Benefits of a Classical Education

Become footballer of the year and earn £99,000 per week?

Frank Lampard, attacking midfielder for Chelsea FC and England got an A in his Latin GCSE at Brentwood School [Frank Lampard: the Biography by Douglas Thompson]. I found this out at "When in Rome", Alex Horne's brilliant show at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival [2005]. Alex boldly undertakes to tackle the last taboo of stand-up comedy - Latin, and promises that his audience will painlessly learn the language, while taking part in a pueri v puellae adventure game. A computerised Frank Lampard, celebrated intellectual as he is, is called on to act as "oracle" in case of disputes! Review here.

Frank still loves his Latin: in fact he's recently called his daughter Luna (possibly not, though, as a belated tribute to the great Frank Zappa, who named his daughter, Moon Unit).

He could be in trouble with another footballer's wife: Posh (not to be confused with Peterborough United) who had earmarked the name for baby Cruz Beckham had he been a girl. [More Football and the Classics on my Sporting Quotes page]


Become Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford and wear a miniskirt?

Susan Greenfield went up to Oxford in 1969 to read classics, promptly switched to psychology and is now Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology. She worries that there is a growing philistinism, particularly among younger scientists who are too focused on their CVs and frightened of being adventurous. "But that might be a problem with all young people who no longer read classics or ask the big questions of life. They feel they have to fight to survive in their careers, so they toe the line, rather than being challenging and brave. To be heretical, I don't know if we're doing better science than 30 years ago. I understand what it's like to regard scientists as dysfunctional nerds, which is their image, but they're just normal - neither cleverer, stupider nor less emotional than anyone else - although they do sometimes like to make things obscure and can have a monastic attitude, cherishing the idea that academics live in ivory towers. Increasingly, though, the scientific community realises we have to mesh with society - especially if we're raising issues of concern which have real impact." Baroness Greenfield is now (2004) President of the Classical Association, as well as of the director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain.


Baroness reenfield"Dressed in a black Armani miniskirt, black stockings and red sweater, looking a decade younger than her 49 years, she is a whirlwind in everything - career, marriage, eating, talking - bouncing ideas and metaphors with the care- free, but deadly, insouciance of a kamikaze. She invites controversy as she strips mystique and elitism from brain surgery to make it understandable to a lay public, bewildered, as at no previous time, by rapid scientific developments that are changing our lives." (from a BBC interview by Andrew Duncan).



Lead an internationally successful rock band and marry a Hollywood star?

Gwyneth PaltrowChris Martin founded the acoustic rock band Coldplay in 1998 while a student at UCL, and married Gwyneth Paltrow in 2003. He studied Ancient History at University College, London, and got a first. Chris was "discovered" by Parlophone A & R man Dan Keeling - who just happened to have studied Classical Civilisation at school with me as his teacher. Thus I am only the fabled five degrees of separation from Jennifer Anniston.



 Cold player?




Humanise Hewlett-Packard?

David W. Packard, the only son of Hewlett-Packard co-founder Dave Packard, said Tuesday he decided to join Walter Hewlett in opposing HP's proposed acquisition of Compaq Computer for more than just financial reasons.
In an interview, the 61-year-old Packard -- a former professor of Ancient Greek and Latin studies, and chairman and president of the Packard Humanities Institute and Stanford Theatre Foundation -- explained his reasoning. “I sort of care more about some of the old-fashioned cultural values than I really should,” Packard said. He is “quite unhappy,” for example, about the so-called “5 percent rule” -- performance evaluations that mandate identifying a bottom 5 percent of the company's performers. “HP never did that, it never happened before. HP almost never laid anybody off, but HP was very careful to say that it's not like they're schoolteachers -- they did not have tenure,” said Packard. “But they (his father and Bill Hewlett) managed a company in a way that it was never necessary to tell people `Sorry, business is not very good, so goodbye.'” Packard, who has known Walter Hewlett since the two were young children, said he also wanted to show solidarity and offer his moral support. “Walter is sticking his neck out here,” said Packard. “Some people will praise him and some people will publicly criticize him, but I do share his views. And I thought I might as well go on the record,” he said. [Mercury News 6 November 2001]

hewlett-packard logo   Human Priorities?

Create Harry Potter

from a recent interview with J K Rowling :

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling: [laughs] "I went back to my old university very recently, I did French and Classics there. I had to give a speech, which was very nerve-wracking because I'm speaking to very studious and learned people, some of whom used to tell me off for cutting lectures. And I said in my speech 'I'm one of the very few who has ever found a practical application for their classics degree'.

