Thoughts on: The Story of Civilization, Vol 3: Caesar and Christ by Will Durant

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, this book is not read one either. It’s thousand pages covers almost all aspects of Roman civilization.
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The broad scope is both it’s biggest strength and it’s weakness. While philosophy and statemanship holds my attention, Rome’s pottery and poetic traditions does not. This leads many highs and lows, but also to a holistic understanding of the workings of the empire.
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📝 “A great civilization is not conquered from without before it has destroyed itself from within.” 💥
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📝 During this Saturnalia festival the relationship between slave and master was inverted. Slaves could disobey ordered without punishment. Sometimes they changed clothes with their master. They where served food and wine.
The masters “didn’t eat until all their slaves where filled.”. A great way to keep control the slaves. This temporary relief must have kept the slave/master dynamic from reaching a boiling point.
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📝 “Moreover, I consider that Carthage should be destroyed.” – the line Cato ended all his speeches with in the Senate. #Montaigne more humble adage was “what do I know?” . I wonder what my adage will be? 🤔 😆 I want one!
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📝 Caesar epic nickname: “The Bald Adulterer” 👴🏻
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📝 Caligula. the megalomaniac, took baths in perfume; had habitual incest with his sisters; sprinkled golds to the masses; ordered all
bald men to be sent as food for the gladiatorial animals when animal food was in I’ll supply.

📝 Marcus Aurelius: Slept on the floor while his mother asked him to get on the coach. “He became a stoic before he became a man.”
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📝 Historically the belief in heaven and the belief in utopia are like compensatory buckets in a well: when one goes down the other comes up.
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NEXT UP:
The Story of Civilization: Volume 4: The Age of Faith.
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⚖️ VERDICT:
I love that I’ve read this book but I don’t necessarily want to do it again. 😬
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3/5

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Thoughts on: The Life of Greece by Will Durant

When I first posted my goal of making Ancient Greece the focus of my studies this year, I someone cautioned me that it might be too much to deal with in such a short time.

It was only after getting a few hours into this book that I understood what she/he meant: it’s impossible to take all this in within a year. It would take a decade to cover only one aspect of Greek civilization fully; lifetimes to cover it all! Ramming everything into my head was like trying to catching a waterfall with a bucket.

I changed my approach to the book and saw it as a buffet. I got a small taste of everything and noted down where I wanted to explore more.

Now I’m looking for further reading on:


📖 Pericles, “the most complete man Greece ever produced.” Big words. I want to know more.

📖 Diogenes, he lived the cynic lifestyle to the fullest. Fascinating man! Did you know that there is a condition known as Diogenes Syndrome? It’s characterized by extreme self-neglect, social withdrawal and lack of shame.

📖 Sparta: The crazy strict and tough lifestyle intrigues me. Is David Goggins actually the last Spartan?

📖 Archimedes: “Don’t disturb my circles!”. From Levers, to Pi, to the formula for calculating the surface area of a sphere, but also: war machines! I need to know more about this genius.

📖 The March of the Ten Thousand: Durant calls it “one of the great adventures in human history”. 🧐


📝 Schliemann: A crazy archeologist, obsessed with The Iliad, and determined to uncover Troy. Which he did!


💭 🤷‍♂️ Checking one book of the Reading List and you end up with an even longer list…


⚖️ VERDICT:

“Greek civilization is alive. it moves in every breath of mind that we breath. So much of it remains that none of us in one lifetime could absorb it all.”

As I reach the summary and conclusion of this book I’m in awe and my eyes tearing up in gratitude for this beautiful account of life in Greece.

4/5


Whose your favorite among the ancient Greeks? ⁉️🤔

For more great Non Fiction– check out my Reading Lists

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 4) – The Far East

My longest book to date has reached its end, and this is just the 1st volume (out of 11) in the The Story of Civilization series by Will Durant. This last part focused on ancient China and Japan.

Was it worth it? We are talking about a 50 hour audiobook. Yes, I think so! Does the #sunkcostfallacy play a role in this answer? It probably does! I’ve suffered through a lot of dry talk about pottery and poetry to reach this point.


📝 The feet of girls at age 7 where compressed with tight bandages to prevent their further growth, so that the mature lady might walk with a mincing step erotically pleasing to the men.

In the prescence of a lady the word shoe was taboo.🦶 👠

📝 To know the ‘Dao’ is to surpress ones knowledge. “We have to forget our theories and feel the facts.”

📝 Confucianism: “Only in Christianity and in Buddhism can we find again so heroic an effort to transmute into decency the natural brutality of men.”

📝 Chinese civilization in 2 words: Philosophy and Porcelain.

📝 “Beards where small and always shaved, but seldom of the owner thereof.” oh, I cannot but LOVE Will Durants prose and elegant summaries of the smallest aspects of civilization. 😂

📝 Chinese writing: “The same character is read as different sounds and words in different localities.” I remember seeing Chinese and Japanese students, who where unable to communicate verbally, communicate through written messages when I studied in Japan. 🤯

📝 When the revolution raged they forgot the old sages words. “He who thinks the old embankments useless and destroys them is sure to suffer from the desolation caused by overflowing water.”


⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

“The accumulation of wealth in the hands of the minority is no doubt a universal and apparently unfailing concomitant of civilization.” We see this play out over and over again.

I’m still green but now I at least have a slight understanding of Confucianism and rudimentary understanding of the Chinese and Japanese culture and history.

