Wisdom from an ancient savant

One day, someone (I will not say who) told me there was no use reading classics now, contending that the era they described had long gone and what these books said was no longer valid. Though there are some points in this which may seem justified, the argument as a whole is spurious. To cite one objection, the same process of logic would make most religious scriptures irrelevant – a step unlikely to win much support from a lot of people, leave  alone the hot-heads.

Carrying forward the argument, almost all the books – or that matter everything which is roughly out of our present day should be abandoned… but I will resist the urge to be overly polemical and instead return to my main contention.

People may change their mores and norms outwardly, but at heart, they very well remain the same. Language or references may change but the sentiments do remain the same….

I will cite a passage from a particular work – quite highly regarded in its time and down the ages but now  unfortunately unlikely to be known much…… which says more about us then the work but lets not digress. I will not identify the work, the author and any other background until you read it – even though it seems to bolster the cause I have adopted – and see if it deserves being jettisoned from our consideration just because it is of a different millieu.

I guess there are references in the passage which will enable someone with some knowledge to identify the work but that is a chance I am willing to take.

Here goes……    

It becomes all men, who desire to excel other animals,  to strive,
to the utmost of their power, not to pass through life in obscurity,
like the beasts of the field, which nature has formed grovelling and subservient to appetite.

All our power is situated in the mind and in the body. Of the mind
we rather employ the government; of the body the service. The
one is common to us with the gods; the other with the brutes. It
appears to me, therefore, more reasonable to pursue glory by means
of the intellect than of bodily strength, and, since the life which we
enjoy is short, to make the remembrance of us as lasting as possible.
For the glory of wealth and beauty is fleeting and perishable; that of
intellectual power is illustrious and immortal
.

Yet it was long a subject of dispute among mankind, whether military
efforts were more advanced by strength of body, or by force of
intellect. For, in affairs of war, it is necessary to plan before
beginning to act, and, after planning, to act with promptitude
and vigor. Thus, each being insufficient of itself, the one
requires the assistance of the other.

II. In early times, accordingly, kings (for that was the first title
of sovereignty in the world) applied themselves in different ways; some exercised the mind, others the body. At that period, however, the life of man was passed without covetousness; every one was satisfied with his own. But after Cyrus in Asia and the Lacedaemonians and Athenians in Greece, began to subjugate cities and nations, to deem the lust of dominion a reason for war, and to imagine the greatest glory to be in the most extensive empire, it was then at length discovered, by proof and experience, that mental power has the greatest effect in military operations. And, indeed, if the intellectual ability of kings and magistrates were exerted to the same degree in peace as in war, human affairs would be more orderly and settled, and you would not see governments shifted from hand to hand, and things universally changed and confused. For dominion is easily secured by those qualities by which it was at first obtained.

To be continued…..

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