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Did the ancients study history





dwinton
I was looking at a world history book this morning and noticed the same thing happened again and again: A strong king, emperor or whatever comes up leads the empire to awesomeness and is suceedeed by a crappier king where the empire falls. There are other recurring themes that I thought could be avoided. So I wondered if any of the ancients studied history and new they were making the same mistake. I know that the rigorous historical process was invented by the greeks (herododus I think but I am not sure) but I don't know how deep that analysis was.
smartpandian
I believe they were very well aware of the history..

A King becomes great not only on his ability but also on the trust gained among the People/ministers around him.

and always, history was biased towards the winners of the war.

Dont think.. History as a fancy story.. Match it up with the current life style..
One can notice... crap people ascends thrown when some better people deserves it...
Kev01234
I think the ancients studied history. However, I believe they studied in a different way than we do now. They probably studied it similarily to just learning what happened.

As far as the king thing goes, I believe the sons of a king were probably spoiled and therefore were not good or trusted rulers. I wouldn't trust a young person who had been babied his whole time

-kevin
ankitdatashn
yes I do think the ancients studied history, The reason I say so is because I belive civilization won't progress if one has knowledge about successes and failures of past. It's like if I don't have knowledge of past inventions and discoveries then I would have to start from scratch but if I do have knowledge then I would attain the objective easier.

The history also proves this, see the harappan, etc civilization and see now,....it all got better with time. So I think that ancients studied history because it is essential for one's survival in futere and we are surviving is enough of proof for this!
SlowWalkere
By this argument, few people at all have ever studied history, because history tends to repeat itself over and over again into modern times.

Example: Napoleon's France invades Russia, loses miserably. A little over a century later, Hitler's Germany invades Russia and faces the same problems - lack of food/resources, loss of mobility, unbearable cold.

Example: In the 1960's and 70's, the US military fails to defeat insurgents in Vietnam. In the 1980's, Russia invades Afghanistan in an equally pointless, bloody, and unpopular move.

Certainly the ancients studied history. Although the written study of history began with the Greeks and Herodotus, other cultures probably made use of oral traditions to keep their history alive (think Homer's epic poems). Egyptians kept records of dynastic rule through hieroglyphics on pyramids and tombs.

Although "history" would not necessarily be the same as we see it today (i.e. they probably didn't care much about social history, ethno-centric histories, etc), they certainly would have been interested in political histories. The educated populations were also the ruling populations, so they would have studied history in order to leran how to rule.

People often think that their situation is new or unique, though, so they ignore the lessons of history. This continues to happen today, and it may not be obvious that the "wrong" move was taken until much later.

- Walkere
RubySlasher
Yeah, I agree. A lot of the more "modern" leaders and the people around them didn't read their history books, and so royally screwed up more than once or twice. Heh, look at our current situation in America...
But these ancients that you're talking about, what side of the world are you referring to, and are you talking about the royalty/nobles, or the commoners? Because obviously, the commoners are going to be illiterate/working every moment of their lives for food, so they're not going to know or even give a poo about what happened before their time, or in another country, even. I suppose the nobles/royalty that did read and weren't attending parties/spending all of their time enjoying luxuries would know something of the past, but it's not up to them to speak out. After all, their life is fine the way it is. If the royal line did mess up in the past, I'm sure they're not going to dwell on it because they have the POWER OF THE SUN.
medievalman26
Yes they had historians but the real question is did they learn from their past? The answer is the same as did our countries learn from their past? The simple answer is no.
zjosie729
I think they did study history but I don't think everyone did. And probably scholars who did study it were punished by the emperor/king when they suggest something better but was against the emperor/king's ideas.
ptolomeo
History is written by the winers, so it is very biased. It is not an objective science.
amicalindia
Who decides about strong king or crappy king? It is decided by end result of their actions. But the result of their rule is not just the product of their own actions. there are may other factors involved. There were many kings who were not so great but luck favored them and ended up considered great. e.g. Alexander the great.
Remember ... History belongs to the winner.


dwinton wrote:
I was looking at a world history book this morning and noticed the same thing happened again and again: A strong king, emperor or whatever comes up leads the empire to awesomeness and is suceedeed by a crappier king where the empire falls. There are other recurring themes that I thought could be avoided. So I wondered if any of the ancients studied history and new they were making the same mistake. I know that the rigorous historical process was invented by the greeks (herododus I think but I am not sure) but I don't know how deep that analysis was.
thinkfacility
I think that for the most part when a strong ruler took over in the past, they erased all history of previous emperors in order for them to create a vision in which they were the only emperor that ever existed. In china especially, they burned an extremely large quantity of texts regarding the past.

