We Are Lead By the Past

I remember when reading Thucydides as a teenager studying ancient history how the Greek historian interpreted speeches from his memory and from the recollection of those he had talked to about them and perhaps from fragments others had written down. It was an interesting exercise because reading Pericles and Brasidas and others one quickly saw all the formulae and techniques used by orators then and now: how speeches have a rhythm and build to make certain points, how to entwine into them patriotism, honour and all the any attributes popular with those speaking to soldiery and the general populace.

There are many speeches in Acts of Apostles that are likewise re-interpreted from those who were there who from those who think they knew what was said and even, as with the discussion in the Sanhedrin, made up by the author as to what he thought might have been said. But here there is less evidence that he got it right because the ways in which religious teachers give speeches and how soldiers give them, are different.

As the listeners are often the same one wonders how honour can be two different things? How respect can cross from war to peace? How ethics can be at once a treaty and a strategy?

The soldier and the priest have sometimes in history changed places. This should not surprise us as the offices of state reflect our natures and we are at once a passive and aggressive animal.

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August 2018
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