I've just finished reading Procopius of Caesarea: Tyranny, History and Philosophy at the End of Antiquity by the classicist Anthony Kaldellis, mentioned earlier in this blog. (Procopius is the major history of the sixth century Byzantine Empire and the Emperor Justinian.)
In much of the book, Kaldellis notes that Procopius is a heavily allusive writer who constantly echoes and refers back to other classical works. This is a recurring trait of Greco-Roman writers, Kaldellis notes:
"Classicism began immediately with the birth of the classical, in the eighth century B.C. The first known verse inscription, the famous Cup of Nestor, contains an allusion to Homer. The joke on the cup cannot be fully understood unless one knows the text of the Iliad to which it refers. It is 'nearly the oldest example of alphabetic writing and, at the same time, Europe's first literary allusion, an extraordinary fact.'* The Greeks wrote like this throughout all periods of antiquity, and that Procopius did so should in no way be correlated with the fact that he happened to live in what is now called the 'later' Roman Empire." (Page 61).
It seems to me that Robert Anton Wilson could be described as a "modernist classicist," given that he read modernist writers very closely and often alludes to modernist writers such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, etc.
You don't have to pick up on Procopius' allusions to read his History of the Wars of Justinian; after all, he is describing exciting events, including wars on three continents, the Nika riots and an outbreak of bubonic plague that rivaled the medieval Black Death for its impact. Yet, his writing communicates much more to classicists such as Kaldellis who can appreciate Procopius' references to Herodotus, Thucydides, etc.
Similarly, I read ILLUMINATUS! in college without realizing that Hagbard Celine's name refers to the protagonist of Finnegans Wake, the multiple viewpoints echo Ulysses, the cut-up technique is indebted to William Burroughts who got it from Bryon Gysin, etc. But for those who can pick up on the references, the work picks up added depth.
Another passage of the same Kaldellis book illuminates something that RAW himself wrote about. Kaldellis notes that "Classical allusions could be used to subvert the surface of a text whenever authors wanted to express opinions that for various reasons could not be stated openly ... Only a few readers would see past the outer layer to the inner message that was carefully hidden from the gaze of kings." (Page 36).
One of the examples Kaldellis gives is the Empress Theodora's famous speech during the Nika riots, when she declares that "kingship is a fine burial shroud." This slightly misquotes a saying reported by several classical authors that "tyranny is a fine burial shroud," said by a companion to Dionysius, a notorious tyrant of Syracuse. This implies that Justinian was a tyrant, without saying so openly, which would have been very dangerous. (Historians sometimes compare Justinian to Stalin. It was Justinian, for example, who shut down the famous school of philosophy in Athens that had existed for hundreds of years.)
This observation is reminiscent of RAW's observation in Cosmic Trigger that alchemists had to disguise their meanings in their writings to avoid persecution by the church.
* Professor Kaldellis is quoting Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet, B.B. Powell.