"History repeats itself, but only in outline and in the large," Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Will Durant wrote.
The fact that history repeats itself, at least in outline, helps us see where our own civilization is headed. How can we argue about whether we should head left or right when we don't even know where either of those directions lead? Routine political discussion focuses on the small--the nominal, the insignificant. How silly it is to argue about tax rates, drugs, and who can marry who when we don't even know if our civilization is dying or not!
Ah civilization. Isn't that where we should start? Starting with anything else is like arguing that next season, the Dodgers will be better than the Giants without knowing anything about baseball.
Fortunately for us, that contest has been played thousands of times, and that gives us a measure of confidence in our conclusions. The 2013 Dodgers, despite different names, talents, personalities, and schedules, will still have to get 27 outs in most games, will still need to score more teams than the other to win, will still draw a walk on four balls and be out on three strikes. With all their differences, they will still repeat of past seasons in the outline and in the large just as Durant (and others) tells us about civilization.
Durant argued that because basic human nature does not change, ancient civilizations reappear in modern forms. The Americans, French, Germans, are merely reincarnations. By studying what happened to our ancient counterparts, we can better understand where we are headed.
"The French are just the Greeks revived," Durant said. "The Germans are the Macedonians revived, and so on. They behave about the same way."
The first such example we'll examine is where civilization began (Western civilization, anyway)--Ancient Greece.
Who and what are we talking about when we say "Ancient
Greece?" The term is like saying "post-Industrial Europe" and expecting the
listener to understand you mean Churchill's
Historian Thomas Madden:
"The fascinating thing about this that fits in both [American and European] examples is that in both cases you have a place that was known for constant warfare. European powers wages war almost relentlessly and constantly for centuries upon centuries--really since the fall of the Roman Empire until the late 20th Century. The same was true for the Greeks. They waged almost incessant warfare among themselves."Eventually, one group conquered the rest and held the peninsula captive before it was freed by an overseas republic on its way to becoming a superpower.
In the next series of posts, I'll illustrate the repetitive nature of history by examining the relationship between Greece, Macedon, & Rome and France, Germany, and the America. Once that is proved, we'll then look at the lessons we can learn from history.