History Never Repeats, I Tell Myself Before I Go To Sleep


In the Sunday New York Times, Laura Miller has a nice piece on the ways moderns try to stretch classical history to fit contemporary parallels.

A sample:

As [Donald] Kagan explains in his introduction to The Peloponnesian War, the war's history was once taught as analogous to World War I, then later as a parallel to the cold war. He demurs from continuing that tradition, though, writing, "I have avoided making comparisons between events in it and those in later history, although many leap to mind." [Victor Davis] Hanson is far less circumspect in his most recent book, Ripples of Battle, an account of three battles: Shiloh, Okinawa and the relatively obscure clash between the Athenians and the Boeotians at Delium in 424 B.C. The book concludes with a passionate and vainglorious diatribe about the pre-eminence of military history and the need to apply the insights he has ostensibly just offered us to the post-Sept. 11 situation. "After the fall of the twin towers," he proclaims, "Americans were more likely to believe a dead Greek than the most sophisticated lawyers and social scientists of the modern Western world."