the past 150 vears when the progressives have not been ehippingrnaw cU’ and undernrining what had been a eohercnt elassiealrncurriculum. Even lieforc World War II, the wreckers and hooligansrn(men like President Eliot of Harvard) had won the battle,rnand the so-called conservatives of the 50’s and 60’s were feroeioushrndefending a ruined and devastated city. The aqueductsrnhad been cut, the temples burned, all learning left off and despised,rnand vet the conscrvaties continued to march out to dornbattle against the barbarians. If they had stopped to look atrntheir own barbarian faces in the mirror, they might have stayedrnhome or sold out to the fifth columnist neoconservatives whornscarccl pretend to civilization. In the current debate o er multiculturalism,rnneither side takes Eieino’s position: tliat therntraditions which made the West should be defended from itsrnenemies. In fact, the defenders of the “traditional curriculum”rnarc like the Bosnian Serbs who, 500 vears ago, turned themsclrnes into Turks.rnIn the Romantic era, the struggle was of the Greeks againstrnthe Romans, who were stigmati/.ed as dcrivatie andrnunimaginative, a libel that is still believed b some Hellenists asrnwell as those who have no right to an opinion (Greeklcss Englishrnprofessors). The Greco-Roman conflict was a mere lovers’rncjuarrel; the two realK’ great struggles which mark the frontiersrnof modern culture were, first, tlie humanist revolution of thern14th and 15th centuries and, second, the quarrel of the ancientsrnand the moderns that did so much to drive up the cost ofrnpaper in 17th- and 18th-ecnturv France and England.rnSeen through the lens of the Erench Enexlopcdists, tire I lumanistsrnwere the adance guard of a revolution against Christianrnsuperstition, but in the eves of Voltaire’s English eontemporar,rnthe ver Christian Samuel Johnson, Renascencernhumanists were reformers of language, archaeological scholarsrnunearthing the precious treasures of antiquitv. Johnson was anrnassiduous reader of humanistic scholarship—his references tornthem ouK’ less frequent than to the classics. The late ProfessorrnKristcller was of the same opinion and more than once dismissedrnhumanistic paganism as a fiction. Even the Platonismrnof Petrarch and Reino could hardlv be seen as rc’olutionarv,rnparticularlv since it had the warrant of Augustine.rnConscrxative as it was, the Renascence—and the Reformationsrn(Catholic as well as Protestant) it gave rise to—was a revolutionrnin the sense that the humanists wished to restore “thernlong glories of majestic Rome.” Petrarch worked uneeasinglv tornbring the Popes back from Aignon and—and an even more futile,rnif not dangerous wish—to install the Emperor m Ronre.rnThe wildest dream was of rebuilding the ancient citv andrnrestoring its grandeur. Their project was not w ithout its perils.rnClassical Latinit)’ was restored to the point of breaking continuitrnwith the recent past so that ex’cn as a schoolbov, Erasmusrnwrote a I .atin unintelligible to his teachers.rnPhosc who would reform I,atin and restore Rome mustrnmaintain a certain critical distance from their own age. Anyrnbreak w ith the immediate past may turn into a breach in thernwalls through which all the demons of doubt and impietv, thernloc of no’clt and the spirit of mockery will come trooping.rnThe habit of viewing vour own age—including yourself. ourrnfriends, and your nation—with objectivit may, in the end,rndeaden ou to those primitive loalties and attachments whichrnmake, not just civilization, but human life itself possible. Arnman wlio can be objectixe about his mother is a monster, andrnhe is a traitor to his country who does not, on some level, preferrnit to all others. The critical scholarship invented by the humanistsrnseparated them first from the medieval past, secondrnfronr the medieal church, and ultimately from the ancientsrnthemselves, once the critical scrutin was applied to the Greekrnand Roman masters. Petrarch, upon discovering Cicero’srnLetters to Atticus, was shocked to discover that in his politicalrncareer the philosopher was just another vain and ambitiousrnpolitician.rnThere is danger in cyer kind of revolution or restoration, butrnone must not look for bad motives where there are none. It isrnall too true that men like Erasmus and Montaigne and perhapsrneen Lorenzo Valla—those sly and ironizing critics of Christianrnsuperstition—may have been as interested in subverting asrnrestoring Christianity. Beside Montaigne, Luther is positivelyrnmediexal in his fidelity to the institutions of the church. Butrnwhat may be true of Erasmus is certainly not true of Petrarch, arngenuinely good and pious man.rnPetrarch, who could easily have had a successful career in thernlaw, made the decision to become a priest, while his brother,rnwhom he lo’ed as brothers are supposed to but ‘er’ rarely loxe,rnbecame a Carthusian monk—a step that Eraneesco enviedrnrather than condemned. Despite the weakness of the flesh thatrnled him to father several children, Petrarch strove for ehastitv,rnwhich he finalK’ achieved some time in his 40’s. Despising thernenality and corruption of the cardinals (especially the Erenchrncardinals) in “Babylon” (Avignon), he read his daily office andrngrew yearly in faith, ultimately preferring the Christian to thernpagan classics. Petrarch, in more was than one, defines Renascencernhumanism, and neither he nor his friends and disciplesrndisplayed the symptoms of apostasy. It was only in the Agernof Reason that leading intellectuals began their open rebellionrnagainst the Eaith, and it is during the same period that the superiorityrnof the ancient classics is first challenged and then denied.rnMuch has been written on the Querelle des anciens et desrnmodernes in France and on “The Battle of the Books” in England.rnThe quarrels were often personal, and the makeup ofrnthe teams was sometimes bizarre. Richard Bentle’, one of therngreatest: classical scholars of the 18th ecntur, was a “modern”rnbecause he decisively debunked the Epistles of Phalaris and enteredrninto polemics with the partisans of Sir William Temple,rnthe much-loed defender of the ancients. Let us brush awarnthese inconvenient details, though, and look at two strange coincidences.rnThe first coincidence is that, generally speaking, the bestrnmodern writers were on the side of the ancients. In France, thernofficer list of the ancients included not only Boileau but alsornRacine. In England, Swift and his friend Alexander Pope notrnonly pilloried Bcntlev (the former in “The Battle of the Books,”rnthe latter in the Ditnciad) but, for all their genius and originalit},rnmaintained their loyaltv to the classical tradition. Much ofrnPope’s best work consists of either direct imitations of Horatianrnsatire or poems (“The Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot”) written in thernsame vein. The side of the moderns, on the other hand, wasrntaken (then as now) by poetasters and “intellectuals,” who drewrnup thcii” own kjiig canons of the great modern writers—mostrnof them untalented and forgotten nobodies. Charles Perrault,rnthe author of charming fairy tales like “Puss and Boots,” was,rnpediaps, the greatest of the French moderns, while Bentley—rnwho devoted his life to the ancients—is only modern in thernapplication of critical method.rnIn “The Battle of the Books,” Jonathan Swift, confining himselfrnto personalities, pays little attention to what is at stake. HernSEPTEMBER 1996/9rnrnrn