It just amused me, the idea that wizards would still be using Latin as a living language, although it is, as scholars of Latin will know ... I take great liberties with the language for spells. I see it as a kind of mutation that the wizards are using." [CBC October 2000] (see also my news item November 2001)

[Ironically, I became another of the few to find a practical use for a classics degree when I was called upon to translate JKR's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone into Ancient Greek. (see Greek Harry Potter pages)]


Be top UK recording artist and sell 10 million copies of your first album

Dido ArmstrongNo, not Robbie Williams, certainly not Geri Halliwell, nor any ex-Spice Girl. The UK's most successful export in 2000-2001 has been the quintessential girl-next-door, who found success via her theme song for Roswell High (Here with me), and her plaintive counterpoint (extracts from Thankyou) to Eminem in last year's fantastic hit Stan. She is Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle Armstrong - or just plain Dido! Educated at the City of London Girls' School, she has 5 A Levels including Latin, Greek and Philosophy. [Vogue, December, 2001]



Win £250,000 for a mate

That's what a knowledge of Latin did for Old Harrovian Noel Diancono. The quiz show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" promises £1,000,000 if you can answer 15 general knowledge questions in a row. But you don't have to rely on your own brains - for one question you can "phone a friend" - which is what contestant Jonathan Green did on question 13: "What creatures live in a formicary?" His classically educated friend on the end of the phone-line was immediately able to state it held ants, and not bees, fish or worms. Unfortunately Mr Green bottled it on question 13 (a simple question about the wives of Henry VIII) - and ended up with a mere quarter of a million. [Guardian, September 6, 1999]

Become a police sergeant

Interview in the Daily Telegraph (4 September 1999): Did you always want to join the police force? "Good god no! I'm as atypical a bobby as can be - private prep school, public school and a degree in Classics from Manchester University. I was down the pub one night, still trying to decide on a career, when a prolific burglar (I've found that out since) laughingly suggested I should join the police. It sowed a seed and after a four-hour chat with the chief recruiting officer of Greater Manchester Police, I signed up at 22. I've been happy ever since [now aged 43]."


Found on a school blackboard after a first Latin lesson with a Year 8 group, September 1998

"Latin is the first subject we do in life entirely for its own sake. A degree at university in Classics leads to almost any job in the world. It gives one a disinterestedness in the study of any subject. Disinterestedness is NOT being uninterested. Quite the opposite: it is a love of studying without any practical result intended - and it gives the soul a peace, an inner control, a quiet joy beyond words." (Christopher Nicholson)

Wow! Well worth looking at the originals:

The joy of Latin


See further, my reply to one who has studied these images very closely!

Find a cure for Alzheimer's?

Dr Elizabeth Lazenby has been translating ancient texts on herbs for the Medicinal Plant Research Centre at the University of Newcastle. Its director, Professor Elaine Perry is convinced that the secrets of the traditional methods for treating memory disorders may lurk undetected in ancient Latin herbal writings: which is where Dr Lazenby comes in - the collaboration has already identified two plants, sage and balm, which seem to have neurochemical effects simailar to drugs used to treat Alzheimer's disease. (See Independent on Sunday, 7 June 1998)

Marry Reggie Kray?

According to the Guardian (March 1998), waiting for Britain's most notorious criminal (jailed 30 years ago for life for the slaying of Jack "The Hat" McVitie in the Blind Beggar, Whitechapel) is a quiet Classics graduate, whose preferred reading is Thucydides and Tacitus, Homer and Sophocles. Roberta Jones married him last July in the prison chapel. Perhaps the House of Kray is rather tame compared with the House of Atreus?

Marry Inspector Morse?

The crime writer Colin Dexter, former Classics Teacher (Corby Grammar School, Loughborough Grammar School) and Chief Examiner in Classics will be marrying off his alter ego Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse in the last ever TV adaptation, to be shown on UK TV at Christmas 1998 (March 1998).

Perform Stand-up at the Vatican?

British comedian and transvestite Eddie Izzard, who has been flaunting his bilingualism in France recently with extended versions of his famous "mon singe est dans l'arbre" routine, has revealed that he also studied Latin and school, and that we must not rule out a "Quintus est in atrio" sketch for the Pope. (October 1997)

Become a successful smuggler?

An Agency report quoted in the Guardian on 21st Feb 1997 said that people have been fooling customs officers in Sweden by giving the Latin name for items they were importing - banned coral being the example given. Doubt whether this would work with cannabis sativa!

Run Cosa Nostra?

"Following the recent arrest of Mafia boss Giovanni Brusca, the names of two strikingly different men rose to the top of the Italian state's most wanted list. The first is Pietro Aglieri, the very model of a modern mafioso. At school, he had a classical education, studying Greek, Latin, philosophy, history and literature to a level and standard that guaranteed him entry to university. Instead he opted for a career in Cosa Nostra." John Hooper in The Guardian Tuesday June 4 1996

Avoid the bullies?

A correspondent in The Times on Friday May 31st 1996, described how he avoided bullying at school by bribing a pair of large and dangerous boys to protect him in return for doing their Latin prep. Once again Classics solves the great problems of existence!