However, I think that with the onset of philosophical discussions with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle leading the way, that area of the world at the time began to remember the past mistakes and learn from them.

Don't forget that some rulers thought they were divine and unable to fail, as in the case of the pharaohs.
HereticMonkey
Don't forget a few things as well:

1) Hitler went after Russia specifically because he knew his history; he wanted to show people that he was Emperor of Europe, and the last one (Napoleon) had succeeded in all ways but one (taking Russia), and Hitler wanted to show that he was better than Napoleon. So sometimes knowing the history isn't as important as you think it is....

2) Don't assume that illiterate=ignorant. They still had an oral history, and could always get it from the local clergy. So history was still there...just not written down. That's why bards were so important.

3) "History was written by the winners" isn't as true as you would think. Sometimes it was written by the losers, especially when they were better at writing than the winners, or when the winners brought the losers into their society. Also, because we've gotten better at looking for different perspectives as well as being more skeptical, it's not as true as it once was....

FR
Melacos
Well, 'learning from history', 'not repeating the past' etc., would seem to me only to be rhetorical peculiarities... With a, somehow farfetched, analogy in everyday relationships with the opposite sex, my personal experience is that what it comes down to, is the factors of the moment - not some objective concern on how the more or less similar situation was treated in the past... Check out the post on 'main causes of war' elsewhere in this forum - those causes, I guess, wont ever change as long as we can call ourselves human...

With this said, sure they studied history in the past... But a number of factors have changed, making it a different thing these days... After the invention of the printing press, the following newspaper industry, and other developing tendencies around that time, such as the awareness of 'time' as a thing in itself and the rise of nation-states, the need for history came to a new level. Its ability to bring people together, the possibility to create extended records of historical events in numerous copies, and through these records making people aroud the world aware that other people were living parallel lives...
deanhills
Quote:
A strong king, emperor or whatever comes up leads the empire to awesomeness and is suceedeed by a crappier king where the empire falls. There are other recurring themes that I thought could be avoided.


Are you sure that history repeats itself as it takes quite a strong and/or savvy king to conquer an empire. And it was not always by a crappier king. We have had extremely great leaders, great despots, many styles of leaders. Also war has taken on different faces over centuries, at the same time repelling but also enormously interesting and revealing of mankind.

I think some of the history is the same, but the facts are completely different. And there lies the real interest in history for me. The different stories. Some of the leaders have inspired me. Such as Canadian Prime Minister McKenzie King (1874-1950) who managed to contribute brilliantly during his lengthy 21-reign of Prime Minister in Canada. An amazing man with plenty of integrity. He created history in the making of Canada. His biography covers the most crucial chapters in Canada's history:

Quote:
http://www.echeat.com/essay.php?t=33101


Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt (1858-1919) also inspired me with his gung-ho approach as well as showed loads of integrity in all his actions. Most of all he was a man who could make decisions, AND see them through.

Others leaders repelled me. Such as Hitler and Stalin. They represent great forces of darkness to me. They also have stories attached to them, but for me in the form of lessons definitely not to be repeated. Genocide. Think they represent the crappy kings of history. The worst ones.
simonwest80
dwinton wrote:
I was looking at a world history book this morning and noticed the same thing happened again and again: A strong king, emperor or whatever comes up leads the empire to awesomeness and is suceedeed by a crappier king where the empire falls. There are other recurring themes that I thought could be avoided. So I wondered if any of the ancients studied history and new they were making the same mistake. I know that the rigorous historical process was invented by the greeks (herododus I think but I am not sure) but I don't know how deep that analysis was.


