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Learning From Our Past – Reasons For Studying Ancient History

Learning From Our Past – Reasons For Studying Ancient History
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Reading the buzz surrounding this latest discovery from Pompeii prompted me to ask the following questions: Why should I study ancient history? Does learning about ancient events, such as the Peloponnesian Wars, the destruction of Pompeii, or the rise and fall of the Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt, really have any relevance today?

After all, we now live in a modern age where the average person has, thanks to the Internet, instantaneous access to a wealth of information on demand, sourced from around the globe, at a rate and volume unimaginable to those living just a few decades ago.

So how does ancient history contribute to human knowledge, progression and the future? A common answer presented is that it lets us recognize the mistakes of the past, in order to prevent ourselves from repeating them in the future. Studying ancient history allows us to understand where we have come from and why we are here, and by doing so, shows us how the ancients’ attempts to shape their futures relate to our own actions in the present day.

Knowing about how ancient people and societies dealt with issues in the past helps us to recognize, and be prepared for, dealing with our own issues both currently and in the future. While the causal relationship between the ancient era and our own isn’t as apparent as say, more modern historical periods (where we are still living through the aftereffects of ‘recent’ historical events such as the American Revolution and World War I, for example) – there is still enough common ground for us to learn from our forebears’ words and deeds.

There are also other reasons for studying ancient history that go beyond the “avoiding the past” trope.

Studying ancient history contributes to our cultural understanding and intellectual development. If we don’t know where we come from and the trials and tribulations which faced our forebears how can we understand ourselves? The study of history on any level can potentially help to define our own identities. I know that if I didn’t know about my culture I wouldn’t be the person I am today. If my society didn’t know about its past what would there be for them to celebrate or avoid in its future. History builds who we are and by furthering our understanding of our past we better understand ourselves. One cannot deny that understanding oneself is vital to the progression of humanity – otherwise how could we better ourselves as a species?

Studying ancient history also contributes to scientific progress. If we understand the origins of issues, then we can better understand similar issues that we face today. One example is the study of disease, starting with their origins. There are historical accounts of plagues, etc. that have allowed scientists to track the progression of the disease through the ages to the present day. This has helped them to work on new treatments or cures. In other cases, these scientists are able to work with actual physical evidence, gathered from archeological sites, such as those dating back to ancient Rome or Egypt. An example is the work being done in cancer research, thanks to mummies, that is providing new information for scientists as to the progression of the disease over a wider temporal period than previously thought possible.

History is intertwined with hundreds of other areas that could not so easily progress without it, such as medical knowledge, sociology, psychology, social structure, health and safety, linguistics, forensics, construction, planning, the list goes on and on. After all those who study ancient history and archaeology are trained in analysis which can be put to use in basically any area, including surveying, forensics, computing and construction?

In addition to being able to explain certain modern situations, the study of history is essential to the progression of the human race. Understanding the past, for instance, gives us comfort because we are not the first people to experience things and we can see the potential of the future. A person moving to the other side of the world is comforted and enabled by the fact that thousands of people (if not more) have done so previously. A company sees potential in the future because of what people have achieved in the past.

Studying history in itself is a tradition and one with a firm base, it is vital to the progression of humanity personally and on a wider stage, but above all it fulfills a moral obligation to our ancestors. It allows cultures to continue with a better understanding of where they came from, a respect for their heritage, and, perhaps most importantly, it provides a better and wiser comprehension of things that have been passed down to us.

Thoughts on this post? Additional ideas on the importance of studying history? Please feel free to share them with the OTA community on my Facebook page; we would love to hear from you!

Interested in learning more about ancient history? You can review a list of OTA’s History courses by clicking here (for Jonathan’s courses, just type “Jonathan” in the search box)


Jonathan Meola, co-founder and instructor at Open Tent Academy, attended the University of Miami, where he earned his B.A., and returned several years later to earn a graduate certification in Applied Quality Management, while helping to manage executive graduate degree programs for their business and engineering schools.

Professionally, Jonathan has worked as a technical consultant, managing enterprise software implementation projects for several international companies and government agencies. His project work has also taken him to Canada, Israel, and Mexico. Jonathan has also developed curricula for corporate training, and led sessions as a faculty instructor on many occasions.

Today, Jonathan resides with Eva in a small town outside of Jerusalem, and teaches courses for OTA in several areas, including history, social studies, software applications, and cinema/literature. Jonathan has three children, all of whom were homeschooled at one time or another. In his spare time, he loves traveling, reading, photography, analyzing politics, history, NCAA college football (Go Canes!), and cinema.

Here is a list of courses Jonathan is offering for 2019-2020, including several focused on history:

American Government 101: From the Continental Congress to the Iowa Caucus, Everything You Need to Know About United States Politics – Fall 2019 & Winter 2020
An Introduction to World Religions – Winter 2020
Extraordinary People from History – Spring 2020
Famous Speeches in American History – Spring 2020
Geography for High School Students – Fall 2019 & Winter 2020
History of Modern Israel – Fall 2019 & Winter 2020
Ideas that Changed the World – Fall 2019
Introduction to Start-Ups – Spring 2020
Lights! Cameras! Action! An Alternative Course for High School English: Movies as Literature – Fall 2019 & Winter 2020
Our American Presidents: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – Fall 2019 & Winter 2020
The Ancient World Early Civilizations, The Mesopotamian World, Egypt, Greece and Rome – Full Year
The History of Rock ‘n Roll – Spring 2020
The Role of Women During the Revolutionary War – Spring 2020
Think like an Economist Introduction to Economic Theory – Fall 2019 & Winter 2020
Twentieth Century Wars and The Rise of The Super Powers – Fall 2019 & Winter 2020
United States History – Part One Pre-History – 1860 – Fall 2019 & Winter 2020
What is Important in Today’s World? Understanding and Following Current Events – Fall 2019
Women in History – Spring 2020
Women Mathematicians and Scientists from 1700 – 1900 – Spring 2020
You Decide! Applying Court Cases to the Bill of Rights – Spring 2020

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