorts of ideas specifically from philosophy, literature, etc. of the ancient Greeks do you feel the world can learn from? Is there a more targeted way of thinking that is better suited for modern day from ancient times?
The ancient Greeks teach us that there is an endless source of inspiration for reaching innovative solutions. They are hard to come by, may be uncomfortable, and are never final. But as in Pandora’s pithos, there is always hope.
What would Socrates and Plato, being two of the most famous ancient Greeks, have to say about the situation Greece has been/is facing?
They both would have thought that far too much emphasis is placed on economic well-being as the path to the ‘good life,’ and that human beings need to concentrate more on their moral, spiritual and intellectual well-being.
Speaking of Socrates, he was acquitted this past May in a re-run of his fourth century BC trial, although he was initially found guilty. Which verdict is more appropriate? Was the retrial justified?
Socrates should never have been condemned to death or executed, but had he not been it is unlikely that he would have inspired his devoted pupil Plato to write his brilliant dialogues and created the basis for all of Western philosophy since.
Finally, besides looking to the past for help in getting out of debt, what is your opinion on what lies ahead for Greece?
My personal view (as a non-economist) is that a Greek exit from the Euro would be a moral and financial disaster for the whole world, not just for Greece. The stronger nations of Europe should be committed to helping all who are in the Euro, and to help them do the right things to resolve their problems. Responsibility must be taken by all parties in this crisis.