Can we belong to a tradition without being its prisoner? Can we imagine our identity without resorting to the metaphor of roots? The answer is yes: one only need reflect on the authentic meaning of these words. Identity, an indefinable entity, desperately needs metaphors in order to be dealt with. Tradition is not a thing one inherits genetically. Memory does not correspond to a mechanical transmission from one generation to the next. These are all entities that need to be put together and taught, step by step. "Roots" are, ultimately, a deceptive and exclusionary image.
Maurizio Bettini, classicist and author, teaches Classical Philology at the University of Siena, where he also directs the Anthropology of Ancient World Centre.