a reply to: TinySickTears
where/when would you go?
My goodness. Everywhere. And I would go well prepared.
Prepared for the filth, the stink, the general lack of hygiene (it wasn't always mediaeval squalor but standards of cleanliness were generally more
relaxed before the germ theory of disease was formulated).
Prepared for the sickness: my own, because there may be extinct bugs to which modern humans have lost their immunity, and others', because I am going
to see a lot the the crippled, lame the scarred, the scabrous, the poxed. Beggars thrusting their oozing stumps and noseless faces in mine.
Prepared for the appalling social divisions, the cruditiy with which they are emphasized and the callousness with which they are regarded.
Prepared for slavery.
Prepared for the universal dominance of religion and superstition, like a black cloud obscuring the light of reason.
Prepared for unending personal danger in a world where the possibility of death from violence is never far away, and where members of social classes
distant from one's own — higher and lower alike — must be regarded as inherently hostile.
Prepared to have my fondest preconceptions and theories about the past blown away by experience.
But yes, I'd still go. In disguise as an important foreigner, an ambassador from some distant land whose halting speech and bizarre accent are only to
be expected from one of his barbarous kind, but who must needs be treated with respect as a guest representing a powerful master. Even so, I should
have to be careful of my every word and action: not only to protect myself but to protect history, because any decisive action on my part may well
wipe out the world in which I live and replace it with one unfamiliar to me, in which I may not even exist.
Where would I go?
Classical Athens during the great ninety years that ended with the death of Socrates, though the temptation to rescue a few more of the works of
Aeschylus and Euripides, or photograph the Acropolis in its pomp with Phidias's Athena crowding the interior of the Parthenon, might prove
irresistible. Imagine watching the first performance of Antigone
or Oedipus Rex
! I suppose the camera would have to be left at home.
Baghdad in Haroun Al-Rashid's time, Shah Jehan's Delhi, Constantinople at any time. The ruined cities and monuments of my own land, the temples and
palaces and stupas
when they were whole and full of busy life.
The ancient world that we barely know from the few stones, shards of pottery and scraps of metal they have left behind. Worlds shrouded in mystery:
Sumer, Ur, Mohenjo-Daro, the ancient city-states of North India whose civilization nurtured the Buddha and the Jain prophet, Mahavira. The great
trading cultures of the Indian Ocean basin: Akkad, Dilmun. The brief, violent civilizations of pre-Columbian North America, the Aztec empire, the
obscure South American cultures that have left behind nothing but enigmatic stone heads and Cyclopean figures carved into the earth of the high
The farther back one went, the less easy it would be to present oneself as a member of some contemporary culture. One would have to remain concealed
at all times, or follow the opposite route and manifest oneself as a god. The latter would present inconveniences and dangers of its own — but if
one could pull it off, how great it would be to watch scenes from the dawn of humanity in Africa, or the discovery of the uses of fire, the beginnings
of language and culture, the great migration out from the mother-continent, the settlement of other regions. To see the megafauna of Holocene Earth
before man destroyed them, the great mammoths and terror-birds, the strange marsupial forms of Australasia. To watch the hunts that brought them to
extinction. To see the rafts set off into the Pacific unknown, laden with pigs and chickens and sweet potatoes...
To observe the felicity of the first hunter-gatherers in their Mediterranean Eden, living amid such abundance that a few hours' labour was all that
was needed to support whole days of ease, with nothing to do but paint and carve bone flutes and bangles, and sing and drink beer and dance, while
one's women grew extraordinarily fat on the land's plenty, after the fashion of the time...
Farther back still: disguise and concealment are no longer necessary when one is the only true sentient being on the planet. Observe the glaciers
advance and retreat. See the Cretaceous sky filled with great, dark wings. Feel the earth shake when the thunder-lizards, roaring, make love. Watch
the first flower bloom, the first fruit bud, the first blade of grass thrust itself out of the earth. Solve the mysteries of the great exctinctions,
see the pre-Permian world in all its bizarre abundance.
Watch the first living thing crawl out of the water on to dry land.
Earlier than that, there would be nothing much to see, unless you had a small submarine.
edit on 14/11/15 by Astyanax because: Confucius say, 'long post have many typo.'