Aside from the two exams I have left to go, I’ve finished my first year of uni!! Saying this in early May when I have payed (or, will be paying) £9000 for this seems rather strange, but I do believe it is worth it. I’m very conscious of the fact that I’m at university to learn about ancient history, and become better at studying it, rather than just to graduate with a piece of paper telling employers I have a degree. With that in mind, I thought I’d write a happy lil’ blog post about the most fun and / or important things I’ve learned since starting in September.
- There’s so, so much we don’t know
Prior to uni, I had some knowledge about some mythology, such as the foundation myths of Rome with the she-wolf and Romulus and Remus, but had no idea of the extent to which our knowledge of history is quite literally made up. Even the system we use to calculate dates B.C is an approximation, and who’s to say that anything written by ancient sources like Herodotus is at all true. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I briefly remember that in part of Herodotus he talks about Arabian sheep with tails over a metre long?
2. Reading ancient texts isn’t so bad
Surprisingly, the translations of texts that were written 2000 years ago are often a lot easier to understand and engage with than articles written this year. At college, I really disliked reading Thucydides and it put me off ancient texts in general, but some sources are interesting and entertaining to read. Due to the nature of classics as a subject, they can be hilarious, or even allow you to become emotionally invested with these historical charactars at times, for examples Cicero’s letters show such a personal point of view, and deals with issues surrounding family and morals. Almost definately my favourite ancient sources, Cicero’s letters show a real person’s thought process in deciding how to act in a time of politcal turmoil.
3. (Almost) everything is relavent to to modern day
From my lectures alone, the parrellels to the modern day are evident, and at time quite scary. As Thucydidies put it; “the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must”. Learning about the ways in which elite demagoges appealed to the masses through propaganda and subjugated those who were weaker than them is both interesting and terrifying. Modern politics is a perfect example of why ancient history is still so relavent; yes, these events may have happened thousands of years ago, and these civillisations arguabley seize to exist, but we have yet to put into practise what we have learned from the lessons these historical stories have provided us with.
4. Medieval history is super fun
Taking a relatively broad and thematic medieval topic was a very good decision, it was broad enough to follow with no real knowledge of medieval history, yet it was still interesting. I have decided that I really like the Vikings & Anglo-Saxons, probably because there are clear links to Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones and it makes me really happy!! I didn’t quite realise the extent of the role religion played within the medieval world, and also the amount of time which this period covered. Castles and knights were only a very small part of medieval history in the overall scheme of things, which was quite a surprise to me. I am not convinced that medieval history is half as fun as ancient Rome, but I did enjoy the corruption of the church intertwined with the political system. I want to explore medieval history in more depth, and I especially want to understand the British medieval history which famously inspired Game of Thrones.
5. Ancient history is difficult
There may not be exams every few weeks like in science and maths based subjects, and there may not be countless pages of working out for each question, but humanities subjects, I believe, are just as difficult as science and maths. Countless hours of (often dry and difficult-to-read) articles can become tedious, especially if it’s for an essay which discusses what effect a narrator has. Despite this, it is most definately worth it, after just a few months I feel as though I can actually watch a Mary Beard documentary and understand just about everything she’s talking about. Having now visited both Rome and Athens, I feel as though I am beginning to peice together the vastness and richness of the ancient world I have begun to study, which has been rewarding in itself.