I think what you need to understand is the result is the same but not necessarily the way it happened. Yes of course people in the past studied history, this is all part of human evolution. Just because we have no physical proof of its exsistance does not mean people before didnt study history - as stated before in the past we have had many reason for mass destruction of documents. Remember most of the world has been at war for the last 3000 years give or take, as to the best of our knowledge. So again even if certain civilizations had built up history only a small part of it will be passed on due to man made and natural disasters.

But what you have in your initial statement can be said for not only governments and such but almost anything, even football you see the same things. Teams rise and fall but the way it happens can be very different and for many reasons. Big teams become small, and small teams big.
me410
Well, yes they studied history, of course, the Flinstones kids had only one sheet in their History books Razz
TrueFact
Yes they did. I'm an Egyptian and I roam the ancient temples and tombs almost everyday in Egypt. Everything around you in a temple tells a story of the king, his royal family before him and all victories and good deeds he and his family has done. If you trace the times being described on the walls of these temples, you'll find that they extend to hundreds of years. Of course, this is just glorification of a king and a royal family and nothing more. But this in itself is history recording.

Herodotus who live in the fifth century BC regarded as the "Father of History" was the first to collect historical information systemically. His system and his tries to insure how correct an incident in history is and arranging information on the time line was the first of its kind though not necessary to be the only one. Another point is, collecting historical information but not such systematically may occurred.

Anyway, some say that history repeats itself and I say most kings tried to do the best while they can and forgot about tomorrow. A strong king usually have his enemies from inside as well as the outside. Forget about the outsiders and concern about the others. An inside enemy in front of a strong king can not do much, so he will benefit as much as he can. When the king dies, all masks drop down and every enemy will try to claim his benefits.

In Arabic we have a saying that means: "Days have their ups and downs, you have a day and another day will have you".
OpposableThumbs
Lots of them. Herodotus, as you say. And Thucydides, Plutarch, Tacitus, and so on. Unfortunately, political leaders are not, for the most part, terribly famous for following the lessons of their cultures' intellectuals, whether the leader is Caligula or Bush.
mikakiev
Politicians are blind in their wish to get the power
lagoon
mikakiev wrote:
Politicians are blind in their wish to get the power


Don't be so derogatory about politicians. I know a few and they can be very nice people; they gain power usually for charitable purposes, because they have seen suffering.
deanhills
dwinton wrote:
I was looking at a world history book this morning and noticed the same thing happened again and again: A strong king, emperor or whatever comes up leads the empire to awesomeness and is suceedeed by a crappier king where the empire falls. There are other recurring themes that I thought could be avoided. So I wondered if any of the ancients studied history and new they were making the same mistake. I know that the rigorous historical process was invented by the greeks (herododus I think but I am not sure) but I don't know how deep that analysis was.


People were studying history from the beginning of time. The pattern that you give of empires rising and falling is right on from the beginning of time too. Still happening. Problem is that you find few people who can really think outside a box, or if they have that ability, few people that would take their advice. Take our current global economic crisis for example. The warning signs had been there a number of years ago, however there were people who had a vested interest in it not coming to a head and controlling it normally. It was allowed by all the Governments in the world to develop into a full blown crisis. So even when there is good advice around, based on solid learning from history, there is still this necessary step of people taking the advice and implementing it. For someone to give good advice when it will clearly not be well received is of course very risky too. In ancient times they could have been burnt at the stake, or simply disappeared.
{name here}
dwinton wrote:
I was looking at a world history book this morning and noticed the same thing happened again and again: A strong king, emperor or whatever comes up leads the empire to awesomeness and is suceedeed by a crappier king where the empire falls. There are other recurring themes that I thought could be avoided. So I wondered if any of the ancients studied history and new they were making the same mistake. I know that the rigorous historical process was invented by the greeks (herododus I think but I am not sure) but I don't know how deep that analysis was.

