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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Ancient Times

"Now we must consider that some of the blessed philosophers of ancient times have found out the truth..." -- Plotinus

The way we study history, we usually get a block called "Ancient History" that we cover in the first month of "World History" in high school or "Western Civ" in college. After being rushed through a whole mess of material, most students probably have a view of what happened in "ancient times" something like, "After building the pyramids and leading the Jews out of Egypt, Julius Caesar studied for a time with Aristotle, and then conquered the Gauls. But when Caesar crucified Jesus, in revenge Brutus stabbed him to death (as documented by Brutus's friend Shakespeare). This caused the downfall of the Roman Empire, and led to the Dark Ages, when the Church would burn at the stake anyone whom it suspected of thinking, people believed the earth rested upon a giant flea on God's back, and everyone died of the black plague."

But even those of us who spend more time than that in the past can easily forget just how big a stretch of time "ancient history" was. I had that experience when encountering the Plotinus quote above. Plotinus himself is an "ancient philosopher," so who could these "philosophers of ancient times" be? Well, Plotinus meant Socrates, and Plato, and Aristotle, who for him were as far back in his past as the Middle Ages are in our own.

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