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Boris vs Mary Beard

Boris vs Mary Beard

On the evening of the 19th November, after dashing away from our rugby matches vs. Eton, a small party from the Classics Department embarked on the train up to London to go and witness a true clash of the Titans, as Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and Classicist extraordinaire, fought against Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge and TV star, in a thrilling debate aiming to decide who was superior: Ancient Greece or Rome. The sheer immediacy with which the tickets sold out for this event was testament to the quality of the speakers alone.  

 

The debate was chaired by Andrew Marr and, following his brief introduction, the charismatic Boris immediately took centre stage. Boris’ proposition was that Athens had effectively laid the foundations for the Western world as we know it, creating literature, theatre, poetry, philosophy and, most importantly, democracy. Boris’ political background shone through as he reemphasised the importance of the contribution to democracy time and time again. Conversely, he argued, the Romans sought to destroy everything which the Athenians had so diligently created, replacing their democracies with tyrannical rule and committing mass-murder in slaughterhouses such as the Colosseum. Ultimately, the Romans were copying Greece and doing no more than putting “Roman wine in Greek bottles”. 

 

His proposals made, Boris sat back down and allowed the extraordinarily calm Mary Beard to let her arguments be heard. Mary emphasised that one cannot simply think less of Rome because of its brutality, in fact, all ancient cultures were brutal by modern standards. Besides, the Greeks’ so called “democracy” was very short-lived, when one considers that Rome was democratic for half a millennium. Rome was by no means perfect, but, unlike Athens, it didn’t claim to be; the Romans were simply real and human and, as Mary so eloquently put it, “us”. 

 

Following some erudite questions from the audience, Andrew Marr prepared to announce the result of the audience’s vote. At the start 38% had voted for Greece and 31% had voted for Rome, with another 31% abstaining. By virtue of Mary’s passionate speaking, the audience were persuaded to change their mind and Rome won the swing vote, causing Mary to throw her arms up in the air triumphantly in the manner of a Roman Emperor as he enters Rome, returning from a triumphant campaign. Mary may have won the debate, but I’m sure the Greek ideals will become much more prevalent as soon as Boris sets his eyes upon Number 10.

Report and Picture by Arthur Dingemans, C Social, 6.1

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