Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The New Athens?


Historian Victor Davis Hanson
on lessons America might draw from the funeral oration of Pericles. An excerpt:

In truth, it would be hard to imagine an oration more disturbing to the modern American elite’s sensibilities than Pericles’ majestic funeral oration delivered in the winter of 431/30 B.C. at the end of the first campaigning season of the Peloponnesian War—a masterful summary some 2,500 years old of what once made imperial democratic Athens great and why, in its darkest hours, it would prevail. The unabashed confidence of Pericles in his own civilization and national ethos, and the eloquence by which he conveyed it, were once gold standards for unapologetic Western democratic rhetoricians. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill both emulated the speech’s reverence for ancestry, tradition, and cultural exceptionalism as a way of explaining why a confident America or Britain, in extremis, deserved its influence and should express it openly beyond its borders.

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