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‘A Possession for All Time’

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.

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