3/5

Which books is the longest book you read? 🤔

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Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 3) – India and it’s Neighbors

I’m 35 hours (50 in total) into this beast of a book and it’s a good time for another mini review. This part tackles the history of India and it’s a good one!


📝Gandhi: “What the eyes are for the outer world, fasts are for the inner.” I have never fasted. Have you? Maybe this will be my next experiment. 🧪

📝 It’s hard to overestimate the importance and impact and the cast system on India. I want to read more about it. 🤓

📝 The dominating fact in India is heat, Durant argues. ☀️ “It weakened the youth and shortened them. It also gave way to the most quiet of religions and philosophy”. “The only relief of this heat is to sit still and do nothing and desire nothing”…”When the monsoon fails to blow, India starves, and dreams of Nirvana.” 🧐🤔

📝 Mohenjo-daro was as old as the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

📝 “In the whole world, said Schopenhauer, there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as the of the Upanishads. It’s been the solace of my life. It will be the solice of my death”. This Schopenhauer guy show up a lot in the Laws of Human Nature too. I need to read his work.

📝 ”Unlike most saints, Buddha had a sense of humor and knew that metaphysic without laughter is immodesty”.

📝 The oldest and ever reoccurring theme of Hindu thought: “individual separateness is an illusion.” “All life is one”.


⭐️TAKEAWAY: “Nothing should more deeply shameful to the modern student than the recency and Inadequacy of his acquaintance with India.” 🙋‍♂️🤦‍♂️ 🇮🇳. Ive been quite oblivious, but reading this is a part of the cure. I also want to read more about the cast system, Brahmins and maybe even take a closer look at the Upanishads. Let me know if you have book recommendations?

The books goes into traditional yogic practices (hardcore stuff.😨), the life of the Buddha, and the story of Buddhism and Hinduism and a short biography about Gandhi. And you know me by know; I LOVE that stuff!

4/5

What are you reading this week?

Also read part 1 and part 2 in this review series. Plus find other awesome books here!

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 2) – The Near East

The second part of this tome (1200+ pages) is focused on the Ancient civilizations of the Near East; Egypt, Persia, Babylonia, Judea etc..

📝 “It is in the nature of an empire to disintegrate soon, for the energy that created it disappears from those who inherits it.”

📝 Persia was founded by a stoic people, but within a century it was destroyed by people binge-drinking and eating all day; “spending their geniuses on sauces and deserts” 🍰. What state is our current civilization in? 🤔

📝 Egypt: “Machinery was rare because muscle was cheap.”

📝 The hanging gardens of Babylon was considered considered one of the Wonders of the World. Legend has it that Nebuchadnezzar II had it build for his wife who was not used to the desert and longed for her lush homeland.

📝 There where thousands of Gods. With time minor deities merged and became mere aspects of major ones.

📝 In Judean prophets talked about the need to be moral rebirth. Jeremaya asked for circumcision of spirit as well as the flesh in his strange phrase: “Circumstance yourself to the lord, take away the foreskins of your heart.” 😂😂

⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

One theme that stood out to me is how civilizations raise from hard labour and sacrifice, just so that future generation can have it go down the toilet by forgetting these hardships and fall victim to hedonism. 💩 🚽

⭐️ TAKEAWAY 2:

The accounts of the religious believes in the different civilizations fascinates me to no end. How similar their stories are to ours and how much we still can find intact or reshaped in today’s religions.

⚖️ VERDICT:

Now we get into the meat of the book and it has taken on another rhythm. I have mixed feelings about this second part of book. It’s is still brilliant but it’s getting hard to retain the information. The problem might lie in the way the book is structured, using the same template to describe each civilization, one after the other, making it overwhelming.

Check out Part 1 for more in this review series.

What are you reading these days? 🤔

Instagram Photo credit: @cinefile_25 , @eruchdah

Find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 1)

Photo credit: @eruchdah

Why should you know history? It tells you how we got where we are today. Why we believe what we believe, why we do what we do. By learning about the past you can also avoid repeating it’s mistakes —- and it’s f***ing fascinating!

This book is ambitious in scope, the series (11 volumes) even more so; trying to summarize the history of civilization itself. This first book alone is 1184 pages. One of many reason to make break this book down to several micro reviews!

My focus for this year will be Ancient Greece, but first I want to read up on the history leading up to it.

The first part of the book talks about the economical, political, mental and moral elements needed for the establishment of civilization.


📝 “I do not have to think. I have plenty of meat”. Not planning for more than today in primitive life had its advantages. When planning for the future you pave the way for property and greed.

📝 Communism appears most commonly in the beginning of civilization. In times of dearth. Fear of starvation fuses the individual into the group. The dream Communism lurks in every modern society as a memory of a simpler and more equal life. “We remember its equality but forget the poverty!”

📝 About taxes: “It was better to pay bribe to one magnificent robber than to bribe them all.”

📝 Women not bearing children are shamed by men in societies that rely on high birth rates to compensate for high death rates.

📝 In primitive society delay between desire and fulfillment is not very long and therefore there is not need to idealize passion.

📝 “Where food is dear, life is cheap.”

📝 In simple days, men married for cheap labour and regular meals.

📝 Is it good to be a virgin or not upon marriage? What is shameful is totally dictated by culture.

📝 “Civilization is not imperishable. It must be required anew by each generation.”

📝 “Magic becomes science.” Magicians needed to give the supernatural a push by using natural means. Stuff that works for real.. 👩‍🔬

Photo credit: @cinefile_25


I’m excited to be a student of history again. The world I see everyday makes more and more sense after each chapter I read. 👨‍🎓

5/5