There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

430 BC and 2012 AD – remarkable parallels, or coincidence?

There’s a statement that has been going around for months now. Since I am not trendy, I didn’t encounter it until this month, when Kristoffer Sorensen shared it.

Greece is collapsing,

Iranians are getting aggressive

& Rome is in disarray.

Welcome back
to 430 BC!

This is probably the second best thing I’ve read in the last few days. (The best thing is the various statements asserting that Dick Clark’s passing proves the veracity of the Mayan calendar. But what of Guy Lombardo’s death?)

When you first read the statement, it immediately strikes you as illustrating a series of remarkable parallels between the classical age and our modern times. “What are the odds,” you may say to yourself, “of all three of these things happening at the same time twice?”

Pretty good, when you think about it.

Let’s start with Greece. Throughout its history, Greece has either been part of someone else’s empire, a small standalone nation, or a whole bunch of warring city states. I can’t think of any time that Greece was a strong, dominant power like the United States or France or China. (Macedonia doesn’t count, and Alexander’s empire fell apart fairly quickly anyway.) So if you choose any random year and make the statement “Greece is collapsing,” you have a good chance of being correct.

Now let’s look at Iran. That region of the world has been civilized for thousands of years, and the geography of the region nearly guarantees conflicts. Iran is not like Britain or the United States, with natural geographic barriers separating it from potential enemies. Iran is right out in the open, with the potential of being invaded by people from surrounding countries – or for invading surrounding countries. In modern times, non-surrounding countries have also affected Iran, since it was in a strategic area right between the United States and the USSR during the Cold War, and because of the relative proximity of Israel during and after the Cold War. Again, its geographical location alone results in the statement “Iranians are getting aggressive” to be true in most cases.

The last statement is a little more problematic. Unlike Greece, which has never been a major world power, Rome has enjoyed two stints of power – the first during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire, and the second during the Roman Catholic Church’s dominance in Western Europe. For over one hundred years, Rome has been the capital of the independent nation of Italy.

But despite this power, there have been many instances in which one can truly declare that “Rome is in disarray.” It was certainly in disarray in 1944-1945, during the closing months of the Second World War. It was also in disarray hundreds of years ago, when rival popes ruled in Rome and Avignon. And one certainly can’t claim that Nero’s imperial rule wasn’t without disarray.

Just to illustrate how easy it is to create these statements, I created one of my own.

U.S. law enforcement is breaking the law,

English musicians are setting trends

& China is worrying its neighbors.

Welcome back
to 1975!

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5 thoughts on “430 BC and 2012 AD – remarkable parallels, or coincidence?

  1. Jim Ulvog on said:

    Those are good observations, both for 430 BC and 1975 AD
    Reminds me of Ecclesiastes 1:9:
    “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
    There’s nothing new under the sun.”

  2. Pingback: The more things change, the more they stay the same as 2,442 years ago « Outrun Change

  3. And the hebrews were leaving Babylon in increasing groups, going home to Jerusalem after exile. Just like now. The restoration of the Temple had already started.

  4. alyona on said:

    Your statements about Greece show that you have very poor understanding of ancient history šŸ™‚ before Rome, Greece (whether as a group of independent cities or as “small standalone nation”) had major influence in Mediterranean. If you take into account that back then the whole civilized world was basically Mediterranean area (except China which was in the other part of the world), then you would better understand the level of Greek political and cultural influence. First there were two centuries of Greek classical era which major influence on all other countries around, then of course Alexander, and even though Alexander’s empire split into several parts after his death, yet they all stayed on as major Greek-originated dominance (Hellenistic in other words).
    Google Hellenistic civilization or at least look it up in wikipidea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenistic_period
    Thereafter of course it was eclipsed by Roman civilization.

    Now, coming back to the poster itself, when Greece was collapsing, Rome was just rising and although there might have been minor disarrays there, it definitely wasn’t anything serious.
    More than that, 430 BC Greece was still in full power and Alexander the Great hasn’t even been born yet (he was born in in 356 BC) so there was a looooong way till collapse of Greece.
    (Oh and by the way, Iranians who were called Persians, had a distinctive empire back then – Achaemenid Empire – and then were conquered by Alexander the Great – so there were more than just a bunch of aggressive tribe on crossroads of history being conquered by everyone).

    So if you want to make a serious analysis of a joke, you better focus on these details rather than simplistic comparisons with 20th century (where indeed neither Greece nor Rome had serious power, let alone Iran).

    However, it is a joke and doesn’t require a thorough examination.

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