Niccolo Machiavelli discusses this in his book The Discourses, where he discusses why princedoms and republics often fall. Usually the first weak king is protected by the reputation of the previous king, but if another weak king succeeds him, their empire almost universally begins to crumble. It seems like an repeated, unavoidable trap; a weak king would never be able to act on this advice, and showing this pattern to a king and implying that he is the second or third weak king would certainly be an insult worth death to the historian that tells him that. In the republican system of government the historian has a better chance through influencing the public, but the fact that more often than not the populous, growing corrupt by the generations, will choose not the best and most decisive leader for the country but the one that can work the crowds the best, and that leader more often than not, doesn't know how to handle the real intracacies of the job of being leader and hurts the nation when forced to go to war.
deanhills
{name here} wrote:
Niccolo Machiavelli discusses this in his book The Discourses, where he discusses why princedoms and republics often fall. Usually the first weak king is protected by the reputation of the previous king, but if another weak king succeeds him, their empire almost universally begins to crumble. It seems like an repeated, unavoidable trap; a weak king would never be able to act on this advice, and showing this pattern to a king and implying that he is the second or third weak king would certainly be an insult worth death to the historian that tells him that. In the republican system of government the historian has a better chance through influencing the public, but the fact that more often than not the populous, growing corrupt by the generations, will choose not the best and most decisive leader for the country but the one that can work the crowds the best, and that leader more often than not, doesn't know how to handle the real intracacies of the job of being leader and hurts the nation when forced to go to war.


I enjoyed this posting very much. Very interesting! Wonder how one would equate this ancient knowledge with present leadership in US, i.e. have we had two weak Presidents in succession, before a real dip in US empire? How does one assess strength or weakness in Presidents and when do we know for sure the Empire is crumbling?

Hopefully Obama has enough savvy to do both, work the crowds and feed spoonsful of sugar in between spoonsful of medicine. Smile
{name here}
deanhills wrote:
{name here} wrote:
Niccolo Machiavelli discusses this in his book The Discourses, where he discusses why princedoms and republics often fall. Usually the first weak king is protected by the reputation of the previous king, but if another weak king succeeds him, their empire almost universally begins to crumble. It seems like an repeated, unavoidable trap; a weak king would never be able to act on this advice, and showing this pattern to a king and implying that he is the second or third weak king would certainly be an insult worth death to the historian that tells him that. In the republican system of government the historian has a better chance through influencing the public, but the fact that more often than not the populous, growing corrupt by the generations, will choose not the best and most decisive leader for the country but the one that can work the crowds the best, and that leader more often than not, doesn't know how to handle the real intracacies of the job of being leader and hurts the nation when forced to go to war.


I enjoyed this posting very much. Very interesting! Wonder how one would equate this ancient knowledge with present leadership in US, i.e. have we had two weak Presidents in succession, before a real dip in US empire? How does one assess strength or weakness in Presidents and when do we know for sure the Empire is crumbling?

Hopefully Obama has enough savvy to do both, work the crowds and feed spoonsful of sugar in between spoonsful of medicine. Smile

Off the top of my head I see two lapses, of sorts, in power: the Civil War, and the Great Depression. Arguably Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan were all leading into a sort of decline (Buchanan being considered one of our worst presidents) before the south rebelled. In the case of the great depression, Coolidge and Hoovers' preferences to do practically nothing about anything probably contributed to the great deperession. Harding, who preceeded Coolidge, was considered also one of our worst presidents with an administration wrought in scandal and nepotism, though he did know how to work a crowd quite well during the election campaign.

JFK and Johnson during the Vietnam war, or Johnson and Nixon could also be considered a pair of presidents which led to a decline in power (the 70s bout of stagflation).

Luckily in these two cases a strong leader emerged after the fact which modified the old institutions and stirred the people to take a more active position, oddly, through working the crowd in (the case of Coolidge on foward) the relatively new field of public relations.
deanhills
Thanks {name here}. I enjoyed this one too. Would you say that Kennedy was a strong leader? How about Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton and Bush Junior? Clinton and Bush two weak presidents before the great economic crisis?
{name here}
deanhills wrote:
Thanks {name here}. I enjoyed this one too. Would you say that Kennedy was a strong leader? How about Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton and Bush Junior? Clinton and Bush two weak presidents before the great economic crisis?

With the Bay of Pigs, and Operation Mongoose, I want to say that Kennedy wasn't much of a capable leader, but he did handle the Cuban Missile Crisis and setup a diplomatic hotline between the Soviet Union and the United States. I wouldn't say he was quite weak, but he wasn't quite strong either.

