Trojan Horses

Saving the Classics from Conservatives

164 pages

March, 2001

ISBN: 9780814719466



Also available in


Literary Studies


Page DuBois is Professor of Classics and Cultural Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her books include Sappho is Burning, Torture and Truth, and Sowing the Body: Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women.

All books by Page DuBois

We've become accustomed to the wisdom of the ancient Greeks being trotted out by conservatives in the name of timeless virtues. At the same time, critics have charged that multiculturalists and their ilk have hopelessly corrupted the study of antiquity itself, and that the teaching of Classics is dead.

Trojan Horses is Page duBois's answer to those who have appropriated material from antiquity in the service of a conservative political agendaamong them, Camille Paglia, Allan Bloom, and William Bennett. She challenges cultural conservatives' appeal to the authority of the classics by arguing that their presentation of ancient Greece is simplistic, ahistorical, and irreparably distorted by their politics. As well as constructing a devastating critique of these pundits, Trojan Horses seeks to present a more complex and more accurate view of ancient Greek politics, sex, and religion, with a Classics primer. She eloquently recounts the tales of Daedalus and Artemis, for example, conveying their complexity and passion, while also unearthing actions and beliefs that do not square so easily with today's "family values." As duBois writes, "Like Bennett, I think we should study the past, but not to find nuggets of eternal wisdom. Rather we can comprehend in our history a fuller range of human possibilities, of beginnings, of error, and of difference."

In these fleet chapters, duBois offers readers a view of the ancient Greeks that is more nuanced, more subtle, more layered and in every way more historical than the portrait other writers, of whatever stripe, want to popularize and see displayed in our classrooms. Sharp, timely, and engaging, Trojan Horses portrays the richness of ancient Greek culture while riding in to rescue the Greeks from the new barbarians.


  • "A lucid and utterly persuasive book that shows how the classical Greek world might serve as a rich and complex resource for contemporary cultural and political analysis. duBois counters effectively those who would idealize classical Greece as the origin of a narrow notion of civilization, demonstrating with wit and poignancy how a progressive and complex view of culture and politics can be derived from a knowledgeable reading of its texts and institutions. There is no single line that runs from the classical world to conservative cultural politics, and duBois shows us quite distinctly how we might begin to think plurality, nature, imagination, and sexuality anew by drawing from this importantly equivocal past."

    —Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor, University of California, Berkeley

  • "Page duBois loves the classics too much to permit them to be embalmed, calcified, or imprisoned in a rigidly conservative straight jacket. Her Greeks are guides to sexuality, democracy, and the sacred. With zest and courage, Trojan Horses rides into the global future."

    —Catharine R. Stimpson, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science, New York University

  • "Page duBois forcefully weighs in on the contentious debate about the role of the Classics and the ancient Greeks in education today. Grounded in a deep understanding of the Greeks and their texts, Trojan Horses is at once polemical and imaginative, open-minded and passionate. Those who only want a treacly version of the ancient world will try to discount duBois' argument, but readers who are themselves prepared to engage in the adventure, and risk the dangers, of the unending historical quest, should read this book. I recommend it to anyone as a bracing introduction to the study of the ancient world. "

    —Ralph Hexter