THE age we live in is utilitarianperhaps too much so. We have awakened to the fact that anything to be valuable must have a use. The time has passed when we felt that we had employed to the best purpose any object of archæological or artistic interest the moment we derived from it an aesthetic titillation or a momentary wonderment at the unusual character of the object seen. We now know that unless we can appropriate to ourselves the artistic or archaeological value of the specific relic of antiquity, and, from the inspiration derived therefrom, turn to the production of like or better objects of art, or can learn how the ancient peoples of the world lived, and from them learn to correct our own elemental faults; unless we learn this, I say, we fail to make proper use of the invaluable legacy left to us by a venerable antiquity.
It was doubtless in part the idea that we might make better use of the treasures that we have that led the authorities of the Museum to ask me to speak to you of the latent possibilities in the proper employment of the objects possessed by this great institution, in the teaching in our public schoolsand more specifically of the fine opportunities the teachers of the classics have to make the classical past a living age for their pupils. That the choice of speaker has fallen upon me is possibly due to the fact that my early training was classical, then archaeological, and then concerned with the history of art, so that I have enjoyed the privilege of seeing how the classical literature becomes an absolutely new thing when illuminated by the light of the monumental remains of Greece and Rome.
We are all of us conscious of a strong feeling among those interested in classics that this branch of knowledge has been much crowded by the sciences in the immediate past to such an extent as to cause some to fear lest it be blotted out entirely from our school curriculum. How much cause there may be for the fear that refers to the actual disappearance of classics from our schools, I leave for you yourselves to decide. All must admit, however, that the gradual elimination of the subject from some of our schools is a sign of poor intellectual health. That the energy of the advocates of science has been in a measure responsible for this crowding of Greek and Latin is unquestionably true. But this enthusiastic support of the new subjects is not entirely to blame for the neglect of the classics.
The prime reason is that the advocates of the sciences have been able to vitalize them, and by so doing to make them appear to be living, to make them interesting, and to endow them with the specious charm of utility. The teachers of the classics, on the other hand, at least my own early experience with them lends color to the thought, have failed to make their subject realto make it live. We speak of the dead languages and by the adjective “dead” relegate them to an imminent grave. The most vivid impression I have brought away with me from my school days is that the end of the teaching of classics was accuracy of translation. If facility of translation were to be added to that, then we had perfection. It never occurred to my teachersso it now seems to meto linger over the beauty of Homer, to give me the mise en scène, or to analyze the thought there expressed. Once in a while, when the footnotes called attention to it, I noticed that the poet indulged himself in the linguistic figure of onomatopocia. But that the verse in itself aside from the meaning possessed any inherent beauty, that my teachers failed to convey to me. It never occurred to me for a moment that the wonderful tales of Homer were told to enraptured, listening audiences. I never really knew how the poem grew, never once had the remotest idea of how these sagas were sung to the weaker descendants of an heroic people who had been dislodged from their original habitat, dispossessed of ‘their ancestral homes, and forced to become residents in an alien land; I never knew that the songs of Homer were a glorious apotheosis of a lost past. In a word, the masterpiece of the “Iliad” was to me not much more than a book of some thousands of lines to be set over into English at the rate of so many lines a day.
Homer by the yard! It never occurred to my teachers to make me so familiar with, say, one book of Horner, that I could read it in the original, feel its beauty without translation, and visualize in Greek what I read in Greek. Instead, I was made to murder Homer every day by translating him into execrable. English, and so induced to spoil all the enjoyment that I could have obtained from the poet by proper teaching.
This is not an exaggerated statement of the case as touches the old-fashioned method of teaching the classics. Far from it. Add to this the fearful idea which was also held out that Greek and Latin had a disciplinary value, and you at once see that the subject was bound to lose caste with many a student. Can you indeed imagine healthy boys and girls ever falling in love with anything which rested its claims to popularity upon its value as a means of discipline? How much is it going to add to the enjoyment of Homer, or any other ancient poet, as for that, to know that the person familiar with Greek or Latin is sure to be a more finished writer in English (which I much doubt), and is going to possess a neater method of thought (which is possible) ? We killed the beauty of the poem at the start when we removed the tale of Troy from Greek into English, and we buried it when we made the great epic a stalking-horse for discipline. I venture, indeed, to say that the claim of disciplinary value would never have been alleged had not our teachers of classics become pedants, dry-as-dusts, and, worst of all, apologists for the subject they were trying to teach.
