I'm currently enjoying the Teaching Company Course "The Emperors of Rome" taught by Professor Garrett Fagan and I see they have announced another course taught by Professor Robert Garland that sounds equally fascinating.
Greece and Rome: An Integrated History of the Ancient Mediterranean explores the many ways in which two very different cultures intersected, coincided, and at times collided. The relationship between Greeks and Romans has virtually no parallel in world history. Their contact created the extraordinary fusion that we call Greco-Roman—a unique marriage of civilizations that encompasses statecraft, mythology, language, philosophy, literature, fine arts, architecture, science, and much else.
Yet there is truth to the traditional view that parts of our cultural heritage derive specifically from Greece or from Rome. For example, the West owes its law codes to the legally oriented outlook of the Romans. By contrast, drama, which never caught on in Roman circles, is a wholly Greek invention. This is an example of how the relationship between these two cultures was like a marriage: two distinct personalities, competing in some areas, sharing in others, and creating a completely new synthesis in a third realm.
This cultural partnership began almost with the first recorded contact of Greeks and Romans in the 4th century B.C. and continued for almost 1,000 years. Consider these revealing clues:
- Much of what we think of today as Classical Greek art is, in fact, copies commissioned by wealthy Roman connoisseurs. The common museum label "Roman copy of a lost Greek original" attests to this fusion of Roman taste and Greek artistry.
- Romans displayed a love–hate relationship with Greece, epitomized by the Roman politician Cato the Elder, who was deeply immersed in Greek culture but who publicly denounced its corrupting influence.
- Educated Romans were predominately bilingual in Greek. Caesar's dying words were not the Latin "Et tu, Brute?" as Shakespeare has it in Julius Caesar, but reportedly the Greek "Kai su, teknon?" meaning "You too, child?"
- Christianity flourished and spread in the unsurpassed infrastructure of the Roman Empire. But the language of the New Testament is Greek, as is the philosophical outlook of Christianity's earliest theologians.