david grene: looking for hedgehogs


Most classical scholars spend much of their time incongruously reading about activities that they are unlikely ever to develop expertise in, or even witness: rowing triremes, casting metal weapons, and handling distaffs. But Grene actually performed the same tasks as one of his heroes, the narrator of Hesiod’s Works and Days. Persephone-like, for half of each year, Grene was a scholar of ancient Greek literature and thought, with something of a cult following, at the University of Chicago. But what he was really proud of was what he did with the other six months. He knew more about farming than any other twentieth-century classicist, with the possible exception of Victor Davis Hanson, who farms grapes and olives. The pervasive Aesopic tone in Of Farming and Classics is set in the opening two pages, with Grene’s description of the hedgehog he had captured as a child: “Like all hedgehogs I have ever known he managed to escape fairly soon”. The point here is not that the spiny mammal got away, but that Grene had, during the course of his life, been personally acquainted with a significant number of hedgehogs.

more from the TLS here.