Excerpts from H.L. Mencken, The Greeks
(review of The Cambridge Ancient History
, vol. V, published in American Mercury
, Oct. 1927, pp. 254-255):
The Greek language was the first lost tongue recovered in modern times, and the men who recovered it naturally made as much as they could of the ideas that came with it. Ever since the Renaissance it has been a mark of intellectual distinction to know Greek, though there is no record that knowing it has ever helped any man to think profitable thoughts. That distinction, to be sure, now begins to fade and wear thin, but there was a time, just before the beginning of the current rapid increase of knowledge, when it rose above all other forms of intellectual eminence, and it was during that period that the world was saddled with the exalted view of Greece and the Greeks that still survives.
Were the Greeks scientists? Then so are the modern chiropractors.
The barbaric surges and thunders of the Odyssey, in these twilight days of Christendom, are moving only to professors of Greek which is to say, to men whose opinion on any other subject would be rejected even by their fellow professors and the enjoyment of Greek tragedy, that unparalleled bore, is confined almost wholly to actresses who have grown too fat for Ibsen; but the ideas of Lucian and Aristophanes still live, and so do those of the Four Hundred.