Ancient World: A Book of Moments

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Estimated reading time Time 3 to read. Eventually, after many twists and turns, and despite her lack of standing and money, Elizabeth and Darcy marry. What continues to strike readers today is that Jane Austen is deeply concerned about romance and about money. To marry only for money is, she argues, a disaster.

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But equally she holds that to marry only for love is terrible folly too. In her eyes a good marriage requires warmth and tenderness of heart and a strong practical, worldly, managerial competence. And from this, she draws the conclusion that few people are actually well-suited for marriage.

She is unsurprised that many marriages are a little hollow or a little grim. Her novels depict numerous unsatisfactory relationships and a very few happy ones.

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In the early years of the 19th century, Jane Austen is defining the wise ideal of modern love. She sees marriage as a hybrid enterprise: in some respects it is like running a small business, or organising a village fete. But at the same time, marriage is a profoundly complex emotional encounter. And to thrive in it one needs emotional maturity, affection, playfulness and warmth.

Through her novels she is trying to present the reader with an education. In a truly classical way, she believes we can do few things well if we leave our performance to nature, luck and chance. A happy relationship depends on the maturity of both parties. Love is something we need to learn. There is a huge initial resistance.

The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome

But eventually much of the world is convinced by his arguments. Human beings are descended from the primates.


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And that means that we have inherited not just their skeletal structure but also a lot of their drives and basic psychology. We are, at any time, half apes. And for apes to aim for faithful, life-long, passionate, egalitarian relationships is to attempt to pull off something hugely difficult starting from a very unpromising base. No wonder we often fail. Without particularly intending to, Darwin ushers in a strategic and useful pessimism about relationships. Rather than being, for instance, essentially monogamous, he implies that human beings might — by nature at least — be predisposed to as many apes are to polygamy, opportunistic sex and the dumping of one mate for another on the basis of nothing more than their breeding potential, signalled by such unedifying and unspiritual characteristics as how big their breasts are.

Jefferson Poland, wearing a flower behind his ear, strips off his swimming trunks and wades naked into the sea.

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Poland is one of the first hippies. He wears his hair long and rejects the sophistication of modern life for a romantic notion of getting back to a natural state of grace. Law is obscene! This event is one of many organised by groups advocating free love in the s in America. Soon monogamy itself is being questioned; in an enlightened world, they argue, sexually liberated men and women should give up marriage, along with it, jealousy, adultery and divorce.

The country achieves a notorious distinction.


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A newspaper in the country asks why, and the answer comes back clearly: initial expectations were not met. Other countries are not far behind. Part of the reason lies in the disappointment people feel with what had apparently been promised to them by the free-loving s, and before that, by 19th-century Romanticism. Modern man can travel a distance roughly times more than that travelled by a person in the ancient world. This nullification of distance in terms of modes of travel and the ease of communication were brought about by great progress in science and technology witnessed in the last years.

The world is now tightly interconnected.

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Cataclysmic weather events that are supposedly plausible in one part of the globe by the mere flutter of a butterfly in another part of the world is of course a gro Modern man can travel a distance roughly times more than that travelled by a person in the ancient world. Used as we are to the instant nature of real-time communication, it might be hard for us to think about an era in which there were no long-distance telephony, mobile phones or the Internet. Yet, even in these primitive circumstances, human spirit and endeavour crossed deserts, scaled mountains and forded rivers to establish trade and cultural contacts with his fellow beings in other societies.

The ouster of a rebel, or the invasion by a nomad tribe, or the civil war in a kingdom often gave rise to a chain reaction by migration, war or missionary work so as to alter the course of history in another kingdom.

There are many books available which deals with the connected nature of the modern world, but very few that focuses on inter-civilization interactions in the ancient. This book is an excellent one on that thesis, covering the history of the world from early-sixth century BCE to late-fourth century CE. It examines three new developments that came about — birth of democracy, consolidation of empires and development of universal religions. Michael Scott is a quite young professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Warwick and has authored many books on the classical period.

He is best known to the public as the presenter of ancient history programs on the BBC. Development of democracy in Athens was such a groundbreaking event that the Athenian principles continue to be employed as a mark of enlightened rule in the modern world. Cleisthenes set the basic principles in BCE against tyrannical monarchs in Athens. What he christened the new system was eunomia good order against dysnomia bad order of the old ways. Though it was also called isonomia equal order , the name demokratia stuck after the Persian invasions in s BCE.

The new system of voting came to be known as res publica romana the public thing of the Roman people. It was an absolute democracy in Athens where the people were organized as individuals and arbitrary tribes.

Romans gravitated towards other interest groups such as patricians, plebeians, aristocrats in an unelected Senate and military leaders. The Roman republic provided for emergency powers to be concentrated in one person designated as a dictator. This difference made the Roman system beset with sectarian interests, but made possible an elaborate circle of mutual checks and balances that kept all levels of society believe that they had more to gain from the system than from wreaking it.

It is an eye-opener to the modern world that the more autocratic Roman system had a greater lifespan than the total democracy of Athens. Scott then moves on to examine the relationships forged between ancient communities through warfare. This was also the age in which mega states emerged across the known world in the form of Rome and the Han Empire in China.

The book presents an absorbing story of the fight between Rome and Carthage for supremacy in the Mediterranean. The actions and consultations between Hannibal and the Roman general Scipio Africanus is absorbing.