Greece versus Rome, with Boris Johnson and Mary Beard
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On November 19th Intelligence Squared hosted the ultimate clash of civilisations: Greece vs Rome. It was also the ultimate clash of intellectual titans. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and ardent classicist, made the case for Greece; while Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge and redoubtable media star, championed Rome. As Boris argued, the Greeks got there first: in literature, history, art and philosophy. The Iliad and the Odyssey are the earliest surviving epic poems, the foundations on which European literature was built. The Greek myths – the tales of Oedipus, Heracles and Persephone, to name but a few – contain the archetypal plot elements of hubris and nemesis on which even Hollywood films depend today. It was in ancient Athens that the birth of democracy took place under the leadership of the great statesman Pericles. And in that political climate with its love of freedom and competition, and passion for argument, the great cultural flourishing of classical Athens occurred: the tragedies…