Historia

So, I’m not sure if the comment Famous Inventors, with its accompanying link, is spam or an attempt at refuting my defence of the Classics, but it’s something of an interesting website, although I’m not so sure about the writing. A bit stiff, a bit reminiscent of spam e-mails — only with more grammar. But if you’re curious about the history surrounding inventors (chiefly American), it may be worth a look.

Or not.

Anyway, Historia.

Do you think we’re any safer than the Babylonians? The Minoans? The Mycenaeans? The Aztecs? The Mayans?

I don’t. But we sure act like we are. We seem to believe that our current civilisation will last forever. Oh, pardon me. Civilization. That is, after all, how Americans spell it. Nonetheless, I think that our thoughts that our civlisation is timeless and will never crumble, that our culture will endure, are pretty foolish. We may not consciously think it, but we act it.

The study of ancient history makes one stop and think about this silliness.

Point: The Library of Alexandria stood for 600 years. Today, we don’t even know where on earth the thing was. And it was the centre of learning in the ancient world. It was a beacon of light. It was the repository of Greek culture, of poetry, of philosophy (this term would include science as well as metaphysics and what we moderns narrowly consider philosophy), of history, and so on and so forth. All gone. Forever.

Rome, by legend, was founded in 753 BC, a date not far off the archaeological evidence. In 509 BC it became a Republic, expelling its king. By 146 BC, it had established itself as not only the dominant power of Italy but of the Mediterranean as well. Eventually, its boundaries would encircle the whole of Mare NostrumOur Sea. In 27 BC, the politically floundering Republic was pretty much eliminated by Octavian/Augustus, and for around 200 years, the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome, endured throughout the Mediterrean. Roman Peace ruled. Rome hit some rough spots. And then in AD 476, Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Roman Emperor, was replaced by Odoacer, a barbarian, and the Empire would splinter into various barbarian kingdoms; most of Roman culture and civilisation would either vanish altogether, crumbling in the midst of socio-economic-political unrest, or would be indelibly changed as the Middle Ages took over.

The Roman East would continue, albeit with a decidedly different character and culture than traditional Roman culture, despite the continuance of the word Roman (the differences cause us to call their culture Byzantine [this comes from the centre of their world, Byzantium/Constantinople]), and eventually, in 1453, they were overcome and overshadowed by 400 years of Turkish oppression (this is not a slur against Turks as a people or as individuals but a fact of what the Turkish rulers did throughout the Greek world — few conquerors have fared better than they).

The first European set foot on Canadian soil 510 years ago (Giovanni Caboto). Rome stood for over 1000 years before her civilisation and culture crumbled and were supplanted by the northern Germanic culture. Constantinople stood as the centre of a highly cultured, ancient civilisation for 1100 years before she fell. The Library of Alexandria operated for 600 years and is no more.

Dare we think to do better?

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