Learn From Ancient World

I am a fan of history, especially the ancient world.

From history, we can learn certain reasons behind events that shaped our world today. Another important lesson is that actually we can learn from ancient world and refer it to certain things in today’s modern society. We can use history as our reference in order to not repeating the same mistake. Hence, the saying “we don’t want history to be repeated twice”.

Democracy in ancient world

One of the subject is democracy. For some, democracy is viewed as the latest and most modern form of government that emerged in 20th century. Little known about ¬†Roman Republic and Ancient Greece practiced ‘elements’ of democracy in the past, although historian agreed that the Roman Republic was not fully democratic.

Citing the Avalon project of Yale Law School in Federalist no. 34, there is an argument that says the Roman republic had attained the utmost height of human greatness. The Roman republic is an idealized version that founding fathers of nations looked to when developing their own democracy constitution. In fact, American democracy rooted from ancient Rome model. However,the “democracy” of Roman Republic is only dominated by people from certain caste. Which led to conclusion that it is not fully democratic.

Meanwhile, many regards the Athenian democracy from Ancient Greece is the first and birth of democratic system in history. Although, eligibility to vote held different elements from modern democracy, such as; one has to be an adult male and not a slave. Which give no room for women.

What happen to these ancient democracy?

First, the Roman Republic exist from 509 BC to 27 BC, that is 482 years in existence, compare it to UK (310 years old) or USA (241 years old), which can be said that our modern democracy has not endured the test of time beyond Roman Republic. What happen after Roman Republic? the government transitioned into empire until its partition in 395 AD into Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman empire. Then the empire continue to exist until 1453 AD (Eastern Roman Empire), which means that from 27 BC to 1453 AD democracy vanished, but the empire exist for more than a thousand years.

Meanwhile, the Athenian democracy is more complicated to understand. The system had undergone three reforms before being replaced by oligarchy(power held by some wealth citizen) after a group of citizens of Athens viewed the democracy has led the city to ruin in the wake of failed military campaign. Then the oligarchy was replaced by another democratic government until Athens surrendered to Sparta. After that the city enjoys another pro-democratic regime and democracy persisted until Phillip II of Macedon conquered Athens.

What we can learn

When we look to Roman republic, the democratic system had let to internal political turmoil (i.e corruption) where central government had become powerless and provinces had transformed into independent state under absolute control of the governor. Then come Julius Caesar, the great Roman general in his struggle to reform the Republic. He assume the role of dictatorship in order to stabilize the situation until his assassination by jealous fellow politician. His adopted son Octavius then take the role and follow the struggle to reformed the republic. He eventually become the first Roman Emperor and the republic transitioned to empire.

If Julius Caesar was not assume the role of dictator, there will be no Roman Empire that last more than thousand years. The corrupt government of the republic had become dysfunctional. The same situation that we can see in modern world. We wait for the time bomb until the problems become severe and a revolutionist came into the picture.

In the same voice, Greek philosopher Socrates was also not impressed with democracy. In The Republic, Socrates made an argument in a conversation, “If you were heading out on a journey by sea, who would you ideally want deciding who was in charge of the vessel? Just anyone or people educated in the rules and demands of seafaring? The latter of course. So why then we thinking that any old person should be fit to judge who should be a ruler of a country?”


I believe there are more to learn from ancient civilization that can be apply in today’s modern society. Here is just an example of one aspect that we found in ancient world that has something to do with our society. I would suggest to let our curiosity lead us in learning more than only constrained with formal education. Let me know what you think.




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