Thoughts on… Ancient History

People have a way of looking back at their past and painting it in golden hues.

“Those were the best days of our lives” they say, as if that isn’t just the most depressing thing to utter about your present situation. “Those were the days!”

It’s hard not to get carried away by nostalgia sometimes. You remember people more fondly, events more kindly, and the minor details that might cast shadows on a memory tend to disappear in the light given off by the time that has elapsed in between. We all do it. I do it. I even do it with history that isn’t my own.

I have a fascination with ancient civilisations. The myths and legends and stories of the past capture my imagination like nothing else. When I was a child, it was Norse, Greek, and Celtic mythology. I loved Loki* and Sleipnir, his eight-legged horse. I loved Greek mythology because the gods and heroes were flawed, like people are, and didn’t always make good choices**. Celtic mythology is morose and tragic and almost everybody dies which, while not cheerful, is definitely compelling. You know there’s always a good bit at stake in a Celtic myth. It’s rare that someone doesn’t end up dashing their head off a rock a la Deirdre of the Sorrows or impaled by spears like Cú Chulainn. I also read about South American mythology and Egyptian mythology. I had a book that laid out all the old religions of the world, and I practically inhaled the stories.

From Roman and  Egyptian mythology, it was a small slide-step into reading about Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt, gladiators and sacred cats, gymnasiums and Isis temples.

There is something mind-boggling about the fact that thousands of years ago, people were living their lives much the way we live our lives now, only without selfies or social media. They had religion, they had beliefs and values and societies and political intrigue. Rome even had its own version of a tabloid journalist in the shape of Cicero. Life was much sketchier then considering the amount of poisonings and stabbings and decapitations and general mayhem that was happening on the regular, and of course a lot darker and dirtier without modern sanitation or electric light, but they had parties and luxury and in some ways more magic than we could ever have now. Not everything could be explained. Not all questions could be answered by Google. Instead they had oracles, and soothsayers, and Gods, and monsters, and legendary leaders, and plenty of entertaining drama to brighten their days, with or without the lightbulb.

Of course – of course – I’m doing that thing again, where I colour the past in a rosy glow while conveniently forgetting about things like the bubonic plague, or the fact that people were being burnt at the stake, or that women had no rights and were traded like cattle for social mobility… I mean, I would love to see the ancient city of Alexandria, but probably only from Cleopatra’s perspective. Maybe from the balcony of her onyx and marble palace, looking out at the Pharos? It sounds wonderful to be throwing parties were the floor is laid with roses until they’re knee deep and you have lights strung through the trees and you get to dress up like the goddess an awful lot of people already think you are.

Then again, I don’t think I’d like it half as much from the perspective of a sickly Egyptian slave, sweltering in the sun. Even Cleopatra, with all her wealth and power, felt forced into suicide after everything went pear-shaped on the back of her political maneuvers…

… So maybe there’s something to be said for the present after all.

After all, it’s not so bad to be lying on a sun lounger in a pool of water, typing away on a device that can teach me almost anything I could want to know, without any danger of someone poisoning my food. I’m also not at all concerned about the black death, and I have to concede that I am exceedingly grateful for modern plumbing.

And on that note, I’m off for a shower! Time to climb on board a metal tube (another wonder of the modern age) and fly through the air at hundreds of miles an hour to my country, which is half a world away!


*Now I look back and realise he was the ‘IT’S JUST A PRANK BRO!’ OG. I mean that trick he played killing that guy with the sprig of mistletoe? Ice cold.

**Zeus I’m looking at you. Rape by swan is never okay.

Back to regular scheduled programming on Monday once I’m back in cloudy Ireland! Looking forward to catching up on blogs and comments!

  1. I can’t think of medieval times without worrying a bit about personal hygiene. Not mine, mind you. I wasn’t there. 😀 I guess that would apply to most of history. Strange to obsess about it, isn’t it? 😀

  2. I was able to take a Greek and Roman mythology class in college as an elective. The professor was of Romanian decent and her accent was ridiculously thick; people could hardly understand her, but the class itself was very interesting. I’m glad I took it (and not just because it was an easy class that boosted my GPA). 😉

  3. Most problems in the ancient world were not caused by hubris, or the fates but by Zeus’s inability to keep it in his pants. Fact.

  4. Celtic mythology does generally have high levels of death and tragedy – The Mabinogion have all the drama!

  5. I was OBSESSED with mythology when I was younger too!! It’s so true about the rose tinted lenses we may be the era of flawless filters but I think editing out the bad bits hass been part of human nature for eternity. I had a slight obsession with the roaring 20’s for a while, the style, the glamour, Gatsby, oh man the parties, pretty sure my Grandfather remembers the 20’s much differently….death, diphtheria, 4 potatoes for a family of 10…

  6. Well constructed post! I never thought to look at it that way when we say those things, “those were the days!” I say it often but now I remember a lot of terrible things happened then too.
    I love reading about Greek mythology✨

  7. […] via Thoughts on… Ancient History — When Do I Get The Manual? […]

  8. I love your views on this.. great post.

  9. Grrrrrr, and then there’s that whole Delayed Choice/Quantum Eraser thing! 😮 What is that you curiously ask? Ahh, so glad you did Quinn!

