“Do you want to live forever?” This paraphrase is overused, but I think of it every
time I read the literary works of the ancient Romans. Latin is considered to be a “dead”
language, yet the understanding of Latin allows one to discover a time when the same
conflicting opinions are at issue today. How did the Roman senate quell the famous
Plebeian Labor Strike in 494 BC? How did Achilles, despite dying at a young age by an
arrow wound from Paris, prince of Troy, manage to poetically “live forever”? The list of
influential events dating from ancient Rome and Greece goes on and on, and we know
about them because of the great classical authors who wrote about them. If it were not for
those great Roman and Greek writers, we never could have known about the important
events that we study so fervently today.
Thanks to William Shakespeare, we are able to relive the tumultuous events that
shook ancient Rome. In his play “Coriolanus,” we learn about the famous succession of
the Plebeians to Mons Sacer due to the harsh tax laws imposed by Appius Claudius. The
Plebeians rallied for their rights as Roman citizens and eventually gained looser debt
laws, and their defiance gives hope to those in modern times who are afraid to stick up for
their rights. Shakespeare depicted the Plebs’ defiance with language more colloquial than
that used in classical writer Livy’s earlier work, “A History of Rome,” but both Livy and
Shakespeare reassure modern-day and under-represented peoples of their worth by
providing them examples about those who weren’t afraid to stick up for their own rights.
In the beginning of Homer’s masterpiece the “Iliad,” Achilles, the Greek army’s
prized warrior, is faced with two choices: he can either avoid fighting with the Greeks in
the Trojan war completely, or he can meet the Trojan forces with all his power and...