Faciamus ampliora quae accepimus: maior ista hereditas a me ad posteros transeat.
Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium, 64, 7
The Italian Institute for Classical Studies (IICS), formerly known as the Cultural Association “The Oak and the Laurel”, was born in the summer of 2010, fruit of the initiative of two young friends, Professor Federico Pirrone and Mr. Antonio Giulianelli, a lawyer.
From the very beginning, they noted both a clear dissatisfaction with high-school and university-level educational systems and a specific, bold desire to breathe life back into them. The young founders felt that these systems had lost their own reason for existing, the nature that founds them. Indeed, the nature of the educational relationship can never be exclusively and indeterminately concerned with imparting barren, lifeless knowledge; its nature is not just the transmission, or handing-over, of knowledge. Such transmission is the object of any type of education, but it cannot be the only aim of the authentic education of mankind. In this sense, “handing-over” represents a moment, an essential step, towards forming a free person, towards the intellectual and moral formation of oneself.
According to the spirit of the IICS, education is always a dynamic relationship: the formation of the person is never, then, just the reception of something handed over, but rather a path that proceeds forth from that point.
From this point of view, it is the people of today who make tradition, a path and horizon, work; it must be a living tradition that is capable of responding to the eternal questions, and to the questions of the present.
The path of the person and of the handing-over of knowledge tend toward the continual formation and edification of oneself, in order that the person may ever seek out what is good and just, and, at the same time, that his or her life may itself be an example of goodness and justice.
For this reason, we state that the IICS “holds as its aim the human, cultural, professional and spiritual growth of young people, and the integral development of their personality in a context of friendship and solidarity” (Art. 3 of the Statutes). The authentic intention of the founders, which took shape in their desire to educate, and tended toward the formation not only of minds, but also of men, was that of rebuilding the original synthesis between thought and life, between intellectual theory and moral practice.
It became evident, then, just how classical culture is a luminous example of that singular truth which is thought and life; it became evident how one of the fundamental ideas of classical thought was that of an all-encompassing education, the formation of the human self.
From all of these considerations that we have very briefly recalled, the first activities of the IICS were born as activities with the aim not only of cultural and scientific formation, but also of an education in human values. In this way, beyond those activities which may be more properly considered as cultural, the IICS organized athletic events, film screenings at the Association’s headquarters, volunteer activities, and meetings with experts in fields of interest to members.
Having been from the very beginning referred to the teachings of classical reason, a new dissatisfaction arose in the minds of those young people: that which regarded not only the ends for which ancient culture was studied and the general manner in which all education is structured, but also that which posed the question of which method ought to be employed in teaching and in study, especially regarding Latin and Greek language and culture. With the aim of overcoming the distance in time and creating a more authentic point of contact with the culture at the spiritual origins of Italy and of Europe, the IICS transformed the content of their first activities (always maintaining the same spirit) in order to concentrate on the reintroduction, propagation and promotion of the methodologies with which Europe’s scholars had always taught classical languages, as a key unlocking an inexhaustible treasure of human wealth and grace.
And so, from personal and scientific research, fusing the demands of pedagogy and methodology, the current constitution of the IICS was born. Today, our Institute occupies itself with the teaching of classical languages, the renewal of didactic methods, and the transmission of those values that form the authentic intellectual and moral dignity of the human person; it is through this task that the IICS guides its students toward the formation of living thought and a life that is thought-out, and toward the formation of self through reflection on and contact with the heritage that has been passed down to us.