Reagan had url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU-IBF8nwSY]brilliant exploitive propaganda[/url], and excellent public relations for sure. He seemed to have some clout with in addition to a great timing in his administration - when the Soviet Union was still reeling from Brezhnev's clueless administration and was on the verge of collapse. Because of that, it probably wouldn't have mattered if H. W. had any leadership ability with the fact that his primary enemies had essentially collapsed at that point, with Hussein being picked off rather easily on the side. Clinton had a free ride and managed to do some internal things before scandal.

George W. Bush ended up being the open target for what seemed like a little point of "weakness", where we saw ourselves untouchable and gave the right opening for the wrong people. He attempted to show strength by initiating two wars, one of which to secure valued resources, but didn't manage to fix infrastructure where it mattered, in fact, to a point encouraging a certain exploitation of government and financial malpractice. I wouldn't say he was a weak president, but he did end up becoming a force which helped in the corruption of the populace, and this is something which in time will come and hurt us lest someone come and thoroughly reform and restore the nation.

What will hurt us during the economic crisis will not be the result of having two weak leaders, but it will be having not one leader, but a series of leaders that encourage us to become a corrupted populace.
deanhills
{name here} wrote:
What will hurt us during the economic crisis will not be the result of having two weak leaders, but it will be having not one leader, but a series of leaders that encourage us to become a corrupted populace.


True, and perhaps that is not limited to the United States, but is a global phenomenon. I cannot recall us having a really strong leader, such as the ones who stood out in history, in any of the other countries either. Although I must say I have some admiration for Angela Merkel of Germany:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel
sketteksalfa
I think all does. And if they don't look from their past, they will not be able to move on from previous concerns. Peoples culture answers your question.
GLOBALSTRATEGY
HereticMonkey wrote:


3) "History was written by the winners" isn't as true as you would think. Sometimes it was written by the losers, especially when they were better at writing than the winners, or when the winners brought the losers into their society. Also, because we've gotten better at looking for different perspectives as well as being more skeptical, it's not as true as it once was....

FR


Here "HereticMonkey" is probably right. I am thinking about the war between the ancient Hebrews and Rome, where one of the best sources come from the Hebrew Flavius Josephus, although it is true that he wrote after passing over to the Roman camp.
deanhills
HereticMonkey wrote:
Don't forget a few things as well:

1) Hitler went after Russia specifically because he knew his history; he wanted to show people that he was Emperor of Europe, and the last one (Napoleon) had succeeded in all ways but one (taking Russia), and Hitler wanted to show that he was better than Napoleon. So sometimes knowing the history isn't as important as you think it is....

Could be true, also knowing history can be a book of lessons as well. If Hitler had been less of an egomaniac, he may have taken some notes from Napoleon when he tried to take on Russia during autumn. His ego after newly conquering Europe made him think the Nazis were invincible. And then they got the same winter problems with an army that was not adequately kitted up for winter in Russia.

HereticMonkey wrote:

2) Don't assume that illiterate=ignorant. They still had an oral history, and could always get it from the local clergy. So history was still there...just not written down. That's why bards were so important.

True. And possibly that is the most interesting history of it all. Much more interesting stories, than dead factual analytical writings in a book. Smile

HereticMonkey wrote:
3) "History was written by the winners" isn't as true as you would think. Sometimes it was written by the losers, especially when they were better at writing than the winners, or when the winners brought the losers into their society. Also, because we've gotten better at looking for different perspectives as well as being more skeptical, it's not as true as it once was....
FR

Well, they could have been winners initially, like Marxist Russia used to be, and then when there were new winners, or a new party, history got sort of re-written every time. But agreed, sometimes we can learn quite a bit from losers. We need to look at history with common sense.
imera
I know what I'm about to say has been said, so I'm sorry for repeating it.

They did study history, but not as much and deep as us I would guess, or they would have seen maybe a few things that were happening again. We know much more now also because of our technology, like shit is bad and one of the reasons for why people died so many hundred years ago, or other things that they might have though was because of the gods or something like that.

Richer people had it easier since they were probably reading more than working, while a poor person would have to work hard to survive and take care of his/hers family.

But what history are we talking about? Poor people had stories they told each other but they didn’t study them as much as a richer man would do, they also didn’t study the same kind of history since they didn’t need everything.

