Graham Sumner

A member of the Ermine Street Guard Roman re-enactment society responds to Mark Ryan's article arguing that Roman culture was inferior to Greek
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The Independent Online

In his recent piece ("How the Romans hijacked the games", 30 August), Mark Ryan remarked: "Never mind the accuracy; have fun." However, there where a few inaccuracies and debatable issues in his article that are worth pointing out.

In his recent piece ("How the Romans hijacked the games", 30 August), Mark Ryan remarked: "Never mind the accuracy; have fun." However, there where a few inaccuracies and debatable issues in his article that are worth pointing out.

There are many reasons why people are drawn to Rome, and not Greece, other than a morbid fascination with gladiatorial spectacles. Ancient Rome appears closer to us than ancient Greece, not just historically in time, but because the visible remains of its civilisation are still around us.

That is not just in the form of its physical ruins, but in language, literature, laws and customs. Men still carry their bride over the threshold, as the Romans did, while the portraits of Roman emperors are probably better known to us than many recent British prime ministers.

Mr Ryan says: "In every great period of history, when people sought to reach beyond themselves and the limitations of time and place, they reached, as if by instinct, to classical Greece." But it was to Rome that Shakespeare frequently turned. It was Greek art that attempted to depict man as a god-like superhero that Nazi artists tried to imitate, rather than the warts-and-all approach seen in Roman art (it was also Hitler, I believe, who introduced the use of the torch into the Olympic Games, hardly an example of the Olympian ideal!).

Greek art often smacks of the élite and not of the common man, like Roman art; perhaps that is what Mr Ryan finds so vulgar. A diverse cultural mix is often found in Roman art. It is that which is so valuable to modern archaeologists and historians attempting to reconstruct and understand Roman life. Hundreds of statues of naked Greek blokes are, by comparison, practically worthless in that respect!

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