Roman Imperial Civilisation

Roman Imperial Civilisation

Roman Imperial Civilisation

Roman Imperial Civilisation

Excerpt

Why should we study the past at all? Why not live in the all-engrossing present, letting begones be bygones? 'Why indeed?' say many and act on that conviction. Yet there always have been and always will be many for whom the past has a strange lure. At the worst, this is a mere morbid interest in that which has ceased to have any value--one of the least satisfactory forms of pedantry. But at its best it is something very different. You have only to look at the immense amount of intellectual vigour and curiosity today put into the study of antiquity to realise that. What lies behind this intensely alive study of the past? Perhaps the wish to gain some warning or instruction from past experience may play a small part. But the dominant motive is a noble curiosity--an intense desire to know how man has lived in other times, meeting other problems and adapting himself to other environments. After all, it is characteristic of man that time for him has three dimensions, past and future as well as present. If that is clearly realised, the look back is as inevitable as the look forward, though naturally, as movement is forward not backward, the forward view is the more important. The remoter past, lying behind all written records, all monuments of stone or brass, is prehistory. History begins when man begins to be articulate, and, as the child who talks is more interesting to most peole than the babe who does not--the infant--the interest in . . .

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