The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.
Today’s interview is with Christian G. Cameron
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
Plato’s Charmides is narrowly my ‘first pick’, although Sappho’s Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον was a close second, along with the helmet that Miltiades dedicated after Marathon (probably).
When did you first come across Plato and Charmides?
We read Charmides in tenth grade (Year 11 in the UK). Of course, we read it in English, but I immediately fell in love with Socrates the war hero coming back from the endless siege of Potidaea to get all the news at his local palaestra. Then, to my delight, we did it in Greek in third year Ancient Greek at UofT. I was considerably older and wiser then, and I liked it even better.
Can you tell me a bit about this dialogue and its context?
Charmides is a Platonic Dialogue that is, at least ostensibly, a discussion about the value of temperance, but may really have fit into a larger theme about friendship and virtue. Among other qualities, it is one of the more intimate portraits of Socrates.
What is it about the text that appeals to you most?
For me, as an historical fiction writer, it’s all in the setting; the Palaestra, the men being pushed off benches to make room for the beautiful young man…. And the tension inherent in the narrative, as both Critias and Charmides will grow to be tyrants of a ruined Athens. It almost has an air of a good Christmas story; ‘Back when Athens reined supreme, before the War and the Plague, when men sat around after exercise and ogled the young….’
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
Mostly I write. I’ve found writing to be a solace during Covid19, and when I’m not writing, I’ve done a fair spot of camping, as Canada opened its parks this summer and it was perfectly safe to go by yourself. And reading; I’ve been re-reading a great many texts that I haven’t looked at since I was an undergraduate. Annoyed to find how many of them I didn’t REALLY read…
Christian Cameron is an historical and speculative fiction writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. He has a degree in Medieval History from the University of Rochester and another in Classics from the University of Toronto. He served as a Navy Aviator during the first Gulf War and then as an intelligence officer into the 21st century, when he left the military to be a full-time writer. His latest book is ‘The Last Greek’ about Philopoemen of Achaea.
Catch up with all the Comfort Classics interviews here.