As an historian of the ancient world there are many things that I can learn and apply from the history of my ancestors. We can learn many things from the past that can help keep us from making the same mistakes. Some of the most important things we can learn from the past are how conflicts started and ended. We can learn why the world is the way is today from the outcomes of wars and battles. My theme for this reflection is the military and how it influenced the different groups of people.
One of the most important innovations in ancient warfare happened during the times of the ancient Greeks. The ancient Greeks came up with the phalanx formation; the phalanx lined all the troops in rows. Each of the ancient Greek hoplites would be equipped with an oversized spear and shield. The spear would allow the hoplites too thrust helping keep the troops separated. The shields would overlap each other creating an impenetrable wall of flesh and metal. The hoplite was also equipped with a short sword that could be used to hack if the spear broke. The most impressive part of the Greek phalanx was that as soon as one member fell the next person would step into the front row. The Greek phalanx was such a formidable defense that changed the face of ancient warfare for many years to come.
The Greek phalanx was incredibly important during the time of the Greco-Persian wars. The Persians during this time were the superpower of the ancient world. They had large numbers in there armies and most of the time overwhelmed the enemy. At the battle of Marathon the Persians ashore in southern Greece and greatly out numbered the Greek army. The Greeks lined up in the phalanx formation and were able to surround the enemy Persian army. The Greeks were able to inflict huge damaged on the enemy and had to retreat. The same formation would prove to work again against the Persians. The Persians sailed to a small pass where only 300 Spartans met them. The Spartans fighting in the Phalanx formation were able to hold the Persians off and gave the rest of the Greeks time to save Athens. This is just one example of how the Phalanx changed the course of history. Had the Persians successfully invaded Athens the whole course of Western history could’ve been changed?
Later on in history a great king of Macedonia would use the Greek phalanx to help conquer the largest empire in history. Alexander the Great conquered land all the way from Africa to India, he did this using what he learned about Greek warfare and from his father. Alexander didn’t last long though he most likely would have kept going gaining more land if he hadn’t died at a young age. This is just another example of how the Greek phalanx shaped the ancient world.
Finally the last military achievement that shaped the ancient world was in Imperial China. The first emperor of China came from the Qin dynasty. The Qin dynasty fought similarly they fought in lines of troops with swords but used cavalry and archers. The Qin emperor was able to unite China into one empire using the military. This helped shape Asia into what it is today.
So why study history what can we learn from the militaries of the ancient world, what can we learn from them? In todays mechanized world no one would think of using the phalanx or even a sword. “Historical knowledge is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory” (McNeill). I think what this quote is saying that history is all about who writes it. This also means that the people who wrote the history have an opinion on it. These memories also help us see into the lives of people who were affected by the actions of the time. It is important to listen to the way people felt cause humans are likely to react the same today. If something didn’t work or wasn’t well received 1300 years ago it probably wont be received today. “How then will a child be able to distinguish the importance of his past? How will he use history to define his present? What forces will shape his future?” (Postma). I think what this quote is saying is that if we don’t study history and understand the past how can we avoid making the same mistakes. What we learned in this class is that King Phillip of Macedonia trusted his family and people too much and entered his theater un-guarded. This was ultimately his down fall. Could some events have been avoided in history had we paid better attention? Could the assassinations of great people like Lincoln, or Kennedy been prevented if we had just read a history book? The answer is most likely not but people can learn form situations in the past and be better prepared to stop them. Could we have avoided WWII had we just paid attention to the signs of the first Great War? To me this is why history is such an important part of our world.
If we pay attention to history it can speak to us. It can show what didn’t and us what worked. History can help us from repeating the same mistake over and over again. There is reason we haven’t had a third world because we learned we saw the consequences. It is each and every individuals responsibility to learn from history and help keep from repeating the same mistakes over. History happens everyday we can all change the course of history we just have to pay attention.