top of page

Why you should read classical history

Titanic's deathly fate could have been avoided with a pair of keys.

This sounds doubtful, right? How could a miscellaneous item like keys save the Titanic? All these hard-hitting questions are worthy of Sherlocke Holmes.

But there was a pair of keys crucial for the Titanic. In fact, these pairs of keys were important for ships in the early 20th century. These keys are the ones that open the locker full of binoculars. And when you are looking out for icebergs, binoculars are essential.

But why weren't these keys used to get the binoculars on the Titanic? Well, a few days before the Titanic was to set out to America, there was some shuffling with the staff.

The second officer, David Blair, had the keys to the locker with binoculars. But he was let go four days before the trip. And never had a chance to give the keys to his replacement.

A simple but costly mistake. As a result, human folly doomed the Titanic before its journey.

And throughout the history of humankind, human folly has been the cause of so many disasters. Yet, few people take heed of this. And the reason for that is a lack of reading classical history.

You know that corny saying: "Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It." I see this quote has been abused for ages.

But I have to admit that it's true. And in this article, I'm going to delve into this corny quote in a little more depth. And show three reasons why classical history should be a part of your regular readings. Which are:

  • Better understand human nature

  • Role models to follow

  • Getting new experiences

Reason #1: Human Nature When you read a history of factual events, human interactions, conflicts and resolutions. You start noticing a trend.

Human nature prevails throughout time. Whether it's lust, greed, or the crowd going crazy. You'll see the news from today and compare it to what happened a thousand years and see nothing has changed.

Sure the leading powers or rulers have, but not their nature. But, reading classical history bring this to your attention. When reading current events, human nature is not that noticeable. But when historical figures show the same traits, the lessons of human nature stick.

When you see Caesar's charisma. When you see Nicias's timidity. When you see Sun Tzu's patience.

You will see that nothing has changed with humans. A funny thing I noticed while reading classical history is how men will do stupid things (aka simp) for women. The crazy things we see today on the internet have been happening in another form for thousands of years.

And acquainting ourselves with classical history will help us see predictable human errors. Giving us the foresight to make fewer mistakes. And as the ancient Greek Thucydides put it best:

  • "Best interests are consequent on fewest errors of judgement."

So read classical history for a first-grade education on human nature (or folly). Plus, you'll also get great role models to follow.

Reason #2: Models to follow In history, the great men and women have been recorded for future generations. From Joan D'Arc, Saladin, Themistocles, etc. We have many examples of great people.

And each of the admirable individuals has traits to model after. When you read about these historical figures and see their complex problems. We also see how they used their skillset and ingenuity to overcome them.

And remember, for these people, the stakes were high. If they failed, early death and destruction of their nation were the consequence. So we have models who display the most remarkable traits of humans.

When you read Caesar, you see his courage elevating his status. When you read Saladin, you see his good manners earning him respect from his enemies. When you read Musashi, you see his quest for wisdom. We live in a time where there aren't many great role models. But classical history helps you rub shoulders with all the greats. And from this, these great traits from the historical figures will rub on you.

So when you feel fear, Caesar's courage will remind you to be bold. When you feel offended, Saladin's manners will remind you to act honourable. When you feel lost, Musashi's thirst for knowledge will remind you to look for wisdom.

All these historical figures are giving you the answers to life's challenges. And speaking of challenges, life is too short to experience all of them.

Reason #3: Getting new experiences If you live in a peaceful place, then war, famine, and hardships of similar flavours will rarely find you.

But with classical history, we can take a time capsule and return to these historical events. Where we can feel the emotions, the dilemmas, and the consequences.

And these challenging moments you read about are where you will see humans shining the most. These are the moments where courage, honour, wisdom, etc., come out.

Reading and mentally experiencing these historical events makes them part of us. Most people in the West are out living their routine regular lives. But with classical history, you experience war, politics, adventures, etc.

So when the time comes when you are facing a crisis. Your personal experience and those you read in classical history will help you.

Even though these three reasons sound fantastic, they may not be enough for you. Because if we're being honest, classical history is not an easy read.

Classical history is boring! I would be a fool to tell you that there is no such thing as a boring classical history. And I even admit it took me a while to get into classical history.

But I got started and got over the tedious aspect of this genre by finding the ones I was interested in.

If you follow your curiosity, even if it's a little, it will help you read classical history. So all you have to do is google classical history and choose the one that piques your interest.

Then once you finish one book, repeat the cycle. Remember, your curiosity is what will lead you to find and absorb wisdom. And if your interests are not there, no amount of reading will make it feel beneficial.

And one surprising group that found classical history beneficial was the Trump administration.

Trump's challenge with China. Trump (whether you like him or not, let's ignore it) and his administration knew China was a threat. And because of this, they looked for resources to help them. From here, they became interested in a classical history book written in the fifth-century b.c. This book was The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.

This particular interest showed them that they were on a similar path to the war that broke out in the book. As a result, the Trump administration took the wisdom and policies from the book into their repertoire. They did not want to fall into similar traps as those in the Peloponnesian War. Especially if they were preventable.

Let's switch gears and discuss a preventable mistake in reading classical history.

Not taking notes. With classical history, you can't treat it like ESPN or CNN. You have to take note of the things that stand out. Especially when it comes to an understanding of human nature, admirable traits, and challenging experiences. Because you need to be a student who pays attention.

Classical history is easy to forget, like everything else.

But this is preventable. So while you're reading these books, highlight and jot down notes. Then when you are done, review those notes periodically. Since you will be adopting that heroic journey and gaining new experiences. You will have classical history to support you in your life. But this can only be done when you are the student and not a flimsy onlooker.

And to not make this article any more corny or flimsy, let's wrap it up. Summary

  • Three reasons to read classical history are to show you human nature, models to follow, and new experiences.

  • Reason #1: Human nature has not changed. And by reading about it in classical history, you will get a guide on it and not be a victim to the predictable mistakes.

  • Reason #2: Classical history shows you the great men and women from the past. And these people can be role models for the traits you admire in them.

  • Reason #3: Reading classical history allows you to experience things you probably won't ever get. Adding to your personal experience.

  • Classical history can be boring to read. And the way to overcome this is to start with a classical history book you are interested in. Curiosity will help you get into this genre.

  • The Trump administration used classical history to help them with their challenges with China.

  • A common mistake when reading classical history is not taking notes. Being a student of this genre requires us to jot notes, so it's easier to absorb the wisdom and experience.

By now, classical history should seem a little more interesting. It's a genre not read by many but will prove fruitful for those who do. And as you grow and gain wisdom, you will have deeper insights than most people your age. Which will lead you to avoid committing human folly less often than most. And less costly than David Blair. Until next time, Bulcha The Charismatic Nerd


bottom of page