The ancient world still casts a spell. While the educated public surely knows less about Greek and Roman culture than it did a hundred years ago, many men and women continue to approach antiquity with keen expectations, believing that even a rapid glance in that distant mirror can help us better understand ourselves. Robert Fagles’s new translation of the Aeneid was a publishing event last fall, with commentators suggesting that Virgil’s reflections on war and empire could shed some light on America’s situation in Iraq; more generally, the question of whether America is Rome increasingly preoccupies contemporary debates about American foreign policy. And far away from the worlds of power and policy, the opening of the final sections of the new Greek and Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has turned out to be one of the most engrossing museum- going experiences of recent years. Walking through the galleries on a weekday afternoon, you can see how eagerly, how gleefully, college students respond to the unabashed eroticism of the ancient world, to an avidity for bodies that makes even twenty-first-century urban permissiveness look rather puritanical.
more from Jed Perl at TNR here.