These are some of the faults developed by the old system of teaching. But worst of all, perhaps, is the false impression of the ancients which this manner of instruction fostered. From my own experienceand that I take to have been a normal one the Greeks never existed as real people of real flesh and blood. They might have stood perpetually in classic poses, dressed in everlasting white garments, or they may have addressed one another in orations (never, of course, in the vernacular), but that they ever lived, that they ever had passions as we do, that they were at times great statesmen, and at other times capable of the dirtiest politics, that there could be a fine residential quarter in Athens, that there was also a tenderloin district, as tough as that in any modern city, a quarter to which the jeunesse dorée betook themselves at times, also that these great people of the past ever had had a real home, that little children rolled hoop, spun their tops, and loved their dolls, that old nurses sang lullabies to babies, that the children when grown up to manhood and womanhood cherished these ignorant old nurses, that the Greeks ever sorrowed for a sister or brother, son or daughter, that these people loved gay clothes, that boys sometimes ran to horse-racing, that the life in ancient Athens (I speak from the Greek student’s point of view) was the same as, say, in New York Citythat times may change, but that men do not, of all this I never caught the faintest glimmer until I was well on in my study of the classics and had begun for myself to see what the Greeks did outside of producing literature.
This conception of the life of classical times (and what I have said applies with equal force whether you are a Hellenist or a Latinist) is all wrong, and its incorrectness is due almost entirely to a lack of the type of knowledge which is to be derived from a study of. the monuments. The fault, however, lies not entirely with the teachers ‘ of the classics. It was not so very long ago that, at least in this country, the museums which we possessed were considered as little more than repositories for curious and, sometimes, beautiful objects. That these objects could be of further use than to amuse us temporarily on half-holidays never apparently entered the heads of the directors. The method of exhibition, moreover, lacked discrimination, so that what was good. was lost in a wilderness of what was mediocre; and when to this was added the inability to see that even the best things lose value by lack of a proper setting, then it becomes no longer a matter for wonder that the museum failed to help the student, nay, that it even repelled him.
On which side the awakening took place first is a matter of no importance. Probably the teachers were the first to become conscious of the potentials in the museums. They had seen the laboratory methods applied with eminent success in the teaching of the sciences, and they naturally asked themselves why the same method could not be applied with equally good results in the teaching of the classics.
Such a method of instruction, however, would have been impossible if the archaeologists had not been turning up with their spades priceless data which cast a flood of light upon almost every phase of ancient life. It is, as a fact, not so many years ago that our knowledge of Greek civilization, beyond what was largely derived from tradition, reached no further back than the fifth century B.C. We knew of Homer, but he lived in such a misty past that we began to doubt his own existence as well as the culture he was supposed to represent. Then came Schliemann’s epoch-making discoveries at Mycenæ, Tiryns, and Ilium. At a jump we cleared centuries and found ourselves in the presence of the monuments Homer described. The Homeric times began to live for us. Then in rapid succession came other discoveries which told us much of the Minyans and Minoans, and above all made it possible for us to trace by means of indelible records the history of Greece thousands of years back into the past. All these finds meant the revivification of ancient Greece. We now felt that we were dealing with a real people who had an ancestry and were not the ephemeridae of a century or so. We had data lying before us which the historian recognized as of price-less worth. Scholars in general at once awoke to the fact that from the monuments so recovered it became possible now to obtain a more or less complete picture of ancient life. Previously, no matter what might have been the desire to know the ancients intimately, our means of approach, neglecting a few architectural, sculptural, and ceramic remains, was through the path afforded by the literature. How incomplete of necessity was the impression thus derived may be appreciated by trying to imagine how little students living two thousand years from now would comprehend the character of life in this country during this and the last century if they were obliged to reconstruct this life through the medium of the best writers of our time. Do you imagine that through Longfellow, Bryant, or Emerson these future students would gain any just or comprehensive impression of life nowadays, say, in New York City?
And do you also believe that we ourselves obtain a clear presentment of the ancients through the works of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Demosthenes, Cicero, or Virgil? The prose writers, to be sure, present us with a more intimate glimpse than do the poets, but even then we see the Latins and Greeks only when engaged in public affairs, or, occasionally, as in Lysias, involved in the petty business of their more private lives.
Now, however, all this is changed. We have at hand a large store of material which is of incalculable value to the teacher who has it at heart to make the classics living and not dead languages. If the, are dead, it is not because they are no longer spoken; for although we no longer speak as did Chaucer, we do not call his English dead. The classics in fact become deprived of life and die only when they are stifled by the dust of dry teaching. For the teacher, therefore, who desires to make them live, the means lies at his hand. Fortunately we have come at last to see that the teaching of literature is helped by reference to the monuments which have been recovered. You all know that we feel better acquainted with an historical character when we have once seen or handled something which he has used. Washington, for instance, metamorphoses from the somewhat mythical first President of the United States into a real personality as we move through one after another of his rooms at Mount Vernon and see the different things which he actually used in daily life. The same is just as true of the ancients. They, too, begin to live again when we associate them with the things they used from day to day. It is our desire to make them live. We must make them live in order to make the classics live. This, indeed, is our function as teachers, whether it be in art, archaeology, or classical literature. We must come to see that the individual subject which we teach is but one expression of the life of the time, and that it is not only our duty to teach literature, history, or art, but it is also incumbent upon us as well to see to it that we enable the students to reconstruct the whole life of the classical past, and bring them to see that our own specialty is only one phase of ancient life, which, to understand, we must place in its true environment; that is, among the other mediums of expression employed by the Greeks and the Romans in recording their mode of life.
