So said Thucydides about his aim for his work and the lasting power of the lesson he intended to confer. His History of the Peloponnesian War certainly has a sobering message: that human beings, given what they are like, are apt to repeat mistakes made by their predecessors.
But I would like to use Thucydides’ quotation for a more positive outlook, namely that literature is a wonderful, lasting, and important preserve of learning, art, history, and I could go on.
The notion of the written word as a lasting monument or possession is a recurring motif in ancient authors. The written word committed someone or their work to lasting memory. A most beautiful example comes from Horace in the last poem of his third book of odes:
“I have created a monument of bronze to last for all time,
higher than the majestic pyramids, which neither
corroding rain, nor the north-wind is powerful to destroy…”
He succeeded. We are still reading his works over two thousand years later. The lesson I want you to take away from this post is that literature is a treasure trove of pleasure, wisdom, learning, and one that is a vital part of education whether it’s fiction, poetry, history, philosophy, or science.
There is perhaps no richer insight into and record the history of human capacity.