Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Karl Marx and the Classics
E.M. Butler, The Tyranny of Greece over Germany
(1935), p. 144:
Living in Trier, under the shadow of the Porta Nigra, Marx received as good an education as the Europe of his day could give. At school he acquired a firm grasp of both Greek and Latin, and throughout life kept up his acquaintance with both literatures. Shaw, never without a strain of cheap Voltairianism, sneered at Homer; Marx adored him, and in his family Homer was regularly read aloud. At school he read in the original Sophocles, Thucydides and Plato, Cicero, Virgil and Tacitus. It may seem odd to find Marx translating Ovid, yet this interest persisted into later life; he preferred the poems of exile. In the questionnaire he filled up in 1865, Marx names Aeschylus, together with Shakespeare and Goethe, as one of his three favorite poets. Each year he read him through in Greek; on him, as on Goethe and Shelley, the Prometheus made a particularly strong impression.