This vitalizing of the classics is obviously to be brought about by the employment of whatever material has been recovered from the past. Being physical, these objects are capable of visualization, and so can be more easily apprehended than could any abstraction, for we are all of us conscious that an object visualized is more readily understood and more indelibly stamped upon our minds than it could be by means of any description, be it ever so brilliant. It requires no great amount of mental effort, therefore, to see that the pupil’s mind is foredoomed to fail in visualizing objects he has never seen, and whose character he must create from such hints as he may obtain from the printed page.
On the other hand, the same student is at once made aware, from seeing and hand-ling the objects unearthed, that he is dealing with honest, unconscious records. The objects with which he is confronted in this Museum were made to satisfy the taste of their own time, and so are faithful expressions of the spirit of that period. They represent, as it were, a passing mood, thereby allowing us to see the people who produced them when they were not, as were the historians, for instance, thinking of posterity, and so not revealing themselves completely to us. We have, as a fact, in the monuments a more intimate record of ancient life than can be found in the literature alone.
That the classic past can be made to relive its life is certain. Witness with what success this was accomplished at the time of the Italian Renaissance. The Italians of that period so loved the relics of the classical period which had come down to them that, fully believing them to represent perfection, they could imagine nothing finer than to try to approximate their beauty. When it is remembered that so great a genius as Michelangelo felt that he could do no better than to copy the classical forms, when also you remember that cultivated people so absorbed the classical literature that classical forms and reminiscences were frequent in their correspondence, and even their conversations were tinctured with classical thought; when again you call to mind that many a scholar and good Christian tried to reconcile the pagan thought of Plato and Aristotle with the ideals of a Christian religion, you must at once become conscious how real the classics and the ancients were to the men of the Renaissance, and how for the men of that time the classics were a living thing. Furthermore, you will remember that from making the past live, from realizing it not only from the literature but also from the ancient art, the Renaissance was able to produce an art and a literature, yes, and an architecture, that perhaps has never been surpassed.
It becomes evident, therefore, that the past can be made to live. It also becomes clear that it is by direct contact with the monuments as well as with the literature that this is to be accomplished, and that the literature, interesting as it is, becomes a much more living thing when considered in connection with the other mediums of expression of the ancient mindthat is, with the monuments.
It is possible, of course, that here and there a dearly treasured relic may stimulate an individual scholar to see with a clearer vision what his beloved ancient author may tell him. But instances of this character are sporadic, and at best the solitary treasure gives but a onesided view of the past. What is essential for a correct understanding of Greek and Roman life is a fairly complete collection of objects representative of the various arts of antiquityand the only place in which such a collection may be properly assembled is the Museum. Here, through the generosity of those interested in its growth, it becomes possible to gather representative collections of ancient art and, by the employment of a trained staff, to arrange them so intelligently that they may be understood and appreciated by the visitors to the Museum. We no longer go to the Museum with the same spirit as that in which we used to visit Barnum’s circusto be amused or to be astonished. What we now demand from the Museum is an opportunity to acquire knowledge. To this demand the Museum has responded. It now remains to be seen how capable we are to use the means so generously placed at our disposal.
It is pertinent to ask: What monuments has the past left to us, and how are these monuments to be employed by the teachers in our public schools?
In the first place, antiquity has bequeathed to us its architecture. The monuments for the most part remain in situ in their native country. But even if complete buildings may not be translated thither and re-erected where we may study them, we can at least obtain portions of them, and may supplement these fragments by the use of photo-graphic material possessed by the Museum. Unfortunately the preponderance of remains in this branch of archaeology consists of the temples. Nevertheless, enough houses more or less complete have been unearthed to make possible an intelligent study of the private as well as the public architecture of Greece and Rome.
In the next place, we have sculpture. Until within a comparatively short time ago this branch was limited in its earlier phases by the fifth century, and what we did know was in large part derived through Roman copies. Now, however, since the archaeologist has been busy our field of vision has been largely extended. From the material which is fast accumulating much is finding its final resting-place in our museums, so that we now have the means of studying the sculpture not only of a more public character, such as architectural and votive sculpture, but once in a while we catch a glimpse of the more personal side of ancient life through the sculptured grave stelae.
Then come the vases. No department of ancient art (except perhaps numismatics) is so rich numerically as this, none possesses finer examples of the remarkable artistic and technical skill of the Greeks, and none gives a more complete picture of the complexity of ancient life than does this. In these cups, jugs, and jars, in these mixing-bowls, drinking-horns, and goblets, we have illustrations of the skill not of the men who bulk so large in the literature, but of the common artisans, and from these works we begin to grasp the fact that art with these folk was not an excrescence upon their life, but so much a part of their existence that even the ordinary utensils used in daily life never came into being without the endowment of beauty.
Allied to the art of sculpture is that of gem-cutting. In this art, again, we are able to watch the lesser artists of Greece at work.
