Is antiquity losing its relevancy in today’s modern society?

The concept of antiquity is one that often paints an intricate picture of the Ancient World into one’s mind upon hearing it. Without needing a plane ticket, one is conceptually flown to Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt.

Antiquity is a term that is often attached to our mental concept of refinement and the treasures of the past. This idea of antiquity was beautifully captured in John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn.

In this poem, Keats discussed the immortal and ever living state of things recorded in antiquity.

He subtly argues that present or contemporary experiences are great but those that once were are greater. This idea is easily found when he states “heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter” referring to the melodies of the past recorded on the urn.

While many find antiques or antiquated things of a significant value, there are many who feel that they are no longer relevant. With this being said, does something’s older status deem it useless? Is antiquity truly synonymous to irrelevancy?

On a surface level, this question seems to be relatively easy to answer. Depending on who you ask, the answer is either yes or no.

However, on a deeper level, there are a plethora of reasons why one may answer one way or another. One of the primary reasons has to do with one’s perspective. This may seem self evident but it is more than meets the eye.

Ask yourself, on a musical level are you more inclined to listen to older genres or more current genres? Do you constantly feel the need to update your technological devices annually or if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it? Do you have a greater appreciation for the original or the latest?

The answer to these questions may correlate to whether one finds something older irrelevant or the contrary. So yes, the answer truly depends on the perspective of the person who is answering the question.

However, due to the often high cultured nature of things from antiquity and antiques as a whole, Art adjunct faculty member Mary Steinberg offers her insights on the topic.

As an art connoisseur and artist, Steinberg states that to her antiquity “is something that is Greek, Roman, Middle Ages, anything before the Renaissance.” She also makes it abundantly clear that antiques, relics from the past and older things are undoubtedly relevant.

In reference to antiquity she states,  “is it relevant? Absolutely. You go into the galleries at the Metropolitan and they are filled–it’s very relevant today.”

Her insights on the topic are quite revealing of the importance and relevance of the Ancient World in modern times. It is true that there are a great deal of Museums and expositions that aim to showcase the beauties of the Ancient World.

Although this is true, does this inherent value found in antiquity increase or decrease over time?

According to Steinberg, she believes that it truly depends. “Lesser known artists may have some beautiful pieces that they’ve collected but they’re not in vogue.”

As a result of this, these pieces are irrelevant and obsolete. Steinberg also describes the art world as “fickle” which can easily be extended to our new-obsessed society.

So in answering the question of whether antiquity is synonymous to irrelevancy, it truly depends on who the question is being posed to. Underlying factors such as what our collective society deems as beautiful and its atmosphere may also affect these answers.

However, on a personal level I have a similar perspective to that of Keats. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”