Stand

In the war of conquest against the Gauls, the Romans under the leadership of Julius Caesar went all out in their efforts.

The origins of this conflict lay around 350 years prior to this final war in the Battle of the Allia, when the Gauls sacked Rome.

During the war with Rome, the Gauls put up incredible resistance until the end. The last stand took place at Alesia.

Change

In the progression of history, one can see how different societies change differently over time.

The influences that cause these are multifaceted and complex.

As hard as it is to predict the next change, one can get invaluable information by reading and knowing the history of each society.

Imagine

In the plays of ancient India, such as those of Kalidasa, one finds descriptions of fantastical personalities and events.

However, not many of these plays relied on there being extensive usage of special effects or props on the stage.

Instead, the audience was intended to use their imagination as the actors acted out such scenes and provided beautiful descriptions of the situations in verse.

West to East

Beginning with the Aeneid of Virgil, the older Greek myths of Troy etc were incorporated into the Roman belief system to ensure a continuity from ancient Greece to the Roman empire.

As the ancient period came to an end, the power center of the Roman empire shifted from the Italian peninsula to the eastern Greek areas.

The mythological artifact known as the palladium was believed to have been moved to Constantinople which became the new capital of the eastern Roman empire.

Transitions

When a civilization faces severe internal problems, the downfall becomes almost inevitable.

This was the case with the Sassanid Empire, which, during the seventh century, was tottering under military defeats, famine and other problems.

This primed the empire, known as Iranshahr, to be conquered by the Muslim Arabs.

Views

Indian philosophy has had many schools. These are known as darshanas (viewpoints). There are various classifications of the schools. But they all appear somewhat arbitrary. The schools include:

  1. Samkhya (enumeration)
  2. Yoga
  3. Nyaya (logic)
  4. Vaishesika (atomism or pluralism)
  5. Purva Mimamsa (prior Vedic exegesis)
  6. Uttara Mimamsa (later Vedic exegesis), also known as Vedanta
  7. Bauddha (Buddhism)
  8. Jaina (Jainism)
  9. Charvaka (Materialism)

Historically, the Yoga and Samkhya schools influenced each other and can be seen to merge into one school. Similarly, the Nyaya and the Vaishesika schools influenced each other. The same goes for the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa schools.

Among these nine schools, Yoga and Vedanta accept the existence of an Ishvara (Deity). The others are ambivalent about the subject or explicitly deny such an existence.

Stories

Stories and mythology have been part of human culture since times immemorial.

History, on the other hand, has been found to be a tough discipline to get right.

Trying to fit a complicated history into some narrative or a well known pattern is bound to lead to disastrous results.

This sort of approach can be compared to how Procrustes used to try to fit all his captives into an iron bed by stretching them or cutting their legs off.

Urban and rural

In history, the development of the urban settlements was a momentous achievement. Urban life can be contrasted to rural life with the lack of dependence on agriculture and pastoralism. The word “urban” is derived from a root meaning refined or cultured.

The development of urban centers in India can be observed to be an ancient phenomenon. Buddha developed and spread his philosophy mainly in the urban centers of his day in around 500 BC. Varanasi (or Kashi), one of the most ancient cities in the world, was one such center where the Buddha taught.

The word “Sanskrit” means refined or cultured. One can thus infer a close correlation between the development of Indian urban centers and the growth of Sanskrit.

Regal times

The English word “royal” and the Sanskrit word “Raja” are derived from the same root meaning to lead. It is interesting to note that for thousands of years, humanity had chosen to live under the rule of kings.

Republics were not unheard of. In ancient India, Greece and Rome, republics ruled by bodies of citizens existed. However, two thousand years ago, these gave way to empires.

The careful cultivation of culture and traditions was a common feature of most monarchies. The evidence for these are the remaining magnificent works of architecture, literature, music, painting etc from the past centuries.

In the last century, however, the democratic form of rule has become most common all across the world. This has led to the ancient democracies suddenly going up in prestige. It appears that the emphasis on cultural flourishing has also gone down significantly in most places. It would be interesting to observe what shape society takes as we head into the future.

Spirit of scholarship

In human society, it appears there are those people who take risks and build their scholarly credentials based on the firmness of their convictions and research.

Examples of such scholarship can be found aplenty in previous generations.

Others appear to be in for reasons of money or social climbing.