I have always thought that the one thing that defined Greco Roman thought was a nostalgic (and simultaneously radical) vision of the world. For the ancients, if you wanted to change the way things were done, you went back to the distant past. To put it another way, every Athenian who wanted to push for radical reform in the fifth century BC claimed that he (or she, but the she’s are off the radar) was returning to the reforms of Solon.
The basic principle that I learnt, taught to me by Moses Finley way back, was that ancient radicalism was built on nostalgia. Revolution was always built on the revolutions of the past. Finley always used to say that WE have been brought up on a progressive ideology (we are making things better by pressing forward to the future). But the Greeks saw progress in a return to the past.
It was always a myth. And it raises all those issues that come up with the far right now more than ever. When the followers of Trump claim they are making America great again, when are we actually going back to? Like segregation? Who wants to go back to the US in the 50s and 60s? And when was the British high spot …?
Can we challenge the new US president to move out of this nostalgiac enclave, and ask where we are going back to and what for.