Here, as it were, we encounter a miniature style which repeats, so far as it was appropriate, the mannerisms of the greater art of monumental sculpture. The subjects, however, which are represented often vary from those seen in the greater art, with the result that we are able to see the daintier side of the artistic character of the ancients.
When we turn to numismatics we immediately find ourselves in a department of art which possesses a twofold interest. The coins often display a splendid disregard for that form of utilitarianism which precludes beauty, and they afford much information that is of prime importance to the historian. Then, too, it should be remembered that, like the vases, they are about the most numerous class of monuments that have come down to us. Hardly ever does the archaeologist thrust his spade into the ground but he uncovers many of these relics of the past. Their place of discovery also is often illuminative of the customs in ancient times. Thus, to me at least, it was most interesting to learn that in the recent excavations of the Americans on the temple site at Sardis coins of the time of Alexander had been found between cracks in the floor of the temple just in front of the statue of the godshowing how visitors used to toss a coin down at the feet of the divinity as an offering when they visited the temple. Who knows but what they had much the same feeling as we do when we cast our pennies into the fountain of Trevi? Is it not also illuminative of the unchanging character of man when we hear of a jug full of coins being turned up in some field where centuries ago some thrifty and timorous soul had buried them for safety, and then from some unknown causedeath or exilenever came to recover them? Who knows but possibly he did return, but, like a child who has buried a wish-stone without marking the place of burial carefully enough, was unable to locate his buried treasure?
Two other classes of monuments are to be mentioned: those produced by the workers in metal and those executed by the painters. In the metalwork we have on the one hand the jewelry, which in itself possesses a wonderful beauty as well as exhibiting the remarkable skill of the ancient goldsmiths. How perfect this skill was may be judged from the statement of the great modern Italian goldsmith, Castellani, who said that try as best he could he found him-self unable to equal in fineness the granulation with which the Greeks frosted the surface of some of their jewelry. Does not an admission of this sort make you wish to know more intimately these ancient workmen by a familiarity with their work?
From Greek and Roman painting we learn something more than what the pictures themselves tell, for we come by them to see what was deemed good taste in the way of color as well as decoration. Unfortunately the work of the great artists has all gone, so that we are unable to appreciate the pictures which were held in just as high esteem as were the sculptural monuments. But we do have work from the early and the late times, so that we can, when we supplement our knowledge by what we glean from the vases, form a fair estimate of what Greek and Roman painting was.
As departments of Greek and Roman art which the teacher may employ in connection with instruction in history or literature, we have then those of architecture, sculpture, ceramics, gem-cutting, numismatics, metalwork, and painting. The question arises as to the fashion in which they are to be employed.
It must become evident in what I am about to say to you that it would be unreasonable to look for specific directions as to the best method to be used in reference to every object of classical art when it is to be called upon to assist the teacher of literature or history. Each teacher will evolve a system of his own as each case arises. Yet while I do not expect to be able to give definite directions for the use of every object in this Museum, I am nevertheless anxious to place before you instances which have occurred to me wherein, for me at least, the literature in places became an illuminated page by the light derived from monumental sources. If I draw from Greek art and archaeology and seem to neglect the Latin side, I hope to obtain your pardon because in the first place my interest leans somewhat more to that side, and in the second because what I say in reference to Greek may be applied with equal force to Latin.
First, as to architecture. An acquaintance with this subject alone is sufficient to stimulate in the student a feeling of respect for the Greek mind. No normal boy, and as for that, no normal girl, can help feeling that he knows the Greeks better when he sees how from century to century they improved upon their methods of building, and when he understands how at first the architects worked with the more easily handled material, wood, and only later turned their attention to stone, how for some purposes they used at all times so perishable material as sundried brick because it possessed qualities not inherent in the apparently stronger material, stone, and how in the perfection of their art they came to construct the perfect Parthenon with a most subtle adjustment of curves so arranged as to correct all faults of optics that might be present in a mechanically true, square structure. This, however, is but an illustration, by the way, to show how familiarity with one form of monument might quicken our interest in the personality of the people who produced the literature we are reading.
I have spoken of the use of sun-dried brick as a building material. Would not the natural boy find it interesting to know that this form of material was better for fortification walls in some cases because it packed when hammered by the battering-ram, whereas a stone or baked-brick wall would crumble away under the repeated blows? Would not the boy also wake up to a lively interest when he learned that it was this type of sun-dried party-wall which made it possible for the valiant defenders of a little Greek city one stormy night to burrow their way from one end of their town (while the enemy pa-trolled the streets) and then to rush out in a body from the last house broken through; would not, under these circumstances, the name “wall-breaker,” as applied to burglars, become intelligible, and would not all this (and this is what I am coming to) become a living fact if we could show that boy a series of photographs of the ancient Heraion at Argos, where actually the sun-dried brick construction was used?
