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March/April 2000
Volume 8, No. 2

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Repeating History
by Tony Courtney

“Those who cannot remember the past,
are condemned to repeat it.? George Santayana

To students, this is usually a running joke if you don’t pass history, you will take it again next semester. But what is missed is the spirit of the quote. Understanding not only the history of our nation, but also the history of civilizations, of great leaders, political dynasties, revolutions both successful and unsuccessful...help us to learn from our collective mistakes. Understanding the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, or the dynastic period of Ancient Egypt, helps us to prevent our nation or any other from succumbing to the political and civil decay that those encountered. Political leaders from ancient times to modern day have tried to take the best of what worked before, and weed out what didn’t work. Over time, learning from history ensures a stable social structure.

Ancient Mentors
Many modern military leaders from across the globe use tactics that Alexander The Great formulated over 2,000 years ago. Our own political structure is based on a combination of ancient Greek and Roman democracy. For the most part, they had many excellent ideas and practices&Mac246;representative government, debate, law enforcement, and government funding of public needs. Later governments saw what worked and what didn’t. Some nations added checks and balances as a safeguard to prevent concentration of power, which is what happened to Rome when Julius Caesar went too far. Some monarchial nations added constitutions to limit the power of the king or queen, for it was seen that sole, unopposed power can end up corrupting the whole fabric of society, which is what happened when Akhenaten decided to redesign the entire religious structure in ancient Egypt. Some nations are inspired by the successes of others. The French Revolution was inspired by the American Revolution. For every nation or leader who takes something from history to improve their endeavor, there are always those who do not.

But history is not just for political and military enlightenment. We as common civilians, students, teachers, etc., can enrich our own lives with history. Understanding the whole, beautiful panorama of world history gives us a sense of belonging. We are ourselves a page in history. From ancient times, to empires, to medieval times, to the Renaissance, and through world wars, history is above all else, people. People who made a difference, people who took chances, people who changed the course of history. Knowing history is knowing these people. When I was in school, history was not one of my favorite subjects. iWhy should I learn history, thereis nothing I can do about it now!i I thought. Years later, I developed an interest in ancient Egypt. Researching their history lead me to get to know the pharaohs. Theses great men and women fascinated me. Thatis right, there were some women pharaohs (look in to it!). The end of their civilization led me to the Roman Empire, which led of course, to the Emperors. Talk about your interesting people. Read more and find out why almost 20 emperors were assassinated by their own people. Even within their own time, some emperors didnit learn from their predecessors mistakes. What had started out as an interest in ancient history, led to an interest in people. Further reading brought me the kings and queens of Great Britain, talk about a soap opera. You would probably be surprised by the similarities between these people from long ago, and the people you know now. You might even see a little of yourself.

Who ever you are, what ever you do, there is always something to learn from history. The more you look into history, the more you see. Itis like looking at the stars. You may see seven stars in the little dipper with the naked eye. Look at it again with binoculars, now there are dozens of stars. Look at it with a telescope and the beauty and depth of the stars will astonish you. History might seem superficially to have a finite depth. You will be surprised at the complexity and intricacy when you start to delve into an interesting period of history. The more you learn, the more questions you will pose, and the more you will search for answers. Some will be there, some wonitO.but itis definitely worth the hunt.

Tony R. Courtney is the founder and developer of Parthenon Graphics Visualize History! creator of timelines and posters. Visit his website: http://chaos1.hypermart.net/ for a real treat.

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