18 Pages

Rome, Florence, and Philadelphia: Using the History o f the Humanities to Renew Our Civic Life

WithRobert E. Proctor

Renewing the humanities means rediscovering their origins as a specific cultural and educational tradition, a tradition that at certain moments in history, such as Republican Rome and Renaissance Florence, nourished civic life, and at one moment actually created it-in the Constitution of the United States of America. It is important to keep in mind that in Cicero's writings the liberal arts and the humanities are synonymous to the extent that they refer to the same broad group of complementary intellectual disciplines, including the sciences and mathematics. The new humanities that began in Renaissance Florence brought Greece and especially Rome into the early-modern classroom, a classroom our Founders knew well. Classical studies gave the members of the Constitutional Convention, Federalists and anti-Federalists alike, a common vocabulary, common republican values, and a common understanding of history, which for them meant primarily the histories of Greece and Rome.