What captivated him in classical Greece was, first and foremost, the language. From childhood, all languages had fascinated him, and he liked to draw parallels even from remote Melanesian tongues. Second, he loved the complexities of the social and political history of the fifth and fourth centuries BC. For philosophy, he had little taste; Latin he put aside early, and he never wrote or talked much about the continuities of European civilisation. Of the importance of knowing about Ancient Greece, he had of course no doubt; but the historical links between the world in which we live and that of Thucydides and Aristophanes were not, to him, evidence of that importance. It rested rather on what he believed to be the social and moral perceptions of the classical age and the precise and subtle language in which they are expressed.
(Hat tip Jenny Davidson)