But let us go further. We would be willing to admit, I think, that one of the most dramatic passages in the “Odyssey,” I mean the Slaying of the Suitors, left with the most of us but a confused impression of the mise en scène. On the other hand (and here I am describing my own impressions), think how vastly more vivid the scene would have been had we been shown the palace of Tiryns, and the drama then worked out for us with an actual Homeric palace repeopled with its native folk. The “sounding portico” would then have echoed for us with the clattering hoofs of impatient horses, and we could have seen Odysseus sitting in the guise of a beg-gar in the open courtyard of the palace while the place rang with the ribald shouts of the arrogant suitors. Then the past would have lived for us, and it is now possible for you to make it live for your students. Bring them here; show them the plans and the photographs of Tiryns; show them how the watchman on the palace roof at Mycenæ could sweep the whole Argive plain at his feet; make your pupils feel the reality of the situation. Why, the opening scene of “Ham-let” with the frost-nipped watchmen on the tower is no more picturesque than that which opens the Agamemnon with the watchman telling the stars from night to night as he looked for the flaring beacons which were to announce the return of the heroes from Troy. Yet I am sure that the scene loses value unless you and your pupils can reconstruct the scene and visualize the event. Or, again, if you will recall the imprisonment of Orestes and Pylades in the temple at Tauris, you will grant that as they talk of escape by an opening under the eaves the scene loses its objectivity unless you know that in the wooden and sun-dried brick structures there was originally an opening in the top of the wall between the ceiling beams, and that when in the course of centuries the Greeks translated their buildings into stone, this space was closed and became known as the metope. Therefore, bring your classes here, and when you have shown them the model of a Greek temple, explain how such a method of escape as I have mentioned was possible. I might go on further to show other instances in which the students could be made to feel the reality of what they were reading. For in-stance, it is probably safe to say that the appearance of the palace of Alcinous would come out the clearer if you could show the student illustrations of the kyanos, or blue glass, frieze from the palace at Tiryns.
Architecture, then (which can best be studied in the Museum), does afford a means for making your teaching vital, does it not?
But with architecture we do not come to the end of our possibilities. Think how much we learn or can learn from sculpture. By a consideration of this phase of Greek artistic expression we see how the Greeks dressed; and we can come to appreciate how the grace of their costume depended solely upon its simplicity; we learn how the costume was made, and how the desire on the part of the ancients to be properly dressed led them to hang little weights at the corners of their outer garment, the himation, to cause it to hang gracefully. If you doubt it, examine the cast of the statue of the Greek poet Sophocles in this Museum. In this wise we learn that the Greek gentleman gave as much attention to the appearance of his dress as does a modern man, and we at once appreciate in the “Birds” of Aristophanes the point of the jeer of Herakles that Triballos, the barbarian god on an embassy with Herakles and other divinities for the purpose of making a truce with the insurgent birds, was not a gentleman because he draped his himation over his left shoulder instead of his right.
This, of course, is only a detail. But, after all, is it not by the careful study of detail that we come to a more complete knowledge of any subject which interests us? We know the various gods of antiquity from our reading of the literature of Greece and Rome; still you will be ready to admit that they move across the pages as more or less shadowy beings until (from a consideration of the types presented to us in sculpture) we learn what they meant to the ancients; what information the other arts afford us in this matter we shall see presently. If that is so, and the point is hardly debatable, it becomes our duty to bring our pupils here and show them in the original works of art or in the cast what was the character of these ancient divinities. Then shall the pupil come to see that Hermes was an agile, well-developed athlete capable of travelling as a rapid messenger for the superior divinities, and that Zeus was indeed a venerable father of gods and men; Athena shall become the pure goddess indeed, and Herakles the powerful and not too intellectual demigod. A printed page is completely capable of presenting a scene of action, but it never sufficed for depicting the appearance of a personality. To obtain a true impression of that, we and that applies with equal or greater force to our pupilsmust come face to face with the tangible presentments of the ancient gods. And when we have gained that acquaintanceship with these personalities, then shall the myths and legends become definite instead of indeterminate, and as far as is possible shall live for us as they did for the ancients. The only place, it goes without saying, in which this can be accomplished, is the Museumthis Museum, so far as you and your classes are concerned.
Nor is this all. With your classes, or, better still, with a few members of your classes, come here, show them the casts of the Panathenaic frieze, and see if you do not there-by make an ancient ceremonial real when, as you stand there, you tell your pupils how these splendid young knights served an apprenticeship of two years as guardsmen on the Attic frontier, how they (only a thousand in number) represented the flower of the Athenian youth, how they, like our crack regiments, were called upon to add to the civic spectacle, and how they waited in the market-place at the western end of the Acropolis until the more leisurely moving part of the procession had wound its dignified way around the hill to the stately Propylaia, and, when all was in readiness and the street of the Tripods was lined with people waiting to see them pass, they came dashing in a cloud of dust, and with the clattering hoofs of their horses pounding the road, at full speed in a headlong race about the hill, and stopped panting at the great western en-trance to the Acropolis. And would it not be all the more real if then you and your pupils traced the progress of the procession by means of the relief map of the Acropolis and its environs? All this from the Panathenaic frieze.
