Widely felt as a chasm in history, the First World War raised in an acute form profound questions concerning the relationship of the post-War present to the past. In the cultural renegotiation that ensued, the place not only of the classical past but of Classics itself as an element of that culture came under scrutiny. If, in the words of H.D., ‘the old order was dead’, and heroic models had failed, what value could still attach to Classics? Confronting this question, modernist writers in Britain and elsewhere proposed a variety of answers. In this article, I examine how Classics is represented and exploited in works by two major modernist authors which look back at and seek to articulate a response to the War: Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room (1922) and Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End (1924–8). In both cases, I argue, Classics is at the same time associated with a world of outdated structures, values, and beliefs, and employed as an instrument of the cultural critique which enables that judgement. Thus renewed, and offering itself in these texts to constructive, forward-looking appropriations, Classics demonstrates an adaptive stability that to some in November 1918 might have seemed pure illusion.