Skip to main content

Does History Repeat Itself?

Not exactly.

First of all, let's get the fine print out of the way; every moment in time itself is unique and forever lost. You never obtain the exact same conditions (unless you happen to own a rather expensive real life Sim game). So technically history cannot literally repeat itself, unless you're a fervent believe in radical physics theories.

And now to the actual discussion. Does history in fact repeat itself? There are common themes throughout the history of human civilisations. Let's take the example of religion. All cultures, from the huts of the Mongolian steppes to the rainforests of Central America have a religion of sorts; Animism, Shamanism, Christianity, Islam and so on. The absence of a so-called 'Atheist civilisation' may be a simple coincidence. It could be a by-product of human curiosity; What is the warm life-giving Sun? Why does the Sun set and so on... It has to be a superior being (which is probably why religions from Germanic paganism to Roman mythology feature it so prominently). But I'll leave you to ponder on that.

But I digress with all this philosophy. Time for actual history. You'd be forgiven if you looked at certain events in the past and thought "huh, this is familiar? Didn't this happen before?", especially as the current media scramble over the Iran deal in the US Congress. Advocating for the invasion of a country which is allegedly constructing a nuclear stockpile without sufficient evidence (and whose aftermath would trigger a power vacuum that would cause the region to spiral into a chaotic darkness of perpetuity) sounds incredibly familiar, you may be thinking. 

History has a habit of striking similarities. Invasions of Russia in the winter (or ever) have never succeeded (see Napoleon's invasion in 1812 and Hitler's invasion in 1941)  unless you discount the Mongols who wisely invaded from the other side. The same could be said to Afghanistan, earning the title of Graveyard of Empires due to the exceptional difficulty of pacifying the region throughout history (Alexander the Great, the Mughal Khans, the British, the Soviets and currently, the American coalition).

A nation under financial turmoil breeds the rise of radical xenophobic nationalists of the far right; the rise of Hitler & the Nazi Party in a 1930s depression-hit Germany is the most noted of examples. Not too long ago in 2012 did the Greek far right party Golden Dawn win 21 seats (its first ever representation in Greek parliament). The good news is that in subsequent elections, that figure is now down to 17 and with even more elections around the corner, we can be hopeful that number slides down.

Allow me to bring the 5th century Byzantine historian Zosimus into the framework. Zosimus highlighted that great empires fell due to internal conflicts and disunity. Citing the fallen empires of the Greeks and Alexander's Macedon, he brought attention to the need for an external enemy. The rapid growth of the Roman Republic in 53 years, he credited, was due to the devastating Punic Wars fought against Rome's bitter rival, Carthage. Roman themes were embraced and thus championed in the the face of Carthaginian foes. The defeat of Carthage (and the Gauls) set the scene for internal quarrels and civil war, culminating in the replacement of Roman aristocracy with monarchy, which eventually decayed into tyranny.

The eventual fall of all empires was a notion brought up earlier by Dionysius of Halicarnassus who had anticipated Rome's eventual collapse after the defeat of her rivals  (Assyria, Macedonia, Persia). The iconic Italian historian Machiavelli commented on the recurrent themes between "order" and "disorder" within contemporary Italian states between 1434-1494:
..when states have arrived at their greatest perfection, they soon begin to decline. In the same manner, having been reduced by disorder and sunk to their utmost state of depression, unable to descend lower, they, of necessity, reascend, and thus from good they gradually decline to evil and from evil mount up to good.
Machiavelli accounts for this oscillation by arguing that virtù (valor and political effectiveness) produces peace, peace brings idleness (ozio), idleness disorder, and disorder rovina (ruin). In turn, from rovina springs order, from order virtù, and from this, glory and good fortune.

This post can go on forever. To paraphrase Mark Twain; history does not repeat itself. Not exactly, anyways. But it does rhyme. I'll conclude by sharing one of my favourite cartoons on the topic. Let me know what you think in the comment section below!


Popular posts from this blog

Vintage Maps of the Arabian Peninsula

Some rather old maps of the Arabian peninsula, details under each respective map.

Embedded text: This map of the Arabian Peninsula, published in 1720, shows Arabia Felix, Arabia Deserta, and Arabia Petraea. Other regions included are Palestine, Mesopotamia, Chaldea, Persia, Aegyptus, and Aethiopia. A large number of towns are shown. The title cartouche includes nine vignette coins. The tribal and town names on the map are those used by Ptolemy. Some are used more than once, with variations. Thus “Indicara,” “Iacara,” “Ichara,” and “Aphana” all could indicate the same place: the spot where Alexander the Great intended to build a capital on an island in the Arabian Gulf, enabling him to control the trade of the region and extend his empire (a scheme that he was unable to accomplish before he died).

 Archeological research suggests that this place was Failakah Island in present-day Kuwait, although some historians place it at Abu Ali Island. The map shows a peninsula near pres…

Bahrain - Old Photographs (Part I)

Below is a collection of stunning old photographs of Bahrain taken in the 20th century. I'll try to input as many captions as I can. Enjoy!

(The vast majority of these photographs were taken prior to the 1960s, by which time their copyright expired and is now in the public domain, as stated in Legislative Decree No. 10 of June 7, 1993 in respect of Copyright Law)

Why was King John the most unpopular monarch in English History ?

The title of this post is self-explanatory. And here's why John (reigned from 1199-1216) was so unpopular:

Under his reign, the English lost the land of Normandy to the French (Normandy had been under English control since the time of William the Conqueror). In fact, he was nicknamed "Lackland" because of this.
He was excommunicated from the Church by the Pope in 1209 (this made him even more unpopular)
His fiscal policies: He made people pay very high taxes 
John was a very bad fighter (he was nicknamed "Softsword" too!), and in those times, a bad warrior made a bad king.
John murdered his own nephew for fear of him leading a rebellion against John.
The barons (who were Normans) revolted against him because of the above reasons, and after deciding that he was a bad king (especially after realizing how he spent tax money).
Perhaps the most significant of all his failures (and the most humourous), he lost the original Crown Jewels in a swamp, in Eastern England. But, i…