OK, so Johnson can recite a passage from The Iliad, Homer’s epic poem but why does this matter? Does it show him to be clever and deserving of his position in society, or is there something more to it?
Before I go any further, I can confirm that I have read the Iliad, in English I must add. I have no Greek, modern or ancient and I didn’t enjoy the poem. It’s epic tales of war meant nothing to me but now I am at least one of those people who can say they have read it.
Johnson’s recital caused quite a stir in the Twittersphere with both sides falling into their usual camps. Those pro-Johnson claimed that it showed how clever and well educated he was while those anti claimed it showed how out of touch he is and that even a trained parrot can recite things with enough time.
The issue goes much deeper however. The vast majority of our Prime Ministers have been educated at one school, Eton, and are well versed in the classics. Indeed much of our establishment has also been through a similar upbringing.
Our society is built upon the belief that we are somehow descended from the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. Other civilisations, equally as influential in the world, such as the Egyptians and Babylonians tend to be ignored. I am not aware of their languages being often repeated.
By quoting Ancient Greek or Latin it ties the speaker into these cultures. They become part of the very fabric that has built our society. They have the knowledge that has been passed down from the great civilising cultures. They are the descendants of the people who made us who we are and it is a way of reinforcing the establishment.
These people are to be revered, they represent a link to a master race, or at least that is what they would have you believe.
Quod erat demonstratum!