Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why History?

Often people chide "There is no need to live in the past." History is of no value today. We have learned and must move on. Children in school today don't have "History" lessons as we had in our youth. It has been replaced with Politically Correct varnish that tries to remove the heritage of American pride. Presidents and founding fathers were all corrupt slavers, or wealthy landowners, and they're not to be emulated. We are even chastised if we remember Columbus Day. There is much to be proud of in America. Sure there were tragic events and poor judgment. But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
So, how far back in history must we go to realize where we came from and what made it possible for America to be the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?" The American Revolution? The American Civil War? Columbus discovering San Salvador? Great topics, full of interesting facts and figures. But we need to tune the way-back machine, back, back, all the way back to Ancient Greece. The foundations of democracy and representative senate government were laid. But not just the teaching of Socrates and Plato. The ancient Athenian City state enjoyed great freedom and liberty. They expanded the mind and the arts. Athletic perfection and competition were prized. And body-building became the ideal. Masters of poetry and architecture. Their contributions still exist today. Even the ancient ruins challenge modern day scientists to ponder HOW? Consider the reconstruction of the Parthenon in Athens. Why not just pick up the puzzle pieces and put them back together? The Greeks were also masters of illusion. The Parthenon was not perfect. It was intentionally built to give the illusion of perfection. So that when viewed from a distance it appeared perfect. See THE PLAN.
This vast amount of leisure time came at a great cost. And so do the liberties we enjoy today. But we, Americans and the Athenians owe a debt of gratitude to the same ancient tribe. The warrior culture known as SPARTA. When Sister Mary Elizabeth taught my 4th grade class the history lesson of the Spartans, She never intended for anyone to become enamored of their lifestyle. When I returned from school that day and told my mother about the Spartans. She said "Why on earth are they teaching that to children?" Today when you think of a "Spartan" existence, you think sparse, sacrificing and doing without.
The men and women of Sparta did without many things. Comfort things. But they were a ruthless, merciless culture. So far removed from what is considered civilized, that an admiration of Sparta is called laconophilia. Like it is a mental disorder. Some people put the Spartans in the same catagory as King Arthur or Robin Hood. Great stories. But, no proof of actual existence. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Although Trojan horses and warriors like Achilles are legends or more accurately myths. The Spartans were real. And all the things you may have heard about them were true. They practiced a form of eugenics, where the weak and sickly were disposed of shortly after birth. From early youth all males were trained for warfare. The ideal of the phalanx was taken to the extreme. Individuals were taught to sacrifice everything for the betterment of Sparta. Kind of like when Spock said "The good of the many outweighs the good of the few." Everyone knows the Romulans were modeled after the Romans. But almost no one knows that the Vulcans were modeled after the Spartans.
Legendary strength. Legendary warriors. Legendary courage. And a legendary wit. The term Laconic wit, comes from the terse remarks Spartans used to reply to threats. When the father of Alexander the Great, Philip II sent a message to Sparta saying "If I enter Laconia, I will level Sparta to the ground," the Spartans responded with the single, terse reply: "If."
Neither Philip II nor his son Alexander the Great even attempted to conquer Sparta: by that time, it was too weak to be a major threat that needed to be eliminated, but Spartan martial skill was still such that any invasion would have risked potentially high losses.
During the legendary battle of Thermopylae, the Greek historian, Herodotus writes that when Dienekes, a Spartan soldier, was informed that Persian arrows would be so numerous as "to block out the sun", he retorted, unconcerned; "So much the better...then we shall fight our battle in the shade."
Now that's attitude. That's bravado. That's Spartan. But it wasn't just the men. The women shared a similar attitude. Plutarch's Moralia contains a collection of "Sayings of Spartan Women", including a laconic quip attributed to Gorgo, the wife of Leonidas I (king of Sparta): when asked by a woman from Attica why Spartan women were the only women in the world who could rule men, she replied "Because we are the only women who are mothers of men."
At the fore mentioned Battle of Themopylae, Free men stood against a Tyrant. Vastly out numbered, 4,000 Greeks lead by 300 Spartans, faced off against Xerxes of Persia's army. The exact number of Persians, in attendance, is still debated. But historical records indicate between 800,000 and 2.5 million. In the end the Spartans were undone by Greek treachery. And not the superior numbers of the enemy. But they had held the Persians at bay for three days. The Persians killed in battle was between 20-30,000. The numbers of sick and deserters is unknown. Fearing that the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont and trap his army in Europe, Xerxes retreated with much of the army back to Asia.
The fame of Thermopylae is thus principally derived, not from its effect on the outcome of the war, but for the inspirational example it set. Thermopylae is famous because of the doomed heroism of the rearguard, who facing certain death, remained at the pass. Ever since, the events of Thermopylae have been the source of effusive praise from many sources.
The example it set of free men, fighting for their country and their freedom was recorded and reported world wide. Almost immediately, contemporary Greeks saw Thermopylae as a critical moral and culture lesson. In universal terms, a small, free people had willingly outfought huge numbers of imperial subjects who advanced under the lash. More specifically, the Western idea that soldiers themselves decide where, how, and against whom they will fight was contrasted against the Eastern notion of despotism and monarchy — freedom proving the stronger idea as the more courageous fighting of the Greeks at Thermopylae, and their later victories at Salamis and Plataea attested.
The plaque erected to commemorate these valiant heroes starts "GO TELL THE SPARTANS..."
I say "Go tell about the Spartans." Colonel Sam Houston echoed this sentiment when he said "Remember the Alamo." Put history back in the schools. Current events and social studies don't inspire people to strive to protect their heritage and freedoms.


Blasé said...

Unfortunately, as important as History is, we don't learn from it.

America needs to learn from Rome, before it is too late. Which I personally think it is.

Kelly Combs said...

There is a saying something like "History forgotten is history repeated." We are supposed to learn from others mistakes. History is important to learn what was good & what was bad, and take that KNOWLEDGE forward.

AmyK. said...

My school district teaches a lot of history. From ancient civilizations to early American...and correct that we don't always learn from it. But forgetting it, or ignoring it, is just an accident waiting to happen.

My ADHD Me said...

I always learn something new when I read your posts. This was fascinating.

History is SO important, and SO interesting.

For the kids, so much of it is who and how the teacher is. A good teacher can excite the children and make them want to learn.
Another problem is our SOL tests. The teachers are pushed and pushed to make sure that the school looks good on these tests that many times they just cannot get in all the information that needs to be taught. Parents, on the other hand, can make a difference. If we are excited about history, it just might rub off on the kids.

Edie said...

"Put history back in the schools. Current events and social studies don't inspire people to strive to protect their heritage and freedoms." Amen to that!

I didn't like History when I was in school but I'm glad it was required and now I enjoy it.

Unfortunately the agenda in this nation is to change who we are and what we stand for, not to preserve our heritage and freedoms.

We (as a people) rally together when there is a crisis, we call on God, and we even commemorate the date, but we forget too quickly and go back to the current life as usual. There is no true repentance.

The Israelites did that time and time again. Eventually, the only way to embed a lasting "remembrance" was for God to turn them over to their own desires. I believe that is where we are in this nation. Just mho.


Heart2Heart said...


Well said as always. Thankfully we are still lucky enough that our schools teach History and I only believe some of our government leaders could use a few repeat lessons of the past to help them with our current situations.

It is one of my most favorite subjects to learn about and even today at 45, I am still learning from lessons from our past!

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

2Thinks said...

Ditto that and while they're at it, make it His Story and tell it as it should be told from the beginning!

Keeping a 24 hour vigil on the tree. She's hangin' in. I think we can make it.