    “Time” is a measurement, right? But it is only measured by an Observer. Otherwise, it is not measured. The Delayed Choice/Quantum Eraser illustrates how what happens in the present can change what happens(ed) in the past. It also shows how time can go backwards, how cause-and-effect can be reversed, and how the future caused the past. See!? 😀

    Hence, what was wonderful and bad in past history is EQUALLY wonderful and bad right now in the present! We have always been time-travelers and always will be! It’s the Measurers and their measurements that change, especially their waistlines! 😉

    P.S. A good article explaining better (than I) the Delayed Choice/Quantum Eraser is found here:

    1. Oh what am interesting concept. Idea? The events of the present shape our view of the past. I’m super excited to read this article. Thanks for sharing.

      1. But of course! Sharing is what I do best. 😉 <3

    2. Huh? What’s that got to do with ancient history?

      1. LOL… don’t think strickly in linear terms or human constructs. Time measurements don’t exist. 😉

          1. An excellent question Sir. 🙂

        1. I mean, the article makes a degree of sense in a “dumbing down quantum mechanics for the internet” sort of way. It barely makes any mention of probabilities, wave functions, time independent transforms or uncertainty. But as popular science goes, I’ve read worse. What I don’t get is how that impacts stories about mythology, beyond knowingly winking and saying “quantum”. Yes, weird stuff happens at the subatomic level. It requires a level of abstract thought to get your head around. But at the macro scale, cause still comes before effect, and current events have no impact at all on the past, because entropy and thermodynamics simply don’t work that way. At the human and cosmological scale, time is still pretty linear. It can be warped, slowed, quickened, but still flows in one direction. So, yeah. From an astrophysicist’s point of view, it doesn’t make much sense I’m afraid. Sorry!

    3. Or mythology, come to that?

      1. The article-link posted will assist. 🙂

        1. I read it. Didn’t get it

          1. A friendly Fyi… My comment is also somewhat an inside cheeky joke that Quinn understands.

            Have a great day!

          2. An inside joke? Well, damn, now I feel a bit silly 🙂

          3. No, no… don’t feel that way! You couldn’t have known! No biggie. You did some wonderful dissecting there. However, I will say this: I feel you and I could have some wildly excellent conversations over a beer or two about the nature of reality and the nature of humans IN that reality! LOL 😉

  10. Oh, girl, I feel you. When I watched Midnight in Paris with Fiancé, he was like “Emelie… you’re Owen Wilson.”

    He wasn’t wrong.

  11. I’m equally enthralled with ancient cultures! Love to watch National Geographic and totally nerd out watching things on pyramids, ancient Greeks, or theories on Atlantis. And once I found Downton Abbey….holy cow, I was hooked! 🙂

    1. Oh historical fiction is one of my favorite things ever. Books, films. All of the PBS shows that play on Saturday night. Downtown Abbey, holy cow indeed!

  12. I really appreciate the point that you make about the harm in showing disdain for the present. In 30 years we’ll all be saying how great these times were. Who knows the future, but we can appreciate the greatness we have today. Like wifi and ice cubes when we want a cold drink in the summertime.

    1. Ice cubes! Imagine having to wait for a shipment of ice blocks from Nova Scotia. The inconvenience of it!

      1. And today’s beverage options are hot tea or room temperature fruit juice. There’s also warm beer, if you’re feeling frisky. 🙂 The good old days.

  13. It wasn’t rape. Did you see how she was dressed? What swan could resist?

    Safe trip 🙂

  14. […] через Thoughts on… Ancient History — When Do I Get The Manual? […]

  15. Quinn, seriously, you are my favorite new storyteller. I LOVE your writing. I have always been an avid fan of ancient cultures. Just one of my passions 😉 From living abroad in my childhood to flipping the glossy pages of an old museum book on my parent’s bookshelf to exploring ancient Crete and Ephesus more recently. Endlessly fascinated!

    1. Thanks Lane! I don’t know what it is about the ancient cultures they just drag you in – I’m reading a book called Cleopatra: A Life at the moment and it is so interesting, I am enjoying it so much more than I’d say is normal. Definitely pick it up if you haven’t read it already! Really makes me feel like the world is a lesser place for having lost Ancient Alexandria….

  16. Do you think people two thousand years in the future (assuming people are still around two thousand years in the future, which seems unlikely) will romanticize the times we live in now? It seems hard to believe.

    1. I think so. Is there any period that HASN’T been romanticised?

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