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The Ralston College Podcast

Jul 1, 2024

David Butterfield is a renowned classicist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. His work centres on the critical study and teaching of classical texts.

How did the Renaissance revival of Greek language study transform Western Europe's intellectual landscape and shape our modern understanding of the Classics?


In this talk, delivered on the island of Samos in Greece in August 2023 as part of Ralston College’s Master’s in the Humanities program, Dr. David Butterfield—Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge—charts how Western Europe came to appreciate the language and culture of ancient Greece as an integral part of its own civilizational inheritance. Dr. Butterfield explains that large-scale technological and cultural changes in late antiquity led to a gradual loss of Greek language proficiency—and a waning interest in the pagan world—among Western European intellectuals during the Early Middle Ages. While the Scholasticism of the High Middle Ages was invigorated by the rediscovery of the Greek philosophical tradition, this encounter was mediated almost entirely through Latin translations. It was only in the Renaissance—when a renewed appreciation of the Hellenic world on its own terms led to a revitalization of Greek language study—that our contemporary conception of Classics was fully established. 



00:00 Introduction: A Journey through Classical Literature with Dr. Butterfield

04:05 Preservation and Valuation of Greek Culture

06:55 The Evolution of Writing Systems

14:50 Greek Influence on Roman Culture

20:25 The Rise of Christianity and Advances in Book Technology

27:40 Preservation and Transmission of Classical Texts in the Middle Ages

32:50 Arabic Scholars: Preserving Greek Knowledge and Shaping Western Thought

36:00 The Renaissance and Rediscovery of Greek Texts

43:10 Conclusion: The Printing Press and the Spread of Classical Knowledge



Authors, Ideas, and Works Mentioned in this Episode: 



Magna Graecia 



Cato the Elder 

Third Macedonian War

Great Library of Alexandria

Great Library of Pergamum

Horace, Epistles  

Emperor Augustus 

Codex Sinaiticus





Carolingian Renaissance



Abbasid Caliphate 



Thomas Aquinas


Ottoman Conquest







Additional Resources 

Dr Stephen Blackwood 


Ralston College (including newsletter)


Support a New Beginning 


Ralston College Humanities MA


Antigone - Explore Ancient Greece and Rome with Modern Insights

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