But sculpture offers still more to the teacher of classics. From it we come to know the ancients themselves in person. We can see the thoroughbred Athenian in the stately pose of Sophocles; the aristocrat in the bust of Pericles; and the earnest, unheroic patriot in Demosthenes’s quiet pose and care-wrinkled brow.
Then, on the sadder side, we study the gravestones and watch almost as if present in person the departure of father, or mother, or little one, for the long last journey; and here we see the calm confidence with which the Greek made ready to go. Finally, here and there, we get glimpses of child life. Speaking for myself, excepting the touching scene of the parting of Hector and Andromache, I never really felt, in my days of studying the classics, that there were children, real children, in ancient times. The little folks do not often get into the literature; yet the ancients loved their children, and their homes were full of them. These little people played the games of eternal childhood even as now. Would not this fact come home all the more forcibly to the pupils in your charge after they had seen the group representing a fat, tubby, naked baby with legs a-straddle, struggling with all his might to subdue his pet goose with a desperate clasp about the creature’s neck?
If architecture and sculpture offer all these possibilities to the teacher, he has yet another and richer treasury to draw upon when he turns to ceramics. In the vases of the Greeks he possesses a series of documents which extends practically without interruption from an antiquity which reaches somewhere from three to four thousand B. C., and perhaps from a still earlier period, down to the second century B. C.
It has been the custom of the inhabitants of the eastern Mediterranean at all times to decorate the surfaces of their clay vessels. From these decorations we have an opportunity to study the artistic character of the Greeks and their prehistoric forebears, to learn of their love of nature, their observance of sea forms, and finally to see how their taste developed from simple beginnings to perfection only to degenerate into a flamboyant manner. We can also follow the vicissitudes of their history by the same means, for on the vases we have curious evidence of the incoming of a barbaric folk whose advent overturned the whole culture of Greece about 1100 B. C. We can then watch this new race gradually succumbing to the balmy influences of the mild Mediterranean climate until, artistically speaking, it was recreated into a new race, and we can see it as it reached in trade toward the East and, experiencing influences from that quayter as well as Egypt, developed into the people whom we know as the Greeks of historic times.
Finally, when we come to the vases that belong to the time of the Cypselids of Corinth and the Pisistratidae of Athens we get glimpses of the mythology and private life of the ancients. So it is that we see Herakles, the great Dorian hero, gradually supplanted at Athens by the local hero Theseus, that we see the gods in concourse assembled or engaged in struggles with the giants. We find warriors departing for battle or already fighting, we see horseracing, boxing-matches, wrestling-bouts, girls going to the public fountain for water; we observe a doting father watching while a shoemaker measures his daughter for a pair of shoes; we find black-smiths at work, fish-mongers cutting up fish, farmers picking olives, or men at symposia; in fact, hardly a phase of Greek life is to be mentioned which does not pass before us on the vases. Does it not, for instance, bring home to you the perennial youth of the world to find on a sixth-century vase a group of men and a boy watching a swallow and saying, “Look, there’s a swallow”; “Yes, by Herakles; spring is here”? And does it not mean something to you in the way of making the past live to see a wreath-crowned worthy throwing back his head as he strums on his lyre and sings:
(“Oh, most beautiful and beloved boy, Linger to hear my little song”) ?
We love to read Theognis. So did the Greeks. But did the love of the Greeks for their poets ever come home so strongly to you before you saw this man singing to his beloved?
Then, as we come later into the fifth century, our Greek literature is illuminated and our vision of ancient life is cleared by seeing the heroes and gods gradually giving place to men of actual life. Now we see the boy with his top, or hoop, or pet rabbit, or dog, we find the jeunesse dorée turning night into dayprobably down in the Ceramicus, the tenderloin of Athens; in fact, we catch the Greek when he was not posing for posterity, and we learn to love him as one human being loves another. We now cease to think of him as everlastingly writing orations or dramas, or building temples. We discover that the ancients were in truth men and women like ourselves, with emotions, joys, sorrows, and trivial as well as great interests. We come to understand that the little boy of two thousand years ago recited his lessons as nowadays; that he developed himself in the gymnasium as now; we learn that some-times he blacked his opponent’s eye, that he did not always play fair, and that he some-times had the slipper applied in the universally conventional fashion.
This is not all that we get from the vases. No series of ancient documents gives us a better opportunity to study the costumes of the ancients. We see every garment which they wore, and learn how they put it on. We catch a glimpse of the decorations of their clothes, so that it becomes an easy matter to appreciate that white was not the eternal vogue, as we (or at least I) used to imagine. More than that, the equipment for war is repeatedly exhibited upon the vasesspears, shields, swords, greaves, and helmets. And by way of bringing home to you the amount of minute information that may be obtained from an examination of the vases, did it ever occur to you, before you studied the vase-paintings, that the Greek warrior prevented the helmet he wore from rattling upon his head, and so chafing him, by binding a woollen fillet about his forehead; or that he guarded his ankles from the same possibility by a band tied -about his leg in that locality?
