Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Herodotus' Alternate History

Every night, for weeks, I've been reading Herodotus before falling asleep. It is fascinating, and it also acts like a magic sleeping pill. The kings of the past would not be out of place among the presidents of the modern day. I find fascinating, in particular, how rarely history talks about the food of the armies.There is the floods of Egypt (I am currently reading about an Egyptian king named Aramis, or something like Aramis.. I don't remember his name.) and the productive soil such floods provide. There is the arrangement of land. But, the nobility and the warrior class are the ones who cut a path across such books as these.

Imagine what would happen if such men as Herodotus praised not the kings, but the shepherds and farmers and mothers. If all these great moments in history were not such trivial matters as which violent nobleman squats upon a throne and for how long, and instead questioned the way farmers grew and prepared food in all the kingdoms of the world,and the way mothers raised children. Glorify not the warmongers, but the grandmothers who keep the household gods, Herodotus. Build a society upon these histories. Western Civilization that is founded upon the books of the home and hearth, the farm and field. Scoff upon the men who would cut down the sons like hard winter wheat. Curse them, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Homer.

Imagine the epic poem of just Penelope,managing the lands to feed the guests that groan upon her paving stones, driving back the battle-hardened,braggart men, fistfighting in her lawn, and how could she raise a son like that, with all those awful,noisy men in her courtyard? History of kings and warlords is skimming the smoke of discerning a history of the civilization from the smoke trails of faded clouds.

Herodotus, tell me not of the harem intrigue, and tell me not of the palaces and kings. The ceremonies of state religions tell me nothing about the little gods that watch over the faithful hearth. Herodotus, I wish you had glorified the home and hearth, and the men who hid their cattle, hid their daughters, and served their land, sending no sons to war for foreign kings and glory, staying where they were and being honest and building a future in every little decision and deed upon their ancestral ground.

Picture the world constructed from a peaceful myth of origin. Picture the nations that result who do not glorify in war of Ares or Roman Mars, but only glorify the Pallas Athena, protectress of cities. Glorify the good farmer, the honest wife, the skills of the smiths, and the good life that comes from hard work, peace, and building always for the next generation.

Dream of this when you sleep, as I do, after reading Herodotus.

All our generations of scholars and kings, for 1000 years studied Greek and Latin, and filled their imaginations with such wars and such petty, miserable would-be godkings... What an example they made, those Greek and Roman historians, for how great men should behave. What a horrible example of how to be a great man, by the edge of a sword and the deceit of politicians, and the destruction and subjugation of empires and religions and making others eat their own dead.

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