It’s like math or economy, a commoner only needed the basic as long as he didn’t have his own shop, while a rich guy would know much more since they had the time.

This is what I think, I can be wrong.

And I think we should be able to learn from Historical events, but it doesn’t seem like we always do.
Crinoid
Quote:
So I wondered if any of the ancients studied history and new they were making the same mistake.

Studied in some form, written or not. Only knowledge and power belonged to the different people: somehow I don't think that those, who knew that the next king(s) will be weak, had possibility to prevent his succeeding of the throne. Rolling Eyes
It's like knowing, that it's better to be rich and powerful is better than poor and powerless, without actual possibility to change own status Laughing
laumalta
Yes and no...

Interest for things that happened before? Of course... History as we think today? Of course no...

Even roman an greeks "historians" were not historians... were more like story tellers... 100% religion, politics, and personal promotion based...

I play with my historian friends that is hard to believe anything that was written before 19th century... its a joke... but its kinda true... cause its hard to believe anything that was written after 19th century aswell... hehehe

I mean... if your interest is kings, emperors, battles, and that kind of thing... well... maybe there are some names rights, you cut the numbers to 10% (cause theres a great tendence to make things look greater than they were) and ok... maybe you can get a glance of what the world was...maybe to make a good action movie...

But it would be like see todays world by learning about the prime ministers, kings, presidents, billionairs and companies... as stated by theyr spokesmen... (0,5% of the population, or less)

History (as I see it) is much more than that... is culture, mentality, social arrangementet, resistance... and so on...

And yes oral history is very important (and sometimes really acurate)...

Oh... and history is a science... as any other... liky physics we must come with theoryes and PROVE them with as many evidences we can... till someone brings our theory down... or bring on a different point of view that we must consider then... and so on...
laumalta
Oh... and sorry... Just one more thing: NO!HISTORY DOESNT GO IN CICLES... (ok... i think not at least... hehe)... So trying to prevent or to do something based on something that happened at a different time in a different place is just stupid... Its like betting in the LOTO number that won last week...

What we can learn from the past (I think... not sure) are phylosofical, moral, commom sense stuff that maybe one day will get us to say: "man... that shit of killing each other isnt working... lets try not to that... maybe talk... who knows?"
supernova1987a
i read there was a history of 432,000 years written by some Berossus that was in the Library of Alexandria. Only fragments of the book remains today.
In India, the Puranas are actually 'history' books though they contain much 'mythology'.
Solon_Poledourus
My namesake, a Greek man named Solon, was a historian who studied history with Egyptian priests. The ancients were well aware of, and had quite a fascination with history.
deanhills
imera wrote:
I know what I'm about to say has been said, so I'm sorry for repeating it.

They did study history, but not as much and deep as us I would guess, or they would have seen maybe a few things that were happening again.
I think the Greek and Romans may have studied it much deeper than we could any time. They were serious students of history and some of them were treated like nobility.
supernova1987a
They wrote history primarily based on what people talked about and all available evidences, like previous books, etc. They wouldn't use a better technology like carbon dating to verify claims because they had no such technology.

For example In South Asia (now India, Thailand, etc) the Puranas are said to be historic texts.
According to Puranas themselves, the stories told in them are told by many kings and rishis as historic events and compiled as "Puranas" by Vyasa more than 5000 years ago. But we have hardly any evidence of the events. A few inscriptions, surviving places in the story, and astronomical information and datings used can be used to verify the dates but these are very little evidence to support the stories.
In this south asian region, if a ruler tried to change a history or the puranic texts, it would be very hard for them since the texts were available to people across the nations and kingdoms in every brahmana's house, temples, etc. But they were rewritten many times and may have influenced change in many places and maybe we don't have the original versions anymore.
Also, it is believed the puranic texts were orally transferred from one generation to the other. Some people believe that because of this much original stories are lost or exagerrated/changed. However, the question arises, how come all of the regions have the same story if they were changed/exaggerated? So it can be said that much of those stories have survived. However, there is still not much evidence to support that all the stories really happened. Wink
atul2242
medievalman26 wrote:
Yes they had historians but the real question is did they learn from their past? The answer is the same as did our countries learn from their past? The simple answer is no.

History may and even today is studied but it seems nobody wants to learn from it....
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