I could go on to show you numberless other instances wherein the study of Greek vases would profit you in the teaching of classics. But let it be sufficient for me to say that when the fine post-Persian war period was over, and habits of luxury began to creep into daily life, the type of subject found upon the vases begins to change. No longer the roistering scene, seldom the warrior, and rarely the athletic contest. In-stead we have shown to us the softer side of lifewomen at their toilet or engaged in the household duties of spinning, etc., or even gossiping (which might perhaps be classified as a household duty). Instead of the half-grown boy with hoop and top, now we see the little chap with his tiny cart or ball. In a word, if we need to see how ancient life changed from period to period, and desire to understand more fully what is merely hinted at in the later writers, such as Aristophanes, we shall discover all that we require to a large extent upon the vases.
At this point it may, perhaps, be pertinent to emphasize the fact, just alluded to a moment ago, that ancient life did change from decade to decade, even as it does now, and that properly to teach the classics it must always be present in the mind of the teacher that he is not dealing with a fixed quantity. It should always stand clearly in his mind that not only did times and fashions change in the past just as they do now, but also that these changes in a large measure, perhaps entirely, are responsible for the changes that are so clearly to be seen in the literature. The literature, indeed, belongs with its environment, and since it does it is imperative that the teacher, who is to obtain full results, be familiar with this environment. This environment is largely to be understood by a study of the monuments, and particularly of the type just previously considered.
You must not, however, think that we have already exhausted the fund of information which lies at hand for the teacher who will make use of the Museum.
Turn to the gems. In these diminutive objects of art shines brightly the love of the ancient for miniature work. So fond of this form of art were the Romans that by the time of the Caesars collections were being formed and even dedicated in the temples as objects worthy of being presented to the gods. The seal was an object of importance in ancient society; its possession, when com- ing from the Emperor, was sufficient to guarantee to the holder a tremendous power. There is every reason, therefore, why we should not neglect this form of art. Art it was and by a study of it we come to learn that while the ancient found pleasure in monumental sculpture he still found it very agreeable to adorn his person with the fine work of the gemcutter. But here, too, as in other branches of art, taste changed. The more heroic subjects of the Persian war period receded before the more graceful ones of the later time, thus presenting us, as it were, with glimpses of fashion. Moreover, if we know our gems, we become aware of the reality of things when we read of seals in the “Birds” of Aristophanes, and, again, appreciate the gems as affording an indirect source of information for the study of ancient life to say nothing of the chance which they offer for acquaintanceship with pure beauty in art.
Then consider the coins. These are valuable for many reasons. They not only tell us of the industries and cults of this or that city state, but they also make possible the identification and restoration of ancient sculptures. Thus it is from a coin of Demetrius, the sacker of cities, we know the original appearance of the magnificent Victory of Samothrace, while from a Roman coin we have been enabled to recognize in a Roman marble the copy of the famous Aphrodite of Cnidus, the work of Praxiteles.
Finally, turn to metalwork. From this branch of art much help is to be derived in the way of illuminating our classical literature. Aside from the inherent and intrinsic beauty that resides in Greek metalwork, particularly the jewelry (and if you are sceptical visit the gold-room in this Museum) aside from this beauty, I say much useful information is afforded you by this branch of art. Let us revert again to Homer. We learn that Nestor owned a cup ornamented on the handles with doves. Is it not, therefore, somewhat startling, and at the same time instructive, to find a golden cup of that very character turning up at Mycenae? Other illustrations for our literary studies are at hand. We read of the long-haired Achæans, only to see them true to the life upon the golden cups from Vaphio. We remember that the shield of Ajax was likened by Homer to a tower. But if you were unfortunate enough to have been trained in the classics in your early years as I was, you never could see what the simile meant until you beheld the inlaid dagger from Mycenae, whereon is a shield represented as tall as a man, and so bulky as to necessitate the support of a heavy baldric. Do you wonder when you have seen this that the Salaminian hero’s shield beat against his neck and heels when he walked; and do you wonder either that the Homeric hero found it more comfortable to go to battle in a chariot rather than to trudge on foot when he had such a burden to carry? So I might go on to enumerate other interesting facts that could be gleaned from a study of the metalwork. I might, for instance, have added that when you had pored over the forty pages that are used in Schliemann’s account of the excavations at Mycenæ to enumerate the golden treasure recovered, you will become vividly conscious why it was that Homer described Mycenæ as rich in gold. Finally, I do not need to tell you that a study of the armor and replicas of gold work which the Museum possesses will make the ancient past live, and cause the literature you are teaching to live in the minds of your pupils.
Much that I have already said has dealt with the value of the monuments of the classical past to the classical teacher. Perhaps it has seemed to you that I have said too little of the employment of the Museum by such a teacher. That, however, is not so, for I am fully convinced that unless I can bring you to feel what I feelnamely, that the strength of the teacher of the classics lies in his knowledge of the monuments of the pastthen there would be little chance that I could persuade you that you should become an habitual visitor to the Museum, and that you ought to arouse in your students a liking for the place. That you must visit the Museum if you are effectively to teach the classics I believe you will admit, for it is here and only here that you can find anything approximating completeness touching the monuments; and it is by the employment of these monuments that you are going to be able to illuminate your literature or your history and make them live.
