Writing of the difference between the medieval Renaissance and the later Humanist one, Marie-Dominique Chenu states:
The fact is that a movement of returning to the Ancients can stem from two types of inquisitiveness, which, if not always separate, are quite different from one another. In the one case, the Ancients are cultivated for their own sake and with the express purpose of recapturing for ourselves by dint of patient research their former greatness, their views, their beauty. Treated this way, their writings become an object of admiration, with philology acting as its tool. The human sympathy that we find here in their favor does not exist apart from a certain aristocratic distinction, indeed from an archaeological opulence. Erasmus, independent of the role he played in reviving the Gospel, is the master example of this sort of restoration.
Then there is the other case in which the ancient culture is brought back to live in a climate different from the one in which it first thrived. Even if some measure of historical accuracy be sacrificed in the process, the old is made to live anew in what is truthfully a rebirth, with processes of spiritual assimilation going on in the new organism that enable it to absorb without loss every crumb of the old. As a result, a synthesis takes shape, and provided genius takes a hand in the matter, imitation, under the driving power of creative inventiveness, is freed from the drag of its own weight.
~Toward Understanding St. Thomas pp. 28-29
He goes on to quote Etienne Gilson, stating:
What Albert the Great or St. Thomas asked of these Ancients was not so much to tell them what they had formerly been in Greece or in Rome, but rather what they were still capable of becoming, what they themselves would have become, if they had lived in Christian territory, in the XIIIth century. But what am I saying? They do exist then and there; they survive.
There is a certain romance about this business, I suppose. C. S. Lewis could actually do it well. He could do it perhaps better than the original. Maybe the same went for Thomas. But this practice can be very ugly when done wrong, and I need only ask you to think of your favorite theological group which attaches the prefix “neo” to itself to prove the point.
Furthermore, mythology is enlivening when used as myth. When used as history, it is something else entirely.