All this is my whim, a way I've chosen to spend my time. It's no better than tying dry flies or keeping up with indie bands: it's just different. ... Though I don't mean that other writers should do what I do, my writing gains a lot from this classical background.Read the whole thing. Drake isn't the only one to sing the praises of old books. C.S. Lewis famously urged bibliophiles to consume a volume written prior to their births for every contemporaneous one they picked up. I've never quite reached Lewis' recommended allotment, but reading outside my time period has lead to some unique discoveries. While making my way through Jeff VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen, I was surprised by a description of mouse-pelt-wearing savages that seemed yanked right out of Byzantine history. (In a lecture at the Odyssey writing workshop, he confirmed that much of the inspiration for that work had come from Constantinople's rich and bloody heritage.) Perhaps I ought to consider picking up a copy of Virgil next time my reading list begins to bottom out.
Classical literature is a great source of plots. History in general is, of course, but the classical period provides a lot of well documented but little-known events. I don't think anybody would have known that I used Polybius' account of the Rhodes-Byzantium War as the background for a novel if I hadn't said so in the introduction. ...
More important than plot sources, classical literature brings me in intimate contact with a foreign -- the Latin word is alienus, alien -- culture. When I read Ovid, Juvenal -- any classical author -- closely enough to really understand what they're saying, they provide ways of thinking which are startlingly different from my own.
(Picture: CC 2008 by quapan)