ODE TO THE PAST (with the occasional nod to the present)

Why the Ancient World Matters

August 22, 2015

Tags: ancient wisdom, ancient-israel, ancient-greece

People often ask me why I choose to write about the characters, places, and legends of antiquity. Wouldn’t it be easier to research more recent history, which is far better documented, they ask. Well, of course it would be … but it wouldn’t be as much fun, at least not for me. (Doing things the hard way is one of my more charming qualities.)

As a native Greek, the ancient world is in my DNA. Perhaps it’s my own ancestral memory talking, but I believe the ancients have much to teach us. My characters, an archaeologist and an anthropologist, believe this too—and get into a lot of hot water trying to preserve the relics and wisdom left behind by ancient civilizations.

Life is a continuum: the past informs our present and defines our future. Listening to the whispers of antiquity may be a bit geeky (guilty!), but it is absolutely relevant, even in these fast-paced times. Here are a few lessons from the past that still matter:

1. People of antiquity cared about and learned from nature. The ancient philosopher Heraclitus and other pre-Socratic Greeks saw nature as the perfect order and believed wise men exist within that order rather than try to alter it. They also patterned their teachings after what they observed in nature. Heraclitus once said, “Reality is a moving river into which humans cannot step twice.” Pretty astute, no?

2. Virtue and integrity were the foundation of ancient civilizations. When those degraded, empires fell and societies were plunged into chaos. Since I have King Solomon on the brain, I will share his example. Solomon took the throne as a humble “babe” who knew nothing about ruling or shaping a people’s destiny. When asked by God what he wanted more than anything, he said “wisdom.” But as his power base and influence grew, he became complacent and even greedy. He did not exercise restraint; he was above it all. The result was his moral decline, the discontent of the populace, and, ultimately, the ruin of his united kingdom.

3. The ancients found joy in moderation. Overstimulation does not necessarily translate into happiness. Ancient Asians took the “middle way” or “golden mean”—the balance between two extremes (excess and paucity). Confucius came up with the Doctrine of the Mean, which is too complicated to go into here; let’s just say it upheld the notion of equilibrium through honesty, fairness, restraint, and propriety. Ancient Greeks were all about moderation, too. The inscription on the gate to the temple of Apollo in Delphi says it all: “Nothing in excess.”

Selected Works

Historical Fiction
A story of passion and betrayal, faith and sacrifice, and the fall of an empire.
Sarah Weston uncovers a long-lost Greek artifact--and a plot to build the ultimate terrorist weapon.
Sarah Weston races to uncover an ancient message with explosive implications for modern Israel.
The first in a series of archaeological thrillers featuring gritty aristocrat Sarah Weston.

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