Roger-Pol Droit

Living Today With Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca and All the Others Publication date : October 14, 2010

Roger-Pol Droit is the author of, most notably, La Compagnie des philosophes and of the immensely successful 101 Expériences de philosophie quotidienne. He is a research fellow at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and teaches at Sciences Po. He writes regularly for Le Monde, Les Echos and Le Point and has published some thirty books, including Généalogie des barbares (2007), Votre vie sera parfaite (2005), Michel Foucault, entretiens (2004), Dernières Nouvelles des choses (2003, paperback 2005), La Compagnie des contemporains (2002), La Liberté nous aime encore (2002, paperback 2004) and Des idées qui viennent (1999).

In schools and universities, the humanities have been progressively abandoned: the study of Greek and Latin has decreased drastically while mythology seems to have disappeared from the curriculum. And yet, the wisdom of Classical Antiquity remains greatly appealing, and the Athenian and Roman schools of philosophy continue to fascinate. It is thus indispensable to make the Classics accessible, precisely and enjoyably, and to provide guidelines to enable readers to encounter Classical writers and to enjoy their company.
This is what Roger-Pol Droit has done here, with the stylistic sense and pedagogical talent that he is known for. Following La Compagnie des philosophes and La Compagnie des contemporains, his new book, La Compagnie des Anciens, allows the reader to approach Homer, Cicero and Sophocles, as well as Socrates and Seneca.
The book’s originality lies in the way it underlines and contextualises the multiple facets of Classical culture, linking historians, poets, dramatists and philosophers. In addition, Droit evokes how images of the writers of Antiquity were successively and variously reflected in the works of the Renaissance and the Neoclassical and Romantic eras. He shows how each epoch of European history, from Medieval times to the French Revolution, fashioned its own image of Antiquity to conform to its own agenda.
But ours has not. We no longer turn to Antiquity for our models, heroes, values or guidelines. The Classics no longer fire our imagination. Why? What are the consequences? What are the remedies?

• La Compagnie des Anciens is more than a guide for reading and exploring; it also provides an original, limpid meditation on Western culture’s relation to time.

• What have we lost by forgetting the teachings of Antiquity? And what can we find out for our own time by rediscovering the Classics?