I have so far dwelt upon the possibilities lying at hand for the teacher who cares to make his classical literature appeal to the pupil as the product of a real people and not as flotsam and jetsam which time has cast up from nowhere upon the shore of the present. I would like now, if it will not seem impertinent on my part, to suggest how the best use can he made of this fund of material about which I have spoken at length.
First, let me emphasize that the Museum is the place to visit for the study of such monuments as those which I have just described. There will inevitably be many times when the original object which you desire to study will not be here, for certain objects, perforce, must remain in the land of their discovery. But even then (as in the case of the Mycenaean gold work) electrotypes are at hand and, if not these, photographic copies. On the other hand, the Museum has in its keeping many valuable originals (notably in gold, gems, bronze, sculpture, and vases). These lie ready at hand for your serious consideration.
Now, at the risk of suggesting what is already in your own minds, let me say that classes ought to be formed for the study of the individual groups of monuments I have already discussed. By this I do not mean classes wherein you listen merelyas you have to meto a general and of necessity a sketchy treatment of the subject, but classes in which from week to week a detailed study is given by yourselves under skilled direction to the various groups of monuments I have had under consideration this afternoon. In this way you would become familiar with ceramics, sculpture, architecture, or what not. You would come to see the beauty of the Arretine bowls, to recognize the large percentage of Greek workmen in Italy, you would learn to see your Romans in their proper setting, and come to feel the reality of the past. This is imperative, for unless you know your monuments you cannot teach your classical literature sympathetically, and you cannot know your monuments unless you come to associate with them intimately as with old friends.
Perhaps you are thinking that I am trying to persuade you to become archaeologists. Maybe I am. But if I have this desire, it is that you may come to see that in order to breathe into your classical literature, whether it is Greek or Latin, the breath of life, you must use the classical monuments, use them again and then use them again, and then keep on using them. You cannot know the people of the past by familiarizing yourselves with but one of their forms of expression.
Thus far we have concerned ourselves with the teacher who is to use the Museum successfully. If this were the end of our task, we should find it fairly simple to execute. But it does not end here; the teacher is not the end of our quest. Our object is to reach the student, and, having reached him, stimulate in him a desire to complete by a supplementary use of the monuments the picture already created in his mind by the literature. It becomes our function, then, to see that he as well as the teacher develops the museum habit.
Personal experience has shown me (after delivering a series of talks on art to children) that even the very youthful mind of the child can be awakened to an interest in periods as remote in time as the stone age, and to a consciousness as well of the art of that time. This being the case, most surely we have promise of success with pupils old enough to study the classics.
How we are to obtain their interest is the question. Manifestly it is not to be by compulsionat least obvious compulsion. In the first place, it takes some time for a mind, no matter how mature, so to adjust itself to the Museum atmosphere that it can concentrate itself on the things with which it is concerned and disregard the other objects, no matter how attractive they may be. It would seem best, therefore, that the teacher who intended to introduce his students to the monuments should see to it that the number of pupils who accompanied him to the Museum was not large. Were it left to my discretion I would limit the number to three or fourfive or six at the most. My reason for this is that if you have a greater number than this in your charge you are bound to find yourself unable to hold the attention of the class in any personal way. To my mind, as soon as you have begun to lecture to your class (as I am doing, I am sorry to say) you have lost your chance. On the other hand, if you can chat with two or three as you stand before a case or as you pore over a photograph, you cannot fail to win the attention and interest of your pupils. Having secured, therefore, the desired number for the first visit to the Museum (a visit which could be repeated as often as need be for other members of the class), if it were I who was in charge of the students, I should see to it that I drew the attention of my pupils to the objects which were especially relative to the subject in hand, and I should supplement this by showing them as well how to deduce what information they required from the objects under consideration; for I do not need to add that much depends on one’s ability to see things. Thus, if we were interested in the Homeric poems, I would see to it that my little group of visitors knew where to find those monuments which were illustrative of the subject. I should also see to it that the student appreciated what part these objects played in the life of the time, and how we could use them in completing the literary picture. Were I teaching Roman literature, I would be sure that my students moved in the atmosphere of Roman life; and to that end I would make them acquainted with the frescoes in this Museum from Boscoreale as well as anything else Roman that would bring back the reality of the time. I need not mention the assignment of topics which would force the student to explore the treasures of the Museum on his own initiative, for you know as well as I do that discoveries made by ourselves seem twice as important and vivid in our minds as those made for us by some one else.
I have been somewhat pedagogic (and I detest the word as well as all things connected with pedagogics); but if I have been so, it is because I venture to hope that a method which I have myself tested may prove useful to you in your own field of work.
I am fully convinced (as you may judge from what I have said) that in order to teach the classics you must know more of ancient life than is to be gleaned from the literature by itself. You must know your ancient monuments, and until you do you cannot make your classical literature a living thing, and until you make your literature live you as teachers fail.