Coubertin Quote for May, 13
I was advanced in history and especially in Roman history. My mother, who gave me lessons which her tenderness perhaps rendered too easy, possessed these matters on her fingertips.Share
Since it’s Mother’s Day … Baron Pierre de Coubertin had an exquisite sense of history, which seems to have come from his mother, Marie-Marcelle Gigault de Crisenoy, the Baroness de Coubertin, a highly educated woman who studied alongside her brothers and even competed with them in sports, according to the Baron’s memoirs. In this long passage from his “Memoirs of Youth,” he makes it clear that his mother instilled that passion for history in his precocious mind at a very early age. It’s interesting to note that he was far more familiar with Roman than Greek history at the beginning of his studies.
“I was advanced in history and especially in Roman history. My mother, who gave me lessons which her tenderness perhaps rendered too easy, possessed these matters on her fingertips. She knew Latin very well and the masters she had followed in common with her brothers, the teachings had implanted in her mind not only the outline, but the deeper meaning of the facts. Under her direction, the "succession of empires" … took in my eyes an exciting relief. On the contrary, Greece was not clear to me at all, or at least I learned and assimilated an ancient Greece very different from that which really existed. I have since reviewed the books and pictures that I studied with. I have found that, indeed, at that time, the meaning of Roman antiquity was quite good, and that of Greek antiquity was not very good. Hellenic civilization was considered parallel to the Roman; we contemplated the first through the second, an infallible way of disregarding its complex and varied character. The collaboration of archaeologists has since helped us to evoke true Hellenism. In 1869, I was not at all prepared to meet Peisistratos or Pericles in the streets of Athens, which I could scarcely represent in the aspect of a city still alive … On the contrary … Scipio Africanus, Mucius Scaevola, Cicero, and even Romulus, were characters that I expected to meet in the ruins of the Forum.”
Photo: Pierre de Coubertin’s mother: Marie-Marcelle Gigault de Crisenoy, the Baroness de Coubertin