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Alex Pope

4/22/19

HIST 134

Portfolio Reflection

History may be the most important resource we have to keep society on the right

path. They say that those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it and

this seems to be true. History allows us to retroactively look back and analyse what

decisions caused which events and how we could have prevented events. Because of

this, it is important to understand history so we can prevent mistakes those of the past

have experienced. This is why we need to continue to study history. If we can

retroactively view and understand mistakes from the past then we can work together to

avoid them. For this reflection we will be looking at how figures of the past have done

this in their own times.

There are many themes that we could study that influenced decisions of the past.

Many important figures were swayed by different motivations same as today. Some

work for peace while others may work for domination. I think one of the main influences

that have affected past cultures in Religion along with Morals and Traditions. Cultures of

the past especially held their beliefs very close to them. These beliefs often influenced

the decision making of both the everyday citizen and leadership. We can view the first

example of leadership being influenced by religion by looking at Cyrus the Great of the

first persian empire. In 539 BC Cyrus would win at Opis against the Babylonians. After

doing this Cyrus would portray himself “restoring the heritage of the Neo-Assyrian

Empire” (Briant 43). He was able to spin this using beliefs that his society had shared.
This allowed him to garner support from his empire for his actions. Leaders even today

use the tactic of convincing the populus that you are doing it to bring society back to its

former greatness. This is something happening in American politics today, to many

peoples dismay. Situations like this could be avoided by studying history and knowing

the signs to avoid. As said in Why Study History? By William McNeill, “Broadening our

humanity and extending our sensibilities by recognizing sameness and difference

throughout the recorded past is therefore an important reason for studying history, and

especially the history of peoples far away and long ago.”

Another example of leadership using Religion as a means of rule is Augustus. He

would use any opportunity given to him to help convince his people that he was more

than just a mere mortal. He would go out of his way to portray himself as divine. One

way he did this was when Halley’s Comet passed over Rome. He was able to convince

his people that it was actually the spirit of his father passing into heaven. By that logic,

that people would take as truth, this would make Augustus the son of a God. Using

tactics like this he would convince his people that we was more than just man. It is not

hard to see how this attitude could have turned worse for the populace of that time.

Letting too much power get to ones head has had drastic consequences for many in

history. This is another reason it is important to study history. As John Jay said,

“[History] gives us many useful lessons. We may profit by their experience, without

paying the price which it cost them.”

Finally, our last example comes from Alexander the Great who adopted some

customs from Persia for operations in his court. He began requiring that his subjects
kiss his hands or the ground at his feet. This was a custom traditionally found in Persian

courts but Alexander wanted to bring over. However, within Greek culture this gesture

was considered reserved for Deities so the Greek people thought Alexander was trying

to make himself a deity, losing respect from his own people. Understanding history can

also allow us to understand past events better. Now, it may be hard to understand why

such small changes would cause an uproar from the common people. But studying

history can help us understand what a common man may have felt back then. As

Michael Postma put it, “Additionally, the study of history can encapsulate perspectives

from different groups, genders, or classes who may have varying views of the events

that have unfolded in the past, and it can provide a platform for authentic discussion,

compromise, and empathy—traits that are the basic ingredients for active citizenship in

a complex and ever-changing world.”

To summarize, history is one of the most valuable sources of knowledge we

have. We have the gift, especially with the help of modern technology, to access

information, studys, and research from nearly any period in time. This gives us the

ability to look back at decisions, policies, or traditions that can help us influence our own

ideas. I believe this understanding of the importance of history will allow me to have a

deeper understanding of others. In this paper we discussed the role of religion and

tradition on influencing past societies. Using this information and putting it in context to

the modern world helps me understand individuals from other cultures and their

differences. This is especially important today as nations are becoming more diverse

and more connected. History can teach us all how to be better people.
Work Cited

Arrian (1976). de Sélincourt, Aubrey (ed.). Anabasis Alexandri (The Campaigns of

Alexander). Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-044253-3.


"Augustus." PBS. Web. 27 Apr. 2019.

http://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/augustus_religion.html>.

Briant, Pierre (2002). From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire.

Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 978-1-57506-031-6.

"History 134: Ancient World." HIST 134: Ancient World. Web. 25 Apr. 2019.

https://bbaddins.schoolcraft.edu/addins/HIST134/etext/m6_persia.html>.

"History 134: Ancient World." HIST 134: Ancient World. Web. 25 Apr. 2019.

https://bbaddins.schoolcraft.edu/addins/HIST134/etext/m7_alexthegreat.html>.

"History 134: Ancient World." HIST 134: Ancient World. Web. 25 Apr. 2019.

https://bbaddins.schoolcraft.edu/addins/HIST134/etext/m9_augustus.html.

Hodges, Blair Dee. “Hodges- Final Essay, On Rhetorical Uses of History to Understand

the Present.” Academia.edu, 7 May 2012, www.academia.edu/1539830/Hodges-

_Final_Essay_On_Rhetorical_Uses_of_History_to_Understand_the_Present.

McNeill, William H. "Why Study History? (1985)." Historians.orh. American Historical

Association, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2019.

Morkot, Robert (1996). The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece. Penguin.

Postma, Michael. “What Can History Teach Us Today?” ASCD, www.ascd.org/ascd-

